Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen (Vorkosigan Saga)
by Lois McMaster Bujold
Cover Artist: Ron Miller
Review by Gayle Surrette
Baen Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781476781891
Date: 01 November 2016 List Price $16.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
NOTE: This review first appeared in our March 2016 issue.
Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan has always been one of my favorite characters, ever since I read Shards of Honor and Barrayar. While many of the books in the series concentrated on the adventures of her son, Miles, her impact was still apparent as she was referred to or conferred with by the other characters. Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen is Cordelia's story as she comes to terms with her life without her husband, Aral Vorkosigan, who died three years before the start of this book.
Cordelia is now a widow. She's also Vicereine of Sergyar. When Aral was alive they shared the duties, but after his death and all the speeches and ceremonies, she returned to Sergyar and buried herself in work as a way to deal with her grief. She's now ready to move on. She's given enough of her life to Barrayar and wants to do something for herself -- to move forward into a future that she envisions.
She'd like this new future to include Admiral Oliver Jole, who is currently in charge of the Sergyar Fleet. Jole had been mentored by Aral, worked for him off and on over the years, and thus had been a part of their lives for a long time. Without Aral, Cordelia wonders if she and Jole could have a different kind of relationship. Of course, when you have a high profile position, everything you do seems to get noticed; however, the interpretation of those actions can make for some interesting and truly bizarre rumors. None of the rumors have any basis in reality, but they do make Cordelia's life a bit more complicated.
Members of Cordelia's family (Miles, Ekaterin, and the children) appear to find out what's really going on or to hopefully impose their own ideas of what she should be doing with her life. Needless to say, Cordelia isn't the type of person who can be swayed from her chosen path. So readers get the added benefit of reading about Miles, his wife and children, and catching up on some of the changes to other characters from the series.
There are also political shenanigans afoot as they begin efforts to move the capital from Kareenburg to a new site that's more geologically stable, against the local government's wishes, who don't see earthquakes and a potential volcanic eruption as a problem they should worry about. There's a new Cetagandan cultural attache who seems to wish a relationship with one of the new female officers working at Sergyar command and a group of local teenagers with too much time on their hands. Mix it all together and you get a multi-layered and multi-threaded plot that is a joy to read.
It's not often that an older, mature woman, gets center stage in a book. Cordelia has grown from the captain of a science vessel to vicereine of a planet, having dealt with revolutions, assassination attempts, and political intrigue. She's lost her husband and pushed through the grief and is planning a future for herself. This is not the wild adventure of a Miles Vorkosigan novel; but it is thought-provoking and entertaining, especially for those of us who are looking towards what comes after our 9-to-5 lives are over. While we don't have the options that Cordelia has, we can dream. And I hope we can get occasional updates on what's going on in her life as the series continues.