Review: Cetaganda by Lois McMaster Bujold

Series: Vorkosigan Saga
Published by: Baen
ISBN: 0671877445
ISBN 13: 9780671877446
Published: 1995
Pages: 300
Format reviewed: ePub
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Related Reviews: Reading Challenge: Vorkosigan Saga Project

Still reading in chronological rather than published order, we carry on from The Vor Game where Miles now reports directly to Simon as part of ImpSec. It’s not ship duty as he and his cousin Ivan still say they dream for, but it involves missions only the two of them – thanks to their families and histories – can get away with. Although they may only be lieutenants in their day jobs for all intents, they have direct access to their Emperor which makes them of interest to Emperors of other systems/planets… but more on that later.

Dispatched on a diplomatic mission to the very center of a very old enemy, the Cetagandan Empire, they are to assist Barrayar in continuing the long and weary path to peace. Old ways are still lingering near the surface depending on how old the citizen of either planet is, and so many heads are on the line as any wrong move could relight the flame of war. And so of course they haven’t even managed to dock yet before Miles and cousin Ivan find themselves implicated in something that could have Cetaganda baying for blood – and, even worse, what they’ve been involved in is (for various reasons) being kept secret and they’re surrounded by people who don’t show their faces (literally) and work on such a tiered system of hierarchies that it’s impossible to know who to trust, who’s working for whom, and who’s out to embarrass or kill them next. All while they have to keep their game face on, attend luscious events, and perform every move like that on the edge of a dime as to not offend or show any kind of disrespect to their cultures.

Luckily, Ivan has his way with the ladies and Miles continues to be the genius of the operation – though it sometimes takes a clearer/simpler mind to see the wood for the trees. Together, along with carefully handled situations and delicate and tenuous connections with new acquaintances we see Miles and Ivan manage to make it back on a ship home right on the previously arranged time and date, having assisted in foiling – well, you’ll just have to read to find out. Both of them are only a little injured, more so Ivan’s pride, and they’re only becoming better and better at working together, no matter how much Ivan may despair at what Miles’ gets them into sometimes.

What’s interesting about this part of the Vorkosigan Saga is the culture of the Cetagandans. They pride themselves on beauty and science, the women holding the stronger power in some ways as biologically engineering everything from the best progeny possible to… uh… cat trees (utterly horrible) is what their life is dedicated to. I suppose they needed something to keep them amused while the men were fighting a very long war after all.

What’s also interesting about this book is that Miles finds someone to distract himself from the memory of Elena finally. However, she is somehow much much more out of reach… do we get to see her again? Who knows! (Well, people who’ve read this series to completion would, but don’t tell me just yet!)

Next in our reading list is Ethan of Athos which doesn’t feature Miles… so I don’t know how I’m going to cope.