The Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold is one of my all-time favourite series. Regardless of genre.

So when Kerry mentioned the e-version of the latest book CAPTAIN VORPATRIL’S ALLIANCE was officially on sale at Baen’s website* (hardcover release is early November), I immediately bought it and dove straight in.  Review below – spoiler: I loved it.

*I’ve probably mentioned this before, but big thumbs-up for Baen’s policy of releasing the e-version a couple of weeks earlier than the print version and for a decent price.


Captain Vorpatril's AllianceCaptain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, this was satisfying on so many levels.

A new Vorkosigan book is a rare sighting, and is therefore accompanied by rather high expectations on my part. And this was Ivan’s book. Ivan, who has been in Miles’ shadow for so long, and always cast in the role of (very) unfortunate sidekick (summary version: “Ivan, you idiot”). Ivan, who we all knew had to have hidden depths – it takes incredible talent to be dismissed as amiable but useless when you’re so closely related to the Vorkosigans, and a hair’s breath away from the throne. And so, this is the book where it’s Ivan’s turn to take centre stage, which he does reluctantly, but brilliantly.

There was so much for this book to live up to – and it did. This was a wonderful madcap adventure reminiscent of Miles at his finest. CAPTAIN VORPATRIL’S ALLIANCE was Ivan’s version of “forward momentum” and gosh, was there a lot of that. Each chapter brought yet more pitfalls and entanglements – definitely a case of the author thinking “what’s the worst thing that can I do to Ivan?” and doing it. Poor Ivan.

LMB excels not just at coming up with hilariously-evil-yet-convincing plots but also portraying relationships, the more difficult the better. Here, I enjoyed Ivan’s fumbling steps towards figuring out his relationship with his um-stepfather. And Tej was the perfect heroine for Ivan – one with a fascinating/terrifying family to rival his (and that is no mean feat) and with no baggage and preconceptions about Ivan, which in turn also allowed us to see Ivan (and Barrayan society) through fresh eyes.

There were in-jokes for the long-time Vorkosigan readers (I nearly choked when Ivan had cause to ponder Cetagandan experiments with animal and plant genes), yet I don’t think they detracted from the reading experience for those new to the series. I suspect that what a first-time reader would miss (or fail to appreciate) is how long-standing repercussions from events in previous books were seamlessly weaved into this book. I especially liked how we got to see Simon (and everyone else) dealing with the fallout from Memory (which remains one of my favourite LMB books). While the whole Vorkosigan gang was present and accounted for, I was impressed by how Ivan was very much the main character and not overshadowed by any of his illustrious relatives (though I’ve to say, The Gregor did steal several scenes – can we have a Gregor book please?).

Really, I loved every single word of this book, and have nothing negative to say, except that it ended way too soon. If you haven’t started reading these books, you need to. ASAP. They are all fantastic books, and CAPTAIN VORPATRIL’S ALLIANCE is an excellent addition to the series.


12 thoughts on “Lois McMaster Bujold’s CAPTAIN VORPATRIL’S ALLIANCE

  1. Yay, I enabled someone!

    I finished it last night and haven’t had a chance to write anything about yet, but I loved it too.

    At first, I found it strangely laid back compared to other Vorkosigan books, but then I remembered that it was Ivan’s book and that chance of pace was intentional and perfect.

    Tej’s use of capital letters in describing people (The Gregor, The Coz, etc) was lovely. And while I doubt any dinner party will ever equal the one in A Civil Campaign, there was another great one in here.

    I also liked the way we had no idea all this had gone on in the past (and the thing that happened to ImpSec HQ was pretty major, not to mention Ivan getting married) while reading Cryoburn and yet nothing in Cryoburn (cleverly set away from Barrayar so that it works) contradicts anything that happens here.

    I now can’t decide whether to reread Cryoburn, go back and reread Memory (also my favourite) or be good and carry one with my Liaden reread before embarking on a new Vorkosigan one.

    And yes please, I’d eat up a book about The Gregor.

    • Yes, thank you for the heads up!

      Totally agree about the feel of the book – it’s interesting not having a Vorkosigan be the driving force behind events for once and this time watching Ivan try to squirm out of actually having to *do* something.

      I was also thinking about that ACC dinner party when reading this book! And snickering. Simon is almost as scary (scarier?) as Aral in his own way and I love how all the former ImpSec people have this almost unhealthy awe for him. The ImpSec HQ thing – hilarious. I had a feeling that something was going to happen, but THAT exceeded all expectations!

      Re Gregor – he’s not really had a proper book of his own, though there was the one with Miles and his attempted rebellion, and I suppose his romance with Laisa was a pretty large secondary plotline. But there’s no such thing as too much Gregor. He is utterly fascinating – I think we’ve had glimpses of what has shaped him to date (and very obviously Aral and Cordelia) but I’d love to get a better picture.

      That’s a very good point about Cryoburn – not sure if we had any references to these events. I think LMB started the Ivan book a while ago, so must have had ideas about what would take place, but you’re right in saying it was a pretty clever decision!

      I want to do a Vorkosigan re-read myself…

  2. Awesome, so glad you enjoyed it, Li! I know Hilcia started the series months ago and she really enjoyed it too. I need to give it a try 🙂 It’s always such a pleasure when the book you’re looking forward to measure up 🙂

  3. I love, love when a secondary character can take the spolight like that! Li, I have got to get back to this series… I do! Maybe during my holiday vacation I can just indulge on a Vorkosigan marathon.

    • I kind of envy you for having all the VK books still unread! Fingers crossed you find the time to get back to them – I don’t think you’ve encountered Ivan “properly” yet in the books you’ve read, but one of the things I liked about CVA was how it referenced events in SHARDS OF HONOR / BARRAYAR and closes the circle in a way.

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  5. Great book and great review. I totally agree with your opinion that Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance is a fine place to start reading Vorkosiverse books.

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