Captain Vorpatril's Alliance (Vorkosigan Saga)
by Lois McMaster Bujold
Cover Artist: Dave Seeley
Review by Gayle Surrette
Baen Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781476736983
Date: 26 August 2014 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
NOTE: This review originally appeared in our December 2012 issue.
In most of the books of the Miles Vorkosigan series, Ivan Vorpatril has been notable for his lack of ambition and his excess of good humor. Miles had once remarked that as children it had taken him awhile to realize the Ivan was his first name since the adults consistently called him "that Idiot Ivan". In the past couple of novels, readers saw a glimpse of the Ivan Vorpatril who is beyond competent at his job and understands the politics of the empire, but chooses to not participate or get noticed. Ivan may stand close to the throne but, he's determined to never be a pawn in the political arena.
Lois McMaster Bujold has-- need I say finally -- written a novel where Ivan takes center stage. Captain Vorpatril's Alliance takes place after Miles and Ekaterin's marriage (in fact, after the twins birth) and while Mile's parents are Viceroy and Vicereine of Sergyar. Captain Ivan Vorpatril, aide-de-camp to Admiral Desplaines, is on Komarr with his boss for an Ops conference when Byerly (By) Verrutyer shows up asking for help. By needs Ivan to pick up a girl for him. Not just any girl, but one who the group that By is spying on seems to be very interested in, and not in a good way. He gives Ivan the details on where to find her and as a parting shot says he must get her away from her home tomorrow evening.
Nanja Brindis seems immune to Ivan's charms and rebuffs all his attempts to get a date. Finally, Ivan manages to get invited into her building only to be stunned by her companion. Evidently, By left a lot out of his briefing, or didn't know the details of Nanja in the first place. Ivan does manage to convince Nanja, or as she's called by her companion, Tej, to trust him and for them both to stay with him in his apartment.
As usual with Ivan, one thing leads to another in a string of incidents that inevitably lead to Ivan being noticed by the powers that be, which in this case are Emperor Gregor, Lady Alys, ImpSec, Simon Illyan, and Miles Vorkosigan. How it all manages to get from page one to the last page is amazing in that every step of the way seems totally random, but after that first step was taken, only the final details were left open to change.
Tej and Ivan's journey becomes one that changes them both -- making them stronger and more confident in their own decisions and choices. Reading Captain Vorpatril's Alliance will make you laugh, tear up, and wonder how Ivan has managed to hid himself so effectively all these years.
On the first reading, as a fan of the series, I was caught up in the adventure and the comedy of the situation, chuckling at the understatements and misunderstandings Tej has about Ivan, Barrayar, and where he stands in society. On a second reading, trying to forgot what I already knew from the series, I understood how Tej felt, thrown in at the deep end of the pool with little information on how to swim. So, if you've never read any of the previous books, don't be afraid to just jump in here -- but beware if you enjoy this novel there are thirteen previous books to read. If you're a fan of the series and have always wanted to know more about Ivan, here is your chance.