Well, thanks to Ian Tregillis, I now know that I haven't lost my ability to dive into a book and devour it in a matter of a few days. Apparently I was just trying THAT HARD to avoid The Casual Vacancy, which took me weeks to slog through. Ian's new book, The Coldest War, I finished in less than a week, and this despite the fact that I was trying to design a poster for AGU at the same time.
(Spoiler: I finished the poster and it's covered in strat columns. OH THE HUMANITY.)
The Coldest War is the sequel to Ian's first book, Bitter Seeds. It's alternate history, which I'm normally not that in to, so it's another compliment to him that I liked these books so very much. Bitter Seeds takes place during World War II, and pits psychic Nazis against British warlocks. And trust me, that sentence does no justice to how fucked-up and awesome the entire thing is.
The Coldest War then takes place during the Cold War, following the same characters but years later. And I'll give Ian this, I had absolutely no idea where he was going with it until the end, at which pointed I tweeted excitedly at him about how the third book better be coming out soon because oh my god what a cliffhanger.
My favorite character out of the series is, oddly, perhaps the most evil of them all - Gretel. She's the psychic Nazi experiment that can see the future, and the first two books amount to her playing twelve-dimensional temporal chess with terrifying beings that aren't even human. She's evil, calculating, awful, and utterly fascinating.
Ian's got a writing style that's very clean and readable, and he knows how to keep things very tense. There isn't a lot more that I can say about the story without giving some of the fun twists away, but I really recommend these books. The Coldest War also just won the first semifinal round of Fantastic Reviews' Battle of the Books, and I have great hopes for it.