If you know anything about me, you know that my favorite author is Lois McMaster Bujold. And guess what? She has a new book out! There are four categories of Bujold books: Vorkosigan saga, Challion tetralogy, the Sharing Knife, and the Spirit Ring.

The Spirit Ring is the first fantasy book she ever wrote. It shows. It's good, but nothing of the quality you should expect from her. The Sharing Knife is a four-part series that has concluded, though the world has room for more. The Challion tetralogy was not conceived of as a five-part series and there are only three books so far, but there better damn well be five books. This is some of the best fantasy you will ever read ever anywhere period don't argue. And then there is her most famous series, the Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan -> Miles Naismith Vorkosigan series with a bajillion novels, novellas, and short stories (including some stories like FALLING FREE that take place in the setting without any of the main characters).

This most recent offering is CAPTAIN VORPATRIL'S1 ALLIANCE, the often seen cousin of Miles, Ivan You Idiot. As the series has continued, Ivan has gone from a feckless womanizer to someone who is immensely capable and goes out of his way to hide it so no one notices and assigns him more responsibility. This book explores that motivation and it's AWESOME if you're a fan. If this is your first book in the Vorkosigan universe, put the book down and go read CORDELIA'S HONOR2. The book will feel incredibly mediocre unless you've read other books in the series.

Specifically, the climax will disappoint you if you don't know Miles and you don't know Ivan and you don't know the difference between them. I might not have spotted this as quickly if I hadn't seen Bujold in person at a book signing (where she signed my book and I promptly had an anxiety attack and ran away--yeah, behold my coolness). She mentioned that when she was writing, she caught herself writing a Miles book and not an Ivan book. Miles succeeds through perpetual forward motion. Ivan lets things come to him, and you see this in the book a LOT. Faced with a problem, the solution is to wait and hope it goes away. This is most obvious in the climax and if you don't know that this book is entirely Ivan, you might not like it.

But this novel is Ivan. This novel shows Bujold's mastery of character and voice. If you changed the names to something else and read this book, you'd easily know this is an Ivan book.

This book takes place chronologically before CRYOBURN. I know that doesn't mean they were written that way, but I wish they were. This is the better of the two books and CRYOBURN could have used some more work (except for the epilogues--Gregor's makes me cry). I started reading this book on Monday and finished it on Friday. I actually stopped writing on my train ride and just started reading the book.

So here's the short review: You read even some of the Miles books? Read this. You've never read any Miles book? Read CORDELIA'S HONOR. You'll get to this one eventually and you'll be rewarded for taking the extra time.

1 The Vor are a warrior caste on Barrayar, so take the last name and add Vor at the front. This makes names like Kosigan (KOS-i-gan) Vorkosigan (vor-KOS-i-gan). Despite the obvious rule of pronunciation that I applied to EVERY Vor name in the series, I have been pronouncing Vorpatril VOR-pa-tril instead of vor-PAT-ril as Bujold herself pronounces it. Turns out, I've been mispronouncing a LOT of names. E-ka-TER-in is actually e-KAT-er-in. Cetagandan like Set is actually actually like Seat. Even Barrayar which has TWO Rs is Bear-a-yar, which I think is totally unfair and I refuse to pronounce it that way.

2 CORDELIA'S HONOR is an omnibus3 that combines both SHARDS OF HONOR and BARRAYAR. I read SHARD'S OF HONOR every year. I didn't think I'd ever be one of those people, but it turns out I am.

3 Wonder to yourself, how are you going to read all these stories that have spanned nearly thirty years? Don't worry! The publisher, Baen, has collected almost all of them into omnibi. YOUNG MILES, MILES ERRANT, etc etc. The only ones you won't find are MEMORY4, CRYOBURN, and CAPTAIN VORPATRIL'S ALLIANCE. You'll actually find one story included a few times, which has to do about acceptable page counts and subject matter and not any nefarious decision on the part of Baen. Still, crap move not to include MEMORY anywhere.

Because 4 MEMORY is my second favorite Vorkosigan saga book after SHARDS OF HONOR. If you think you can do without this one, THINK AGAIN! Once you've gotten to the MILES IN LOVE omnibus, track down MEMORY and make sure to read it so we can huddle together and giggle about the scene where he wears his medals because that's AWESOME!!! *GOO!*

So...yeah, that's my review. I guess. Lots of fanboyishness in there, but I hope I was honest.