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on 1 June 2017
One of my favourite authors has produced another excellent tale. Like the other books in this series, it is impossible to put down, even after it has been read. It deserves to be a Hugo Nominee.
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on 3 November 2012
I'm a Bujold addict so needed to have the reviews as soon as I could: and of course nowadays that means borrowing from the US website (why the delay with the WWW....) so I'm cross posting, no apologies but perhaps a mini-spoiler alert:

Captain Ivan Vorpatril is happy with his relatively uneventful bachelor's life as a staff officer to a Barrayaran admiral. Cousin to imperial troubleshooter Miles Vorkosigan, Ivan is not far down the hereditary list for the emperorship. Thankfully, new heirs have directed that headache elsewhere, leaving Ivan to enjoy his life on Komarr, far from the byzantine court politics of his home system. But when an old friend in Barrayaran intelligence asks Ivan to protect an attractive young woman who may be on the hit list of a criminal syndicate, his chivalrous nature takes over. It seems danger and adventure have once more found Captain Vorpatril.

Tej Arqua and her half-sister and servant Rish are fleeing the violent overthrow of their clan on free-for-all planet Jackson's Whole. Now it seems Tej may possess a secret of which even she may not be aware -- a secret that could corrupt the heart of a highly regarded Barrayaran family and provide the final advantage for the thugs who seek to overthrow Tej's homeworld. But none of Tej's formidable adversaries have counted on Ivan Vorpatril. For behind Ivan's facade of wry and self-effacing humor lies a true and cunning protector who will never leave a distressed lady in the lurch. But when his attempt to ask the woman out ends up with her handmaiden knocking him out and tying him to a chair, Ivan realizes that something very bad is going on. It quickly becomes clear that there is only one way Ivan can save himself and his charge but that is but a step into many sub plots and competitors' agendas.

The 14th book (19th story) in Lois McMaster Bujold's most excellent 'Vorkosigan' series. (start with the 1st in series, Omnibus 'Cordelia's Honor' if you're new to this). Chronologically pre-Cryoburn, but not interconnecting much and just as readable slightly out of order. Definitely BEST read as part of the set.

Missing some of the truly incisive and perceptive writing, really intelligent dialogue and razor edge plot pacing of earlier books of the series, it is still a worthy addition. (Main characters from previous books appear only as cameos).

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on 26 November 2012
How wonderful to spend time with Ivan without him being overshadowed by Miles. Miles is a great character but finding Ivan's hidden depths has been most enjoyable. This is a great addition to the Vorkosigan Saga and I hope Ms Bujold writes more books showing the supporting cast in greater detail.

As ever there are some wonderful pieces of humour & drama in this book (and the two are not mutually exclusive) with the usual lively pace drawing you on to the end. "I'll just finish this chapter......".

If you are a fan of the series this is a must have on your bookshelf or e-reader.
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The plot: Ivan Vorpatril is doing duty on Komarr, a colony planet, when an ImpSec agent asks for help - a help that neatly synches with Ivan's style in rescuing beautiful young women. Only, this time the women shoot him... and so starts another of those mad headlong Komarr/Barrayar/Jackson's Whole stories, with (and I quote) "almost-stolen treasure, crime lords, off-world invasion, secret bombings, ugly kidnappings of beautiful women, and much, much more..."

