I’m catching up on reviews; I read this some time last month. This is a bit unfortunate, because I enjoyed it while I read it, and if I’d reviewed it immediately afterward, I would have been more positive. One month later, I’m finding it un-memorable, which is not what I want from a Vorkosigan book.

In other ways, too, it wasn’t what I wanted. I always liked Ivan as a character, and what I probably would have liked best would be something with a tone along the lines of the early Miles books – funny with serious undertones, or serious with lots of funny moments – like The Warrior’s Apprentice or The Vor Game. I would have loved to see Bujold take Ivan a little more seriously, and have him wrestle with taking himself a little more seriously. Alternately, I would have enjoyed a pure light-hearted romp like Cetaganda or Ethan of Athos.

Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance had a few good serious moments, and it had some excellent light-hearted romping. But it was embedded in a lot of low-conflict, low-stakes, low-emotion, low-intensity scenes hanging around Barrayar. I found this especially frustrating because I kept seeing how a scene or plot point could have played out in a more interesting way, and then it often didn’t.

I did enjoy reading this, so the review is more grumpy than my actual experience of the book. The first quarter or so, on Komarr, was pretty great. Especially the scene with the groats. I also loved the offering to the dead, and the conversation where Tej and Rish talk over their problems and keep coming to the conclusion that they could probably be solved by someone having sex with Byerly.

My issues with this book come down to why I love Bujold’s earlier books. They tend to have very intense feelings and high stakes, whether emotional or physical. This book had low-key emotions and low stakes. It had some good comic scenes, but was too slow-paced to work as pure comedy.

The issue of stakes also applies to comedy, as a lot of comedy only works if the characters are extremely, extremely worried that something will go wrong, and are putting tons of effort into ensuring that it won’t, or trying to fix it if it does. A lot of this book would have been funnier if the characters had been more frantic.

Spoilers below.

Read more... )

Please feel free to put spoilers in comments.

Captain Vorpatril's Alliance (Vorkosigan Saga)
With e-publishing getting so easy (unless you are trying to format poetry, sigh), there has been a boom in self-published books. I've found that if I apply the same selection methods I do to traditionally published books (premise, recommendations, reviews, read a sample), the quality is surprisingly similar.

For example, my single favorite romance novel of last year was Courtney Milan's Unraveled. (Click on author tag to see my review.) For a different type of example, click my "awesomely bad books" and "implausible plots" tag-- most of those books were traditionally published and edited by professional editors.

Since self-published authors don't get any publicity beyond what they can drum up themselves, I'm sure there are many self-pubbed books and authors which are completely off my radar. Please recommend self-published books or short stories to me. (I'm not including reprints of books which were originally traditionally published.)

I am already aware of Courtney Milan, Andrea Host, Sarah Diemer, Zetta Elliott, Neesha Meminger, and Judith Tarr's Living in Threes. If you want to rec them in comments for the benefit of other readers, go ahead, but please try to additionally rec something else which I may not know about.

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