My rating: 5 of 5 stars
‘Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance’ is the book many fans have been waiting for. Finally, we hear Ivan’s story—in his own voice. Avid readers of Lois McMaster Bujold’s award winning Vorkosigan Saga will enjoy hearing Ivan’s perspective on many things, from his manic cousin, Miles, our more usual protagonist and guide to all things Barrayan, to Barrayar itself, the emperor, the military, Imperial Security, politics, intrigue and family. Newcomers to the saga will simply enjoy Ivan’s voice and story and will be intrigued by the glimpses of the larger story.
In the course of a routine assignment (if such a thing exists, Bujold has yet to include it in her saga), Ivan is visited by one of his cousins, By Vorrutyer, an agent with Imp. Sec. Premonition prickles and Ivan tries, unsuccessfully, to keep By from giving him an assignment. A picture of the target—an attractive woman with attractive ‘qualities’—changes his mind. Ever willing to help out a damsel in distress, Ivan sets out to meet the woman…and ends up stunned and bound to a chair where he spends an uncomfortable night cursing all things Imp. Sec. Then the real threat arrives. Not the best date he’s ever been on, but for Ivan, not the worst situation he has been in, either.
With the aid of his original captors, the mysterious woman, Tej, and her even more mysterious blue-skinned friend, Rish, they evade the real threat and Ivan, being the quietly heroic man he is—flapping and flailing—offers his protection to both women. An alliance is formed, one of convenience, and while the repercussions of his hasty decision ripple through the galaxy, Tej’s story is unraveled and revealed…and Ivan falls in love.
‘Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance’ has all the intrigue and adventure of any entry in the Vorkosigan Saga and Ivan’s gentle theatrics more than make up for Miles’ more usual drama. As always, humour and the absurd are sandwiched in between high drama. Where this book truly shines, however, is in Ivan’s point of view. Every story has several facets and through Ivan’s eyes, we gain a new perspective on Miles, Gregor, Simon Illyan, Lady Alys and even Cordellia and Aral Vorkosigan. Interwoven throughout the plot are glimpses and reflections of the history of the saga and Barrayar, itself.
Ivan has long been one of my favourite characters; ‘Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance’ has firmly placed him at Miles’ right hand, in my mind. Though I know it’s not necessary we hear from him again, I do hope the Bujold writes another Ivan book, or maybe gives him equal voice in a future Miles adventure.
Written for and originally published at SFCrowsnest.