My opinion: most enjoyable - not her *very* best, I think, but that is after just one readthrough - a bit unfair, that, since I have read Cordelia's honor at least six times, and the others in the wonderful Vorkosigan saga many times as well. Bujold is up to her usual tricks, both stylistic and story-wise: you are being seduced into a romantic mood when the next bomb explodes all over the plot, literally or otherwise, and throws it all into glorious disarray... with Ivan, as usual, muttering "*not* my fault... " I was taken aback in seeing a reference about consulting Aral on Sergyar, but in the timeline stat at the end of the book I see this (CVA) slots in just *before* Cryoburn. More to come, we all fervently hope!
P.S. I almost forgot - Baen has provided, as usual, a ghastly cover (back cover, the front is standard SF fare) with really *really* bad interpretations of what the main personages look like - you have been warned!
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on 7 November 2012
...and then I fell of my chair. I like regular Bujold but it's nice to have a central character, indeed more than one, who doesn't want anything more than a quiet life and would really like their hidden depths to remain hidden. Watching Ivan being dragged kicking and screaming into intrigue, matrimony and love (in that order) deal with his relatives (both old and new) and accidentally doing some major property damage (at one point I ran around my living room laughing like a maniac) was the most fun I've had with a book for ages.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 February 2013
This latest novel in the "Miles Vorkosigan" universe provides at long last a story centred on Miles' cousin, and often his reluctant sidekick, Ivan Vorpatril.

Although at the time of writing (Feb 2013) this is the sixteenth and most recently published book in the series it is chronologically the fifteenth and penultimate story: it is set around a year after the conclusion of "Diplomatic Immunity" and about four years prior to "Cryoburn SC (Miles Vorkosigan Adventures)."

Captain Lord Ivan Xav Vorpatril came over, most unfairly, as a bit dumb during most of the previous books of the series because they were told from the perspective of his brilliant cousin Miles. Throughout his life he has never had the opportunity to forget how dangerous politics can be: his father was gunned down on the day he was born, (for the story of the "Vordarian Pretendership," an attempted coup in which Ivan's father was killed, see "Barrayar)" with the result that Ivan's birthday has also included a commemoration of his murdered dad. For the third of a century following his birth, until his cousin Emperor Gregor married in "A Civil Campaign (Miles Vorkosigan Adventures)" and started producing children, Ivan was never more than three heartbeats away from the throne of Barrayar, and therefore had to be constantly watched by Imperial Security. In self defence he has developed a persona designed to stop him looking like a threat, keeping his nose as clean as possible while avoiding any distinction which might get him promoted above the rank of Captain, building an (inaccurate) reputation for having no great intelligence and a (largely accurate) one as a ladies' man.

At the start of this book Ivan is just coming up to his thirty-fifth birthday and has accompanied his present boss, the Admiral who is Chief of Operations for the Barrayaran Navy, to the Komarr system. There is a knock on the door of the apartment where Ivan is staying: Byerly, (By), a distant relative who works for Imperial Security, has a favour to ask. The criminals By is trying to catch are taking an interest in a beautiful woman who may know something about them or may need protecting from them. Can Ivan try to make friends with her, protect her and find out what if anything she knows?

Unfortunately By has not told Ivan the full story: this assignment is both a lot more complex and a lot more dangerous than Ivan realises - getting through this one may require the sort of quick reactions and outragous tactics more often associated with Cousin Miles ...

Up there with "A civil campaign" as one of the most hysterically funny books in a very amusing series: this book had me laughing out loud more than once.

At its best, as it is in this volume, the Vorkosigan SF saga is one of the most amusing comedy science fiction series ever written.
It currently consists of ten full length Miles Vorkosigan novels, five other novels including this one set in the same fictional Universe, several novellas and short stories, and "The Vorkosigan Companion".

All these novels and stories can stand on their own. But several of them, of which this is one, will give you something extra if you have read the books set earlier in the same timeline.

In particular, you will get more out of this book if you have previously read "Barrayar," "Cetaganda (Miles Vorkosigan Adventures)" and "A Civil Campaign."

The full sequence of books in this Universe is as follows. The tale of the bioengineered quaddies and how Leo Graf helped them free themselves from slavery, which happened about 235 years before this book, is given in

"Falling Free"

The story of the romance between Miles' parents is given in the two books:

"Shards of Honour"

and these two books have also been published together in one volume as "Cordelia's Honor."

