Book Review: Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, by Lois McMaster Bujold
Title: Captain Vorpatril's Alliance
Series: Vorkosigan Saga #15 (ish, depending on what you count and whether you're using chronological or publication order)
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
Genre: Science Fiction
Subgenre: SF Romance, Space Opera
Full Disclosure: I'm a Bujold fangirl going way back.
Captain Ivan Vorpatril sometimes thinks that if not for his family, he might have no troubles at all. But he has the dubious fortune of the hyperactive Miles Vorkosigan as a cousin, which has too-often led to his getting dragged into one of Miles' schemes, with risk to life and limb -- and military career -- that Ivan doesn't consider entirely fair. Although much practice has made Ivan more adept at fending off his mother's less-than-subtle reminders that he should be getting married and continuing the Vorpatril lineage.
Fortunately, his current duty is on the planet Komarr as staff officer to Admiral Desplains, far from both his cousin and his mother back on their home world of Barrayar. It's an easy assignment and nobody is shooting at him. What could go wrong?
Plenty, it turns out, when Byerly Vorrutyer, an undercover agent for Imperial Security, shows up on his doorstep and asks him to make the acquaintance of a young woman, recently arrived on Komarr, who seems to be in danger. That Byerly is characteristically vague about the nature of the danger, not to mention the lady's name, should have been Ivan's first clue, but Ivan is no more able to turn aside from aiding a damsel in distress than he could resist trying to rescue a kitten from a tree.
It is but a short step down the road of good intentions to the tangle of Ivan's life, in trouble with the Komarran authorities, with his superiors, and with the lethal figures hunting the mysterious but lovely Tej and her exotic blue companion Rish -- a tangle to test the lengths to which Ivan will go as an inspired protector.
But though his predicament is complicated, at least Ivan doesn't have to worry about hassle from his family. Or so he believes. . .
The Vorkosigan Saga is one of my favorite series of books of all time. I've read them more times than I can count, and I frequently am reminded of lines or moments from them in both my own writing and in my day-to-day life. But recent Vorkosigan novels have been kind of. . . lightweight, and I got the impression that this one was going to continue that trend, which is why I am only reading it now, over a year after its release.
And it is lightweight. It's the "Ivan has some adventures not caused by Miles and finally settles down" book. Science fiction romances don't have to be lightweight -- Komarr wasn't, just to give another Vorkosigan Saga example -- but this one definitely is, because while there's plenty of plot happening there are very few consequences to the plot for Ivan, very little risk. (This was my major issue with Cryoburn as well.) There are consequences for Tej, the other major viewpoint character and Ivan's love interest, but they're never really sold as urgent and potentially catastrophic, and because she's new to the series we aren't grounded in her POV by previous books.
The whole book just feels. . . loose. . .
(Read the rest of the review on my book review blog.)
Overall Satisfaction: ★★★★
Intellectual Satisfaction: ★★★★
Emotional Satisfaction: ★★★★
Read this for: The characters
Don't read this for: The world-building? The prose? I don't know, nothing stands out as exceptional but nothing stands out as awful either.
Bechdel Test: Pass
Johnson Test: Fail
Books I was reminded of: The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Will I read more by this author? I will be buying Bujold's books until she dies.