Review: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance

Posted: May 17, 2013 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: Lois McMaster Bujold, Science Fiction

While the majority of the books in the Vorkosigan Saga are from Miles’ PoV, there are other characters who are just as loved. One of them is Ivan Vorpatril. And after years of fans clamoring for his story, Lois McMaster Bujold delivers. But do you have to be a fan of the series to enjoy this book? Nope.

Unlike Miles, Ivan doesn’t seek out the adrenaline-rush of adventure and mayhem. He’s happy being a desk jockey for the Ops admiral without any ambition above that; he’s glad that the throne of Barrayar recedes further away from his inheriting it as his cousin Emperor Gregor’s children grow up; the only thing that would make him happier is finding a willing woman at the local bar.

While on Komarr for a routine two-week military audit, Ivan is visited by Byerly, undercover Imperial Security agent who, knowing Ivan’s luck with the ladies, asks for help keeping track of a woman on the run. Despite being suspicious of Byerly’s motives, when Ivan sees a picture of Tej his concerns are set aside, and decides he’s willing to help a lady in distress. Ivan thwarts a kidnapping attempt and takes Tej and her handmaiden to his flat to keep them safe until Byerly can smooth things out. Unfortunately the local authorities get involved and in order to protect the women, Ivan and Tej perform a quick and private wedding ceremony.

The rest of the book is about the fallout over what Ivan calls his ‘accidental’ wedding. I’m pretty sure Bujold was on a Diet Coke IV drip the entire last 3/4 of the book because the writing has this semi-hysterical pitch to it. Sure the story may not have Miles involved, but just because he isn’t there doesn’t mean that strange things won’t happen. Poor Ivan, he only wants a quiet life, but there are too many people who are interested in his personal happiness.

CAPTAIN VORPATRIL'S ALLIANCE is about relationships: with family and friends, and how romantic relationships happen when you least expect them.

Ivan was determined to be a lifelong bachelor; however, now he is finding that maybe married life isn’t too bad. Tej isn’t like the other women he’s dated. Tej grew up on Jacksons Whole, where anything goes, and if you aren’t a ruthless businessman/woman then you won’t survive. Her parents’ business is taken over by a competitor and have sent bounty hunters after her. Tej couldn’t care less about business, but she loves her family and fears them dead. When Ivan appears in her life she’s intrigued, not only because he’s tall and handsome, but because he couldn’t be more different from her family if he tried.

If you liked A CIVIL CAMPAIGN (Amazon) in which Miles courts Ekaterina, this is your kind of book, with romance, fun characters, and an interesting setting. Bujold does a great job with not only the characters in the story–especially Ivan and Taj’s romance–but also the relationships between the family members. I have, however, heard complaints about CIVIL because it was such a departure from the rest of the series. Bujold does her best to make CAPTAIN VORPATRIL’S ALLIANCE balance out more action with the relationship aspect. How? Remember Tej’s business-minded family? Well, in order to take their business back, they need capital, and descend on Barrayar and their new son-in-law with less than altruistic intent. Hilarity ensues. Poor Ivan.

CAPTAIN VORPATRIL’S ALLIANCE is a fun book. It isn’t groundbreaking, it doesn’t tell us much new stuff, and gives enough background so that new readers won’t get lost. There are some fun science-y things and her prose is as slick and entertaining as usual. But, ultimately, this book is about relationships: with family and friends, and how romantic relationships happen when you least expect them.

  • Recommended Age: 16+
  • Language: Not much, if any
  • Violence: Some tussles and stun guns, but no blood
  • Sex: Implied and referenced, but without detail

***This book is set about four years before CRYOBURN (EBR Review

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