The Miles Vorkosigan adventures are:

"The Warrior's Apprentice (Vorkosigan)"
"The Vor Game"
"Borders of Infinity" which is a set of 3 linked novellas
"Brothers in Arms"
"Mirror Dance"
"A Civil Campaign"
"Diplomatic Immunity"

And finally this book, "Captain Vorpatril's Alliance" set between "Diplomatic Immunity" and "Cryoburn" is one of two novels in which the central character is one of Miles' friends. The other is a solo adventure for Miles' friend Elli Quinn, in which she meets a doctor from a planet whose population consists entirely of gay men. That story is called

"Ethan of Athos"

All the books in the Vorkosigan Universe prior to this one and "Cryoburn" have been republished in six compilation volumes, each of which contains two or three of the individual novels or novellas.

I have already mentioned "Cordelia's Honour" and the other compilation volumes are

"Young Miles"
"Miles Errant"
"Miles, Mystery and Mayhem"
"Miles in Love" and
"Miles, Mutants and Microbes."

I enjoyed all these books and strongly recommend them, just be careful if you are trying to complete the set that you don't accidentally duplicate the books you own by purchasing a compilation volume consisting of books you already have!
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on 16 November 2012
...and here it is! As usual this is a charming and witty blend of adventure and romance centred around well developed and well loved characters. It's one of those books where people give you weird looks if you read it in public because you can't help falling over helplessly with laughter. Like many of the later Barrayar books, it's worth reading because of the rich and detailed character history which the series has built up over so many years - if you haven't read the previous books you'd be missing a lot of context. Lois McMaster Bujold's writing is fluid, observant, entertaining, and full of gentle ironic humour and absurd twists.
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Ivan Vorpatril is one of Barrayar's most eligible bachelors and notorious rakes, but now in his mid-thirties he is finding his life of chasing women and partying is no longer as satisfying as it once was. On assignment to Komarr, his path crosses of that of two fugitives from a coup on Jackson's Whole and his attempts to help only make things worse...and change his life forever.

The most interesting thing about the Vorkosigan Saga has been Lois McMaster Bujold's willingness to experiment, switch protagonists and POVs and generally not sit still and bash out a load of action-adventure novels. Her willingness to put the series on hold for years at a time until she has a good idea for a new book has also helped it retain a high level of quality.

Captain Vorpatril's Alliance is one of the lighter novels in the series. It is a romantic farce with an underlying adventure story and also dwells on the notion of ageing, growing up and maturing, a theme of Bujold's that she returns to repeatedly in the later books in the series. Using Ivan, Miles's womanising cousin with no interest in settling down, to explore this theme is extremely effective. It would have been easy to have done a "growing and learning" story in which Ivan suddenly mans up and accepts responsibility, but this would not have been true to the character. Instead Bujold develops Ivan's character (and, we realise, how she's been developing it subtly in the background all along) naturally and much more convincingly, by having him fall for a woman who seems to be right up his street (superficial and pretty) but whose hidden depths and complex background make her a lot more interesting.

These elements of growth and change are accompanied by some quite uproariously hilarious scenes, some nice catching-up moments with old characters who we haven't seen for a while (most notably Simon Illyan) and some more musings on the changing nature of Barryaran society, which are all handled quite well.

On the downside, the novel is a bit too long (over 500 pages) to support a slight premise and the lack of some well-motivated villains (we never even meet the bad guys who set the whole story in motion) and there are a few too many scenes of Tej's family scheming or Ivan feeling overwhelmed. A bit more of a serious editing pass to streamline the book would not have gone amiss.

