Captain Vorpatrill’s Alliance
by Lois McMaster Bujold
If you’ve yet to be introduced to the wonder that is Bujold, race right out to your nearest library and bookstore and pick up any one of several books that make good jumping off points into the series. I recommend, personally, The Warrior’s Apprentice, which was my introduction to the series. My wife, on the other hand, might suggest one goes all the way back to the beginning. Komarr is another good starting point, as the author herself suggests, as he embarks on his second career path after dying and being brought back from cryo-sleep.
This book is the first full novel to feature the viewpoints of Miles Vorkosigan’s laid-back cousin, Ivan Vorpatrill, unwitting pawn in any number of his brother’s schemes, and now subject to the whim of other Imperial Security agents aware of his security clearance and ability to remain solid and dependable regardless of the task he’s put to.
In this case, however, the deep cover agent steps over the line by involving Ivan, who is, by this time, more than a hop, skip, and a jump from the imperial throne (or camp stool, as the case may be), but still well protected by friends and family.
When Ivan returns to Barryar with a new wife in tow, the scion of a fallen Jackson’s Whole’s Great House, it becomes suddenly of greatest interest to family and friends. Who is this girl, and what’s she doing with our Ivan?
Ivan is not his cousin, though he does have some of Miles’s creativity and ingenuity when hard-pressed, but Ivan would rather his life remain as uncomplicated as he can possible arrange. This is one reason he expected the marriage to be a temporary affair, an emergency stop-gap measure to keep his new wife and her companion, the blue-skinned genetic dancer, Lapis Lazuli, from falling victim to their House’s enemies.
Of course, taking a wife home attracts the interest of his mother, the formidable Lady Alice Vorpatrill and her paramour, the retired chief of Imperial Security, Simon Illian. Before Ivan has even the chance to consider what he may have gotten himself into, and had more than a ghost of a chance to examine his feelings toward his new wife, her family, thought dead, arrives on Barryar’s Doorstep. These are formidable people, easily as influential in their way as his mother, his cousin Miles, Uncle Errol, or his Aunt Cordelia herself. When he finds himself drawn into the schemes of this Jacksonian crew, Ivan is shocked to discover that Simon also has his hands in somewhere, and that’s when things start to get very complicated.
It’s just a good thing his Lord Auditor Cuz is off doing Lord Auditor things, because things are difficult enough without his help. He knows he’s in trouble when Simon Illian starts quoting Emperor Gregor. “Let’s see what happens.”
The catchphrase for this installment, however, seems to be “Simon, what the hell?”