Literature / The Coldest War
Basically? Things get worse from here.

Someone is killing Britain's warlocks.

Twenty-two years after the Second World War, a precarious balance of power maintains the peace between Great Britain and the USSR. For decades, the warlocks have been all that stand between the British Empire and the Soviet Union— a vast domain stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the shores of the English Channel. But now each death is another blow to Britain's security.

Meanwhile, a brother and sister escape from a top-secret research facility deep behind the Iron Curtain. Once subjects of a twisted Nazi experiment to imbue ordinary humans with extraordinary abilities, then prisoners of war in the vast Soviet effort to reverse engineer the Nazi technology, they head for England.

Because that's where former spy Raybould Marsh lives. And Gretel, the mad seer, has plans for him.

As Marsh is drawn back into the world of Milkweed, he discovers that Britain's darkest acts didn't end with the war. And as he strives to protect Queen and country, he's forced to confront his own willingness to accept victory at any cost.

The second book of The Milkweed Triptych, preceded by Bitter Seeds and followed by Necessary Evil.


  • Advancing Wall of Doom: As the Enochian's start to destroy the world.
  • Apocalypse How: When Britain comes under attack from Soviet supersoldier infiltrators, Marsh orders the Eidolons to kill them directly. This gives the Eidolons the foothold they need to wipe out humanity.
  • Alternate Timeline: Gretel's goal is revealed to be to create a new timeline in which she and the rest of humanity are spared from the Eidolons.
  • The Atoner
  • Badass Normal - Marsh, even 20 years older and out of shape.
  • Balance of Power: The Soviet Union controls everything up to the English Channel, and has continued to develop the captured Willenskräfte technology. The United States is torn by internal strife and economic depression. The only thing keeping the Soviets from conquering the British Empire is the warlocks. Who are being killed off.
  • Blood Magic
  • Blue and Orange Morality - as it turns out, Gretel.
  • Car Fu: With no other option, Marsh rams the supersoldier while he's using his fire powers, melting half his car but killing him.
  • Cassandra Truth: Marsh ignores Will's warnings about the Enochians. Pembroke ignores Marsh's warnings about Gretel. Ironically Gretel engineers Pembroke's death because only Marsh is driven enough to use the Enochians to kill directly.
  • The Chessmaster: The full extent of Gretel's machinations are finally revealed. For example, she drove Heike to suicide in book one just so she could get a glass jar at Arzamas-16. Although it's no news that she sent German bombers to kill Marsh's daughter, we finally get the reason — going back in time is the only way Marsh can save her life.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Loads of them thanks to Gretel's precognition.
  • Cold War - between the enormously successful U.S.S.R. and a rather diminished British Empire.
  • Creepy Child: The British child warlocks.
  • EMP: Milkweed turn Will's house into an improvised EMP bomb, among other booby traps. Unfortunately the batteries used by the Soviet supersoldiers are hardened against EMP.
  • Faking the Dead: Will after his house blows up.
  • Gas Leak Cover-Up: Milkweed know a Soviet assassin with supernatural powers is going to murder Will in his home, so they evacuate the entire street to avoid witnesses and collateral damage under the gas leak trick. When the assassin does show up, he's disguised as a National Gas repairman. When the entire house and half the street burns up thanks to the assassin Playing with Fire, the government has a ready-made explanation.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Marsh invoking the Eidolons to kill the Soviet infiltrators.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: Reinhardt, aka Junkman has spent years scavenging electronic components in a desperate attempt to reconstruct the batteries and regain his Willenskräfte.
  • Jerkass - both Marsh and Will, albeit for really justified reasons.
  • Just One Man: Gretel needs to keep both Marsh and Will alive (throughout WW2 as well) for her plan to work.
  • Language of Magic - Enochian
  • Make It Look Like an Accident:
    • The Soviet assassin uses his Intangible Man abilities to reach into a warlock's chest and palpitate his heart, giving him the symptoms of a heart attack.
    • After handing over the location of the warlocks to his KGB contact and turning down their offer of asylum in the Soviet Union, Will suffers a near fatal traffic accident as the Soviet's believe he's the last warlock on British soil.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Marsh doesn't care Will helped the Soviets kill all the British warlocks because he wanted revenge for the Missing, the people sacrificed by Milkweed to make the Eidolons help to win the war it was done for the British Empire and that makes Will a traitor.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Oh hell yes. Though Gretel has foreseen that all timelines result in the Enochians destroying humanity.
  • One Last Job: Klaus agrees to help Marsh in exchange for a new identity far from her sister.
  • One Person, One Power: As the British learn a bit too late, this is not true for the Soviet version of Westarp's supersoldiers.
  • Playing with Fire - the Soviet psychic assassin
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Literally, for the new generation of British warlocks.
  • Shout-Out: As Marsh is flipping through the channels of a radio, he lands on one playing "modern music from a group out of Liverpool." He doesn't think much of it and flips to a Big Band station.
  • Speak in Unison/Voice of the Legion: Marsh's son after being taken over by the Eidolons.
  • The Soulless: John Marsh
  • Soviet Superscience
  • Taking You with Me: Marsh refuses to go back in time so that Gretel will die with everyone else, but she already anticipated this back in WW2.
  • Twin Telepathy: Necessitates and facilitates one of the latter Milkweed missions.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame - Marsh does not like getting compliments from Gretel.