Captain Vorpatril's Alliance (****) is not one of the best books in the series and could be a bit better paced, but it remains well-written with a refreshing focus on the characters and how they have evolved over the years, with some nice SF flourishes and very funny moments.
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on 17 January 2013
With true heroism, I resisted the pre-release ARC of CVA and waited for the full Monty, as it were. It was made doubly difficult in that I contacted LMB through her MySpace to ask a question re the Vorkosigan Series and she very kindly replied and whetted my appetite for "Ivan's book".
CVA is the 19th story and the 14th book in the VS and is set before Cryoburn SC (Miles Vorkosigan Adventures) which I like because that way Aral Vorkosigan knows his most exasperating foster child is okay in life by the time those events occur. I mention its position because whilst I suppose it is possible to red CVA as a standalone or out of sequence if you wish, I don't think it's possible to do that and still get everything the book has to offer.
Ivan is a very subtle man, and the book is exactly the same - to get the best out of it, you need to know Ivan, to understand who he is, where he came from, how he fits in with the Vorkosigans specifically and Barrayar/the Inhabited Galaxies generally in context, and to do that you really need to read the books in order - I'd start right at the beginning with Shards of Honor which is Aral Vorkosigan and Cordelia Naismith's first meeting and go on from that - there is no downside whatsoever to working (what work, it's sheer enjoyment all the way) your way up to CVA and after it you can now even go straight onto Cryoburn.
CVA isn't as comical and laugh-aloud funny as A Civil Campaign: A Comedy of Biology and Manners (Miles Vorkosigan Adventures), nor as drily witty but acutely perceptive as Memory (Vorkosigan Saga) (still my favourite VS title, and one where I was actively encouraging Miles to ditch the ingrate Illyan and Gregor to be Naismith): "the one thing you can't give for your heart's desire is your heart."
But it is definitely smile broadly/soft chuckle territory and it is very realistic in the situations - on Barrayar, personal and public honour and duty to your culture and community are far more important than selfish personal whims and wishes, so Ivan and his wife getting married first and falling in love with each other later is far more realistic than them disregarding everything and everyone for grand passion. Such sensible alliances were once the norm in the UK - marriage for "love" is an invention of the 1930s, like Television, and has often done just as much damage when people ignore their common sense in favour of sensual gratification.
The second "half" of the book is also very realistic - as someone who struggles with a memory like a sieve due to ill health I really envied Simon Illyan until I read Memory etc., and really thought through what it would be like to be a person who is literally a HD Digital Surround Sound recording meeting, unable to ever forget even the most banal, or disgusting, or vicious images and spiteful words. Yet again, LMB gives her readers a subtle lesson in "be careful what you wish for because you might get it." It also gave us insight into Lady Alys, Ivan's formidable mother, who in previous books has been a bit one-dimensional, although we get a glimpse of character depth in A Civil Campaign.
It has been mentioned that the usual suspects only make cameo appearances (Miles, etc) but I think this is a good thing. It lets the light shine on Ivan. I don't think Ivan would "carry" more than one book with him being (mostly) the main protagonist, simply because Ivan wouldn't want to - I imagined him when LMB was writing CVA trying to talk her out of it, `Look, I really don't fancy being under the spotlight - it's so hot and everyone will be expecting me to be urbane and witty - which is what Byerly's for, or wildly heroic, which is what Miles' is for, or noble, which is what Gregor is for, or wise and shrewd, which is what Aral and Cordelia are for, or industrious and diligent which is what my blasted mother Lady Alys is for. Can't you just let me go on being content and comfortable in Vorbarr Sultana?'
Because of course Ivan isn't an idiot. After all, in A Civil Campaign he makes the rare mistake of showing his actual intelligence and political savvy when he warns Dono Vorrutyer et al to get to Gregor asap to put their case - they're done if Gregory is blindsided by what's happened. In fact, that sort of thing is the one thing that always made me shake my head when I read earlier books in the VS - how on earth people as astute as Aral and Miles and Gregor couldn't see what Ivan really was, or what he was doing!?(Cordelia, I am sure, has always known and being Cordelia, has always shut up about it). Whenever one of them (usually Miles) ranted "Ivanyouidiot" as one word I wanted to cry, "What is wrong with you? Are you blind?"
