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
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.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
Three days into his ten-day mission as Aide-de-Camp to the Barrayaran Chief of Operations on Komarr (a world in the Barrayaran Empire), Captain Ivan Vorpatril is visited by his cousin Byerly Vorrutyer. All By asks Ivan to do is pick up a young lady. What could be simpler? But although 90% of By's life is that of a decadent fop, the 10% of his life as secret informer for ImpSec (Barrayaran Imperial Security) gives Ivan qualms. As his survival mechanism designed to avoid becoming the focus of coups to replace Emperor Gregor, Ivan has spent his 34 years perfecting the art of flying under the radar, projecting an aura of handsome and gormless stupidity so well that he has come to believe that he is slow and ambitionless. But because the woman, supposedly a Komarran citizen called Nanja Brindis, has "Tumbling black hair, bright eyes, skin glowing an interesting cinnamon brown . . . [a] decided nose, determined chin. . . Long legs . . . A nicely full figure," etc., Ivan decides to meet her.
By being By and Ivan being Ivan, Lois McMaster Bujold's Captain Vorpatril's Alliance (2012) soon has Ivan shot with a stunner and spending the night in an apartment with two beautiful women, albeit in a less pleasant manner than his fantasies would have had it, landed against his will in a complex, politically delicate situation involving the cutthroat Houses (family syndicates on steroids) of Jackson's Whole, a mysterious and beautiful woman, her bioengineered, lapis lazuli-skinned, servant/sister "jeeves" (Bujold's nod to P. G. Wodehouse), and various Cetagandan, Komarran, and Barrayaran agendas.
No Bertie Wooster, Nanja, whose real name turns out to be Tej, is another of Bujold's strong female point of view characters like Cordelia and Ekaterin, and her Jackson's Whole ethos, relationship with her jeeves Rish, and mixed feelings for her scheming, "overpowering, constricting, maddening" family are interesting. The book is full of vintage Bujold witty lines, cultural contrasts, suspenseful situations, and surprising developments. It is fun to see Ivan, who has done his best to duck promotion so as to avoid real responsibility, who has enjoyed a series of girlfriends without the commitment of marriage, who has always hated puzzles, and whose idea of problem solving (unlike the "forward-momentum" of his super-cousin Miles Vorkosigan) is "inertia," get tossed in to the deep end of Bujold's machinations. It's great to read a book about Ivan in which Miles stays mostly off-stage (being mostly on another world on one of his Imperial Auditor jobs).
Although Bujold can write some clunkers ("Ivan Xav stiffened and not in the good way; he was quite limp in that region at the moment"), she writes many more neat lines in the book, like "The scent of him still lingered in the moist air, strangely pleasant and complex, as if his immune system was calling out to hers: let's get together and make wonderful new antibodies," and "I’ve never made love to a wife before, I mean my wife, I mean I’ve never been married before.”
I like Ivan finding Rish "Sort of a cross between a pixie and a python." And Tej finding Ivan "A middling Vor officer of middling responsibilities and middling rank. Just middling along." As Tej discovers, easy-going Ivan is kind and funny and a source of light, a good match for her because she's never wanted " to play the [power] game as her parents did." It's neat how, unlike in most romantic comedies, Bujold puts a wedding near the start of the novel and spends the rest of it detailing what comes after. And once the story gets to Barrayar, there are plenty of cool developments involving experimental "micoborer" dirt-eating, tunnel-making organisms, a subterranean Cetagandan lab, the hideous ImpSec HQ building, and Simon Illyan, the retired former head of ImpSec and current lover of Ivan's long-widowed mother.
However, despite my great enjoyment of this book, I found it, like the other recent Vorkosigan novels after the fine Komarr (1998), a bit light. The recent books (like this one) are romantic comedies of character, culture, and history in which, despite suspenseful scenes and dangerous developments, including near war, criminal catastrophe, and life-threatening crises, most everyone emerges unscathed. I've begun missing the darker strands and more scarring events of the earlier novels.
And the more my excitement ended the end of the story, the more I began seeing its unconvincing features. Why wouldn't Rish, who has been designed and trained to super powers of observation, including being able to smell arousal, detect that Tej and Ivan love each other, if only because they’re always holding hands and making love? Why wouldn't the hyper alert and nearly paranoid ImpSec have its agents watching and trailing Tej's entire family 24-7? How DO the Komarrans, Barrayarans, Jacksonian's, and Cetagandans communicate with each other, and in what language and with what accents? And isn't there something creepy about Bujold's favorable depiction of imperial colonization, aristocratic power, state surveillance, and fascistic uniforms, despite the presence in her galaxy of freer, more tolerant, democratic, and ideal civilizations like Beta Colony? Although there have been rotten ImpSec and Vor apples and a mad Emperor or two, the current Barrayaran Empire is run by good men who wield their near absolute power with almost too good to be true rectitude, restraint, and accuracy.
If you don't need sublime technologies, outre civilizations, and tragic gravitas ala Peter Hamilton and Iain Banks, if you keep in mind that in her recent Vorkosigan saga books Bujold is writing character and culture driven space opera comfort food, you should like this novel (and I'm sure I'll enjoy every Vorkosigan story Bujold ever writes), though you should probably begin at the beginning of her series, when the books were entertaining with teeth.
It would not be part of the VorKosigan saga without Mr.Gardner!
Great addition to the series. Am waiting for the next.
This book has my favorite moments of Ivan, who has largely irritated me most through most of the series. Tej is truly a beautiful character discovering who she is and growing from her trauma into appositive and wild unknown. Rish makes an interesting combination with Byerly. Ivans creative if not impromptu solution to Tej's dilemma was hilarious. I cheered for Tej and Ivan for about half the book until her family showed up. They are more obnoxious than the family of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I got to a point were I was tempted to not finish the book. That's never happened with Lois. I'm usually riveted by every paragraph in a chapter. With this book, I literally had to discipline myself to muscle through. I kept telling myself, "This is Vorkosigan series. It has to get better!" It did get better and had quite an inventive ending. I suppose it was worth it. I hope the next book is better.
I am sad to learn that there's only one more book in the series. Like Game of Thrones I will be like all the other fans just waiting for the next book to get my fix. Lois has taken us on quite a ride and I am sad at the idea of finding a new favorite author to fill my voracious reading appetite.
Lois bujold books read by grove Gardner were my first great find on audible. Love the vor series and it's character focused development instead of a science fiction focus.
Through most of the series, Ivan is the sidekick. Our focus is on miles, and Ivan is less inspired, less driven. In this book, the focus is one Ivan, he is a good man, and quite CREATIVES at need. He just refers not to try all limits and yah himself at all times. An ImpSec agent and a beautiful refugee need Ivan's help, and the consequences are surprising. And hilarious.