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

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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!

Discussion Post: Diplomatic Immunity by Lois McMaster Bujold

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Diplomatic Immunity is the latest book we’ve read in our Vorkosigan Saga Project. We’ve returned to Miles and Ekaterin, joining them almost a year after their marriage (as we saw in “Winterfair Gifts”). They’re now expecting the birth (well, hatching) of their two children… however, of course, work has sprung up and Miles diverted to Quaddiespace.

You can read Katharine’s review of Diplomatic Immunity here, and Tsana’s review here.

 

Tsana: Well I remembered basically none of that from my first read through. I’m not sure why, but all that stuck in my head was that Miles and Ekaterin visit the Quaddies. Partway through I started worrying that I also remembered the death of a character, but, well I won’t say above the spoiler shield whether that was correct or not. Suffice to say a lot of the story came as a surprise to me.

 

Katharine: That must be good! I loved this one, especially comparing to Falling Free. It was interesting to see how they have expanded their part of the world and all the facilities they have now – like their own forensic investigators and such. And the story itself was rather exciting.

 

Tsana: I really liked the name references to some of the significant characters in Falling Free. Like how the Quaddies decided that they would only have first names, but the more popular names get numbers appended to them. So Leo Number and Silver Number and other founding quaddie characters are really popular. Also the bits of station named after Falling Free characters like Graf station and the Minchenko ballet.

 

Katharine: I agree – that was really quite lovely to see. And… oh, I should leave that for after the spoiler warning. Uhm. Well, so to the plot recap – so there was some trouble on the Quaddie station docks involving a security officer from the convoy’s Barrayaran military escort. Miles and Ekaterin were the closest to Quaddiespace at the time, so Miles was asked to go see what the trouble was all about, and it turns out the military have assaulted one of their own for sleeping with a local and he’s now seeking asylum, and another Barrayan has been killed (or at least there was a lot of blood), and the body nowhere to be found.

 

Tsana: All this while in the background Miles and Ekaterin are keen to get back to Barrayar for the decanting of their babies. Miles figures that if he can get the scandal with the Quaddies sorted in two weeks they won’t be late for the decanting. But when do things go smoothly where Miles is involved? He uncovers far-reaching conspiracies wherever he goes.

 

Katharine: Decanting – I like that. Sounds classy! And yes, because it’s not as simple as a bit of rough-housing and a maybe-murder, no. There’s explosives and biochemical threats and all sorts. And that’s even before they discover… well. Spoiler shield time?

 

Tsana: Spoilers ahoy!

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Review: Devil’s Night Dawning by Damien Black

Published by: self-published
ASIN: B01J5WHFVU
ISBN: 0995492808
ISBN 13: 9780995492806
Published: July 2016
Pages: 650
Format reviewed: mobi
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Three out of Five

Read for the SPFBO, this is the LAST book I dove into once we had our shortlist of ten. Freedom is on the horizon!

We meet Adelko and Horskam who hunt and exorcise monsters wherever they go. So, of course, they are the ones who must defeat a warlock who plans to unleash a great horror unto the world. The journey trope is evident from the cover, after all.

These are our two main characters and they dominate the majority of the book, which is good as the narrative didn’t really give reason to go elsewhere, and a shame as I didn’t connect with either of them. Adelko was a bit flat, partly because he’s a bit let down with his lot in life, however when you read about someone like that it’s entirely easy for the reader to feel the same. Braxus, however, was a lesser-used POV character and was quite excellent. A knight who is seeking aid for the war, his dialogue and interactions with people were really quite fun. Adhelina (one of the very few women in the book) was a bit forgetful, unfortunately.

Religion plays a big part here, and it certainly has a Game of Thrones or generic fantasy subsection feel. You have a priest, a novice, a knight, a princess, a squire – one wants to escape a marriage she’d rather not, one is bullied by his betters and chafes at the fact… Really quite generic. Which can be a reassuring read when done well, certainly. That’s what makes it s staple.

The plot isn’t one of the more dramatic parts to the book – the plot was sturdy enough but not quite memorable – the focus here is all on the worldbuilding, which is quite epic. The language used throughout was often good and there were few typos, and the flow was often good… however…

Overall, I think this book needs a little more editing. There were several issues of info-dumping and that seemed to be the primary method of informing the reader of the world-building, which is usually one of my favourite elements of reading fantasy. In this it was closer to being in a History of Magic class in Hogwarts with the ghost professor Binns up front… and we all know what happened in those classes.

Ultimately this book is far longer than it needs to be, and really could do with shaving at least 100 pages, if not 200 from them. Then it would be tight, engaging, and really quite a hard contender for the winner.

Review: Diplomatic Immunity by Lois McMaster Bujold

Series: Vorkosigan Saga
Published by: Baen
ASIN: B005GLJD7E
ISBN: 0743468023
ISBN 13: 9781618242877
Published: 1999
Pages: 277
Format reviewed: mobi
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Related Reviews: Reading Challenge: Vorkosigan Saga Project

Lord Miles Vorkosigan and his wife(!) Lady Ekaterin, are returning home from their honeymoon to count down the few days until their first children can be hatched from the uterine replicators. On their saunter back home, amidst chatter that something isn’t quite right with Cetaganda, actual issues start up in Quaddiespace, the place we were just in for our last book but only 200 years later (as we read a little out of our usual chronological order). They still have enough time to do so, and as they’re quite close by and work is work after all, the newlyweds (well, it’s been almost a year but it still feels so fresh), make their way over.

Bel Thorne, former pilot in the Dendarii Free Mercenaries that Miles created, just happens to be there on the down-low, secret to all but Miles and probably Gregor, which is to their huge advantage as they start trying to undo the tangled confusion that resulted in the disappearance of a man, the attack of another, and several ships now held in lockdown. Miles must win the affections of the Quaddies (or at least exasperate them enough that they’re glad to see the back of them) and get to the bottom of just how much the Barrayans have stuffed up… but as though that isn’t enough, of course, an attempt is then made on his life. And then Bel disappears. And then there a series of quite elegant and terrifying biological attacks. With Kat safely elsewhere and time running out in more ways than one, we get Miles back at his best as he does what few else can – bring sense to some nonsense and save lives doing so.

Oh it was such a relief to get back here after the difference that was Falling Free. The joy of our favourite characters and the return of the lovely Bel!

And it was clever and fun, and although biochemicals scare the daylights out of me it was so endlessly fascinating to follow. And then that there was so much more to this than you’re initially following for the majority of the book, but the earlier mentions all come back around to be so utterly crucial.

I do hope we get to see Gregor’s reaction to everything Miles managed to do for this one. I mean, he has other things on his mind but when it’s all going to shit he ultimately works for the benefit of Barrayar, regardless of everything else. It really was quite marvellous.

We’re getting to the end of the series. And I’m a little scared to keep reading, now.