Discussion Post: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold


Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance is the latest book we’ve read in our Vorkosigan Saga Project. For the first time we get to focus on Ivan, Miles’s cousin. Chronologically, this story takes place after Diplomatic Immunity and, for all that Ivan frequently appears in Miles’s stories, Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance contains very little Miles…

You can read Tsana’s review of Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance here, and Katharine’s review here.

Katharine: Wooo Ivan! (That is the tl;dr of my review.)

Tsana: In which we learn that Ivan is quite capable of having strange things happen to him even when Miles is safely on another planet. Despite what we’ve seen in snakes?earlier books, it’s not all Miles’s fault.

Katharine: And when it does happen, he’s quite adept at coming up with suitable scenarios and resources for saving the day. All while being quite considerate, too. Line right up for your Ivan fan club badge, people!

Tsana: When what does happen?

Katharine: Strange things. Such as By appearing from nowhere and asking Ivan to keep an eye on a woman who seems to have some trouble after her.

They’re out on Komarr – neither Miles or Ivan are on Barrayar – with Captain Ivan Vorpatril playing secretary to an admiral. Cousin By who we met in A Civil Campaign appears out of nowhere and doesn’t leave much information at all… which is probably why Ivan quickly winds up being tied to a chair and foiling an attempted kidnaping. Which is one way to win the trust of the woman he’s been asked to protect, at least…

Tsana: It’s a continuation of the general trend of “no one ever tells Ivan anything”. But the absence of anyone to hide behind does bring out the best in Ivan and shows the reader just how competent he really is, despite trying to hide it and not draw attention to himself. In the earlier books we got glimpses suggesting that there was more to Ivan than just “that idiot”, but now we really get a chance to see it.

Katharine: Such as being able to run on very little sleep, handle questioning from local authorities, and sure, he may seem to ‘just’ be a secretary however doing such a job well shows just how much intuition and greater understanding of everything as a whole is needed in order to keep your boss afloat. We often see Ivan referring to snakes, as in, what does the admiral need to see sooner rather than later – something his eventual replacement doesn’t seem to get right at all. But now I’m really jumping too far ahead.

Tsana: We see Ivan being good at his job, which doesn’t contradict anything we’ve seen earlier but which also isn’t something we’ve witnessed either way. His job was always relatively peripheral to Miles’s stories. Ivan’s General likes him and that puts Ivan in quite a senior position, even though he is still only a captain. And Ops is also not the same can of worms/snakes as the ImpSec we have frequently seen through the eyes of the other characters (and continue to see in this book).

Katharine: Ivan got promoted before Miles did, didn’t he? Way back when Miles was ‘just a courier?’

Tsana: Yep. Miles was very jealous and got himself retrospectively captain-ed during/despite his medical discharge.

Katharine: Thankfully they’ve both matured quite a bit since then. So, the woman By has asked Ivan to keep an eye on is a woman called Tej. Who happens to have a hidden half-sister, Rish. Hidden because she’s bright blue and stands out quite a bit. Half-sister because they’re from Jackson’s Whole. Tsana, care to explain their family (I certainly don’t really understand the older members very well), and why they’re on the run?

Tsana: It does get a bit complicated, doesn’t it? I think if I’m going to explain it all in detail, we have to put the spoiler shields up.

<spoilers below!>

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Review: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold

Series: Vorkosigan Saga
Published by: Baen
ISBN: 1451638450
ISBN 13: 9781451638455
Published: 2012
Pages: 422
Format reviewed: mobi
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Related Reviews:Reading Challenge: Vorkosigan Saga Project

So anyone who has been following my reviews of this series will know that I’m quite a fan of Ivan, and I think this book helped me figure out why. I’m not usually one to go for the good looking ones after all…

But first, the story at hand. We’ve left Miles and Ekaterin to go to some far off planet for work, and Ivan himself is a secretary to an admiral, and quite content to not rise much more above the rank of captain; the day is already filled with juggling enough snakes as it is. This is before By gets involved; yet another cousin who Ivan would certainly prefer to see less of, even when they’re to beg him to protect an attractive young woman, and then before he knows it Ivan is tied up in an apartment and perfectly placed to foil a kidnaping attempt.

Tej Arqua and her half-sister Rish are in hiding after the violent over-throw at Jackson’s Whole – though the use of the word ‘violent’ is almost a given, when is any business at the Whole not violent? They’ve lost contact with the rest of their sizeable family, and are ready to throw themselves off the balcony rather than be taken captive until Ivan begs them to give him a chance at giving them other options than death.

Together with By and dodging any unfortunate questions that may be asked at work or of the Barrayan work unit itself while they’re on Komarr, Ivan knows that he has to get both Tej and Rish off the planet, and, if possible, back to Barrayar where he has connections and protection. And what best than being married to a Barrayan and therefore a citizen? So then suddenly Ivan has a wife, and Tej is now Lady Vorpatril.

And I love it. We get to see how outsiders view Gregor, Simon, and all the rest – and how normal they all seem to Ivan. I always forgot just how close to the throne he was and yet never wanted it, and that’s what I like about him. Miles and everyone else were always trying to prove themselves, either to themselves or those around them, and Ivan is just content as is – yet he also works hard, and is passionate about Barrayar and so on – he’s not lazy and wishing he could just live a life of luxury.

I love the scenes we get of Simon in this. And even that we get to know By a little more, and how he is with Rish. And I love Rish. And all of them, really.

Apologies for the short review and if there’s any weird words. I almost have pneumonia and not currently getting enough oxygen according to doctor, and what do I do? I leave my humid home in the tropics and travel to Melbourne where they’re going to get a month worth of rain and hail in the next two days. And I went out shopping all morning. I’m super smart!