Audie Award Winner, Science Fiction, 2014
Captain Ivan Vorpatril is happy with his relatively uneventful bachelor's life as a staff officer to a Barrayaran admiral. Cousin to imperial troubleshooter Miles Vorkosigan, Ivan is not far down the hereditary list for the emperorship. Thankfully, new heirs have directed that headache elsewhere, leaving Ivan to enjoy his life on Komarr, far from the Byzantine court politics of his home system. But when an old friend in Barrayaran intelligence asks Ivan to protect an attractive young woman who may be on the hit list of a criminal syndicate, his chivalrous nature takes over. It seems danger and adventure have once more found Captain Vorpatril.
Tej Arqua and her half-sister and servant, Rish, are fleeing the violent overthrow of their clan on free-for-all planet Jackson’s Whole. Now it seems Tej may possess a secret of which even she may not be aware - a secret that could corrupt the heart of a highly regarded Barrayaran family and provide the final advantage for the thugs who seek to overthrow Tej’s homeworld. But none of Tej’s formidable adversaries have counted on Ivan Vorpatril. For behind Ivan’s facade of wry and self-effacing humor lies a true and cunning protector who will never leave a distressed lady in the lurch - making the ultimate sacrifice to keep her from harm: the treasured and hard-won freedom from his own fate as a scion of Barrayar.
Lois McMaster Bujold is one of the most honored writers of science fiction and fantasy, having won five Hugo Awards and three Nebula Awards. In 2011 she was awarded the Skylark Award for her significant contributions to science fiction.
©2012 Lois McMaster Bujold (P)2012 Blackstone Audio
A 50-something who loves sci-fi, cozy mysteries, thrillers, an occasional romance, and any genre if it is a good story. And especially if it makes me laugh! No vampires or zombies though - these are NOT sci-fi!
I love the Vorkosigan saga, and am delighted to find a new story, and one starring Ivan! Yaaaay! I knew Ivan would find a unique woman when he finally settled down! The twists and turns of this one kept me listening and laughing till the end. Chronologically, this book comes between Diplomatic Immunity and Cryoburn, but can be read as a stand-alone. If you like this one, try some of the others in the Vorkosigan saga. You won't regret it!
I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!
This story is a lot of fun and Grover Gardner's performance is excellent!
This has become one of my very favorite science fiction series.
I love being taken back to Mile's universe and seeing things from a different perspective.
Ivan's Mother. She is a wonder!
I did not like Grover Gardner's performance at all. I had not listened to one of Bujold's books narrated by him before and I will not again. It was without any affect and ruined the book for me. I could not finish listening to the book - I read the book prior to trying to listening to it. That is some pretty major dislike because I loved the book.
Sadly, because of the narrator, it was not. For the story, yes.
This is a great story. Lois is as strong as ever with great characters and an interesting story.
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.
Life-long reader, 10 years listening
Grover Gardner's reading brings a lot of nuances to the story. I've recently read a few more of Georgette Heyer's Regency romances, and I have to say that the first 2/3 of the Alliance story (up till Tej's family arriving on Barrayar) is very much like a Regency romance. After that, it's a high-stakes caper all the way. Delightful.
And to top it off, it won the 2014 Audie Award in the Sci-Fi category.
I adore British literature from the Victorian Age through World war II, primarily, and fantasy, but also enjoy mysteries once in a while.
This is a delightful Lois McMaster Bujold novel, with the fine writing, superb plotting, and tremendous character development one expects from such a gem of a writer. I grew very fond of Ivan, finally, with this book. The recording is excellent and it is one I will re-listen to a couple of times a year, so well worth the expense. Oh, and I positively love Simon in this novel.
This is classic McMaster Bujold story telling. I have listened to the other Vorkosigan Saga books and enjoy them all. For this reason, I wasn't sure how I would feel about a story centered around Ivan. It turns out, I liked it fine! The story was engaging and certainly strong enough to stand on its own. There was enough involvement of characters from other books (even the butter bugs have a cameo) to make it fun for long-time fans like me, but I think new listeners will not feel lost. As always, Grover Gardner does an excellent job. This is a fun, all-around good listen by a quality author/reader team. I would recommend it to anyone who values humor and realistic character development along with their imaginative, adventurous, outrageous sci-fi plotting.
Finally, Lois has written a book for those of us who wanted to learn more about Ivan Vorpatril, one of her more amusing and interesting side characters. As the book opens, Ivan is on Komarr as the aide to an important admiral. In his mid-30's he's still the bachelor playboy he has always been but is perhaps just a bit tired of it all. One day he is approached by his sort-of friend and covert ImpSec operative Byerly with a simple request: Romance a beautiful woman. What could be easier for a guy like Ivan? But very quickly this simple request goes amusingly, and dangerously, sideways. Soon Ivan finds himself at the center of kidnapping plots and galactic politics as he must struggle to save both the fair damsel in distress and his career. At the same time his personal life is upended in ways he never expected.
And through it all Ivan is revealed as a far more three-dimensional character than in previous books. No longer just Miles' foil, he is revealed as highly competent, kind, resourceful and able to think quickly under pressure. While I was at first just a little skeptical that an Ivan story would be able to carry an entire book I'm happy to report that my concerns were unfounded as Lois comes through once again for her readers.
A word is in order about Grover Gardner's masterful reading. He's read the entire series and really made it his own. He's kept all the voices consistent throughout the series and does a terrific job with female characters, something that other male readers sometimes find difficult. Bravo Grover!
The book ends with a note by the author concerning the order in which the books should be read. This, coupled with the fact that her characters are now comfortably domesticated leads me to believe that she has wrapped up the Vorkosigan saga with this novel. If so, thank you Lois for a great ride and for leaving us these wonderful books to be reread and savored.
This book is good if one has read the others in the series. As a stand alone book it has a few failings and even if one knows everyone from Ivan's world the story is not compelling. It is a nice story and it is difficult to write about nice people. The narrator is continuity with the series. His voice is a challenge until it simply melts into the story. I am always surprised by that little magic. I always start not liking it, then getting comfortable, and then trusting it to carry the characters through the obstacles. This book is not the masterpiece A Civil Campaign is to listen to or read. Ivan is not a character with enough difficulty in his nature to create the humor of that book. There is a lot to be said for nice people and Ivan's turn into maturity is comfort to readers as well as his mother.
Sci-Fi, Fantasy, historical fiction, mystery, thrillers with sarcasm are my favorites with some Romance thrown in for fun.
Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga ranks up there with my all time favorites, even after listening to the entire series many, many, many times. This book is no exception but a little sad as it sounds more like an ending of this fabulous series but also nice to see closure for not just one but two of the more 'entertaining' characters in the series..
Throughout the previous books you get tid bits about Ivan Vorpatril that start to make you think that he is not quite the idiot everyone says he is. This book shows both sides of his personality plus a lot more.
If you thought Miles' courtship was wild you will love Ivan's.
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