Yes - I loved the characters, the plots, the historical background that the characters have - McMaster Bujold weaves these amazing stories of which you wish you could take part. Grover Gardener does an excellent job bringing these characters to life. I was so sad to have finished Cryoburn but was elated to have this installment of the series.
The characters and story development. Never disappointed.
Captain Vorpatril does not disappoint as interpreted by Gardener.
I think I might have listened to it all one sitting. I actually started it on a Friday and was finished with it early Sunday morning.
If you haven't listened to any other books in this series, start at the beginning, listen to this and then finish with Cryoburn. It will not disappoint. The world that McMasters Bujold creates is rich and you'll fall in love with the characters warts and all.
Fantasy fanatic, sci fi dabbler
Miles Vorkosigan casts a very long shadow. I've always liked Ivan, but in previous novels he has never really been given a chance to shine (except for A Civil Campaign, he was brilliant in that). Usually he is just chugging along, doing his 9-5 job (exceptionally well) and flirting with women, until Miles comes barging into his life and drags Ivan along in the wake of his craziness.
This time, Ivan gets dragged from his day-to-day existence and into the crazy again, but instead of Miles it's Byerly Vorrutyer doing the dragging. As poor By is in over his head, however, Ivan is forced to be proactive instead of cruising along in another's wake.
Taj is a bit of a kindred spirit. She was literally the normal, genetically speaking, among her numerous gene-enhanced and talented siblings. She like Ivan was overshadowed by the rest of her family, even though she is quite clever and talented in her own right. Her entire family is rumored to have been killed by a rival Jacksonian house and she and her odd-sister Rish are on the run from bounty hunters.
Ivan rather gallantly marries Taj to save her from deportation, suicide and or bounty hunters (which may sound overly dramatic, but the author had to get Ivan to marry somehow!), which sets off a chain reaction involving Jacksonian contracts, snake wrangling, family politics, Alys being her subtly manipulative self, an ill-advised bet, people smugglers, rumoured Cetagandan treasure, and a gradual sweet romance between Ivan and Taj.
Some of my other favourite bit-players get a chance to shine as well - the back and forth between Ivan and By was fantastic, and Simon Ilyan has a substantial role in his quiet way. Ivan and Taj had some interesting perspectives on some of my other favourites like Simon Ilyan, Alys Vorpatril, Emperor Gregor and of course Miles, which I really enjoyed as it let me see them from another point of view. Cordelia and Aral unfortunately didn't get any screen time, though Ivan does spend some time musing on them (as he does with everyone else) - if you've read Cryoburn you'll know why I'm disappointed.
About the performance, I am not a fan of Grover Gardner's voice. There were places where his acting was a bit off, I don't think his voice suited Ivan's at all and there was very little distinction between some characters. I've given him a 3 because he did a decent job and I still managed to enjoy the book.
I suggest that you read A Civil Campaign before reading Captain Vorpatril's Alliance - not only is A Civil Campaign awesome, but it sets up Alliance very well, and there are events in A Civil Campaign (concerning Byerly and Donno Vorrutyer, hint hint) that will be spoiled if you don't read it first
While this book stands by itself as a wonderful mix of sci fi, comedy, and romance, its true strength is in its cap on a developing character. In Barrayar, we see him born. In subsequent books, we see him start as a comedic relief background character, and develop into an exceptional main character in his own right as he grows up s lot, but while always remaining himself. Some touching moments that have such weight from the momentum of 16 books worth of development.
It's great to revisit so many characters that we lived from the previous books without Miles hogging all the limelight, add he tends to do.
Bujold dependably employs faults and cracks in fully developed characters to allow their inherent skewed (in Ivan's case, corkscrewed) points of view to shine new light on Vorkorsiverse imminent dangers, always delightfully looming. Bujold occasionally employs the Russian mythic image of the sleigh ride carrying the wedding party, at night, in a snow storm, chased by a ravening wolf pack. The original dilemma poses the question: who shall the riders sacrifice to slow the wolves and save the rest? In the original, it's the bride, of course, and everybody loses, life, joy, honor, even quarry.
In Bujold's sleigh, tho, the all male driver, guards, and husband and passive female bride are transmogrified to self-examining hero types matched equally with spunky heroines with weapons training. The sleigh, snowy night, and wolves remain, but the author introduces complexity to all the elements; keep your eye on the wolves, as even they may gain your sympathy.
You will meet lots of familiar folks from the "Miles" series, not on a walk down memory lane, but in a whole new adventure. I especially enjoyed Simon Illion, retired chief of security, making Puck-like mis-chief.
Say something about yourself!
I recently reread this and had to say how great it is. Ivan Xav is one of those endearing characters who start out as secondary and simply demand a life of their own and in this tale he matures into everything he promised to be. This is a tale of romance, intrigue, suspense & surprise that will keep you engrossed to the end. It's also a great look at the post ImpSec life of Illyan in the role of Ivan's "umm-Stepfather". Highly recommended.
I have. Several times. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this.
Civil Campaign. For sheer madcap mayhem with wonderful characters. Excellent.
This is definitely Ivan's book, but Byerly is a close runner up.
Could not put it down. Stayed up very late.
I love this series. Great characters. Twisty plots and lots of action.