Review: “Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance” by Lois McMaster Bujold

Captain Vorpatril's AllianceCaptain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The e-ARC had the usual skips and errors, so of course I’ll be reading the official release, too.

The Vorkosigan saga is unique in its memorable characters, and the kind of tales it takes to tell their stories. In some ways, “Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance” consolidates most of the major events of the Vorkorverse, seen from a very different point of view.

The long-standing supporting character, Ivan Vorpatril, finally gets his turn in the spotlight. Ivan lives the life of a smarter moth. Standing too close to the Barrayaran throne for his own comfort, no way does he want to fly close enough to the fire to go up in flames. But he often gets dragged into scrapes–interstellar scrapes–as the unwilling foil to his cousin Miles’ manic schemes. This time, Miles doesn’t drag him into trouble; neither is he around to pull Ivan out of the fire. And it was kind of weird reading a Vorkosigan tale without Miles in it except as a domesticated husband and father…weird, but an enjoyable grace note to the story.

No, this time it’s By Vorrutyer’s scheme that disrupts Ivan’s peaceful life as the promotion-avoiding aide de camp of the Barrayaran military’s ops chief. But for the sake of the girl and Barrayar, Ivan rises to the occasion, as he’s done in the past despite his inclination to fly under the radar. In doing so, we get an interesting peek at Ivan’s lingering demons, the truth behind his suave facade. Hey, despite his usual nonchalant attitude, he’s gotta have a few, growing up on Barrayar in interesting times with Miles as a cousin.

I’m not quite sure why Bujold chose to place this book before “Cryoburn,” and I don’t know why that bothers me so much. Perhaps because I want the Vorkoverse to keep moving forward. Although I’ll admit the tone of the book is happier than might have been possible in Cryoburn’s aftermath. Happier, but also retrospective. The characters have all grown up, done wonders and marvels, made mistakes, and learned from it. Even Ivan. I can’t help but wonder (or is that hope?) that having given us a glimpse of life going reasonably well for the main characters, Bujold is cooking up another major challenge for her incredible cast of characters in the near future. Using Bujold’s maxim of the “worst possible thing,” possibilities are boiling in the back of my mind, but mentioning them would involve spoilers, so…hmmm.

Why four stars? More than a bit unfairly, I’m rating a Bujold book against Bujold’s body of work. There’s a reason Bujold is my favorite author. Her best stories are…spectacular. As much as I enjoyed reading this, CVA isn’t “Shards of Honor,” “Memory,” or “A Civil Campaign.” So call the CVA rating a “Four Stars with Palm” for filling in the spaces in a really remarkable ‘verse.

Now…when’s the next one???

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Reader Appreciation Day

Since I was a child, I’ve loved books. One story that captured my imagination, even before I could read, was “The Velveteen Rabbit,” by Margery Williams. The love of a little boy for his toy, in the end, makes the velveteen rabbit “real.”

Once I could read for myself, my circle of friends included Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, Rick Brant, and Chip Hilton. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March played well with Lassie and her boy, Joe Carraclough. Soon I was reading C.S. Lewis, Georgette Heyer, Louis L’Amour, E.E. “Doc” Smith, Dorothy Sayers, Dick Francis, Katherine Kurtz, Lois McMaster Bujold…. And the list goes on, and on, through the decades and a raft of genres.

As a reader, I appreciated the authors who fed my voracious appetite. But I never realized how important I—the reader—was to the author.

Then I began to write. Forge emerged out of the pressures of a traumatic time in my life. At first, I thought I was only writing for myself, and my own sanity. Then my sisters began to snatch the raw draft of the story out of my hands. Bolstered by their enthusiasm, I gathered up my courage and posted an early version on a critique site. The comments I received were grist for my mill, and when people I’d never met started demanding the next chapter, I was elated, and honored.

This was a revelation, giving me an entirely new insight into writing. Appreciation, I discovered, is a two-way street. The authors of all those books I read needed me, just as much as I needed them. And not only because I was willing to plunk down hard cash for their stories—although I’m certain that was part of it! As an author, I love readers…people who sprinkle the magic pixie dust of their time and attention, their love, on the product of my imagination and make it “real.”

Authors and readers today have more choices. We are no longer held hostage to the publishing decisions of a few big houses. Authors can reach more readers, because readers can choose books from among a growing list of publishers, and even the self-published. They can choose to read their book in dead-tree format, or on the now-ubiquitous e-reader. They can also reach out to the authors they like—via Amazon rating, email, website comment, tweet, or Facebook post. Authors respond to reader feedback the way Tinkerbelle responds to applause! And the author-reader relationship is stronger than ever.

So I hope, if you buy a copy of “Forge,” you’ll reach out to me and let me know what you think of it! And, you might take just a minute, and give your favorite author a positive vibe, too. Because we need you more than you might appreciate.

In token of my appreciation, and in celebration of my first blog tour for Forge, you’ll find a Rafflecopter widget on the Events tab, at the end of the blog tour schedule. You still have time to enter for a $20 gift certificate from!

Blog Tour Begins Today!

I’ve got the dates and places for my first “FORGE” blog tour listed on my events page. Here, the message is all about how excited I am to get a chance to meet some new people who like their skiffy with a little romance thrown in. Sitting in front of a laptop, with only the cats for company, I had only the faintest of dreams that my book would ever see the light of day. That one day, total strangers (not just my close friends and family) would be willing to share their headspace with me while I took them through the wormhole to new realms. How cool is that? I’m honored, and privileged, to get to know you.

So, I hope you’ll join me during the blog tour. Leave a comment, ask a question…I’m looking forward to meeting you!