The only father Ivan ever knew was Aral, his only siblings were Gregor (emperor), Miles the Maniacal and Elena Bothari (daughter of the most psychotic man on Barrayar). There is no way that anyone growing up with those people in that environment would be either foolish or lazy or cowardly.
But Ivan has lived his life in the terror of ending up with the poisoned chalice. Thanks to the Pretender War, the heirs to Gregor's throne were in order, Aral, Miles and Ivan. Given the varied attempts to bump off Aral and Miles the Maniacal's lifestyle, Ivan must have known he could end up lumbered with the Imperium in an instant, something he wanted about as much as he wanted to contract a plague.
When I read Cetaganda (Vorkosigan Saga), in particular, and also Memory and A Civil Campaign, it was obvious to me that Ivan was an acutely intelligent, exceptionally shrewd individual who had become a peerless master of the subtle art of being like the late Denis Thatcher, to Miles's Margaret Thatcher, Britain's [first female] Prime Minister, `always present, but never there.'
Nor has it been easy for Ivan to pull off - read the earlier books and you will see how many times Ivan has been dragged into deep and nasty political intrigue in Miles's wake, not to mention his formidable mother, constantly trying to get him to be a carbon copy of Miles and trying to bully him into living up to his dead father's mode of death. Wildly over-drugged by the Pretender's murder squad, Lord Padma Vorpatril's only concern was his pregnant wife, and he was killed trying to protect the woman he loved - since the drunk and high are unable to lie (which takes effort and a clear head) his honest response in caring for nothing but saving Alys immediately made him an unassailable paragon in death, no matter his inevitable flaws in life.
As so often in her writing, LMB makes a good psychological point when she uses Alys's insistence on Ivan making an annual pilgrimage to the spot where his father was gunned down to highlight the counterproductive and usually negative results that occur. Such things don't inspire the person's child/younger sibling to live up to the Paragon, they cause a deep sense of personal inadequacy that they aren't loved or valued for who they are individually, and a fierce resentment towards the Paragon who has made their lives one long nagging lecture and endless criticism as a result.
Reading the earlier books especially in sequence shows how Ivan has ferociously worked to be the Invisible Man - he is far too sensible not to realise that contentment and comfort are worth far more than dash and flair, not least because if you show aptitude everyone immediately tries to dump their responsibilities onto you (he very carefully ensures he gets a billet in Vorbarr Sultana and advances no higher up the ranks than Captain).
I like this book because it finally shows that Ivan Vorpatril is a perceptive, subtle and shrewd operator and that if only briefly, Ivan, Aral et al get to realise that Ivanyouidiot has very adeptly hidden in plain sight right in front of them for most of his life - well done Ivan!
So why only 3 stars - well these days I have to buy my books as ebooks, and since ebooks are a) liable for VAT and b) have a ridiculous region bar which means you can't buy them from any other country but the one you reside in, I expect them to be excellent value for money and quite frankly they are often not. There is no excuse for the poor proofreading and shoddy formatting if they want to charge us these prices for a book that doesn't even exist in the real world. If that had been better, there would have been another star.
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Finally, a book about Ivan Vorpatril, the often side kick to Miles Vorkosigan. Set between the books Diplomatic Immunity and Cryoburn, this latest offering from Lois McMaster Bujold is a real treat for fans of the Vorkosigan series and is up to Ms Bujold's extremely high standards. This is Ivans story, and though in his youth he has been called an idiot and overshadowed my his over-over-over achieving and somewhat manic cousin Miles, Ivan comes through as a real hero and captures a damsel in distress en route. If you are new to the Vorkosigan series (it is worth reading some of the earlier books first to get more of the background of the characters - starting with either Cordelia's Honor or the Warrior's Apprentice depending on where you want to begin in the time line of the Vorkosigan Saga). The major characters from the Vorkosigan series do appear, but this time as supporting characters. This book had me in hysterics as I read further and further into the book, as Ivan gets himself in deeper and deeper trouble, and into a situation that could possible be even OTT for Miles. I would also add that if you are interested in some of the other secondary characters from the Vorkosigan series, there is plenty of involvement from Lady Alys and also Simon Illyan and you get to see another side to them.
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