BITTER SEEDS: Alternate WWII novel pits English warlocks against Nazi X-Men

Ian Tregillis's stellar debut novel Bitter Seeds hits shelves today. It's a beautifully written and thoroughly researched alternate WWII history, the twist being that a mad German scientist has discovered a way to endow a group of sociopaths -- raised from WWI orphans -- with X-Men-like powers that have made the Wehrmacht unstoppable.

To counter this, a desperate Great Britain establishes a secret division composed of a tiny number of British warlocks -- shades of Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell -- men who use speech in a mystical Ur-language, accompanied by blood sacrifice, to call up vast, brutal elemental forces. These forces, the Eidolons, loathe humanity and tremble in barely restrained rage at the stain we spread on the universe, but they can be bargained with, blood traded for elemental magick.

Tregillis writes and plots beautifully. The characters -- twisted German psychics, bitter warlocks, the brutal calculators of the British intelligence apparat -- are complex, textured, surprising. The physical descriptions are wonderful. And the plot is relentless, a driving adventure story with intrigue, battle, sacrifice, and betrayal.

I had the extreme pleasure of teaching Ian Tregillis at the Clarion Workshop some years ago, and he was one of my most promising students, a standout in a year of standout writers. So I am unsurprised -- but totally delighted -- to find myself reading such a tremendous debut from him. This is the first volume of the Milkweed Triptych, and I'm extremely eager to read the rest.

Bitter Seeds

Magickal horse-mane braid mystery solved by Dorset warlock

After consulting with a warlock, police in Dorset have concluded that the mysterious plaits (braids) that have been appearing in horse's manes are part of "knot magick" rituals. As many as 12 horses have been braided.
PC Tim Poole, who has investigated the incidents, said: "We have some very good information from a warlock that this is part of a white magic ritual and is to do with knot magick."

"It would appear that for people of this belief, knot magick is used when they want to cast a spell. Some of the gods they worship have a strong connection to horses so if they have a particular request, plaiting this knot in a horse's mane lends strength to the request. This warlock said it is a benign activity, albeit maybe a bit distressing for the horse owner."

Animal magic as warlock reveals mystery behind plaits found in horses' manes

(Image: Rarity's (Styling Pony) Braids, a Creative Commons Attribution photo from dreamcicle19772006 's photostream)