Lois McMaster Bujold
Completed 5/26/2016, reviewed 5/27/2016
This is the sixteenth book in the Vorkosigan Saga, though this is only the fourth book in the Saga that I’ve read. Fortunately, the books I did read gave me enough background for the character study that is this story. It’s a touching novel of two people who find love again late in life. It’s very different from the enormous space opera that this saga is. The romance takes place in the foreground while the political intrigue is in the background. Not being a huge fan of space opera, I did enjoy the book, but found it a little boring in patches.
The love story of this novel is what makes the book so interesting. The background is that Cordelia Vorkosigan, the Vicereine of the planet Sergyar, was married to the powerful Admiral Aral, who was also a prime minister and Viceroy. Aral had a relationship with Oliver Jole, now an admiral himself. Both Aral and Oliver were bisexual. Aral has died, and now three years later, Oliver and Cordelia find love and comfort in each other. In addition, Cordelia and Oliver have decided to have children by Aral using his frozen gametes. The drama in the story unfolds in how the couple releases this information to the public and to Cordelia and Aral’s son, the main character of the saga, Miles.
The intricacies of this three-way relationship are the best part of the novel. The book explores how Cordelia, Aral, and Oliver handled the original relationship while Cordelia and Oliver explore this new one. It creates an understanding of bisexuality and how a non-traditional relationship may work. The book is also profound in its handling of a new relationship between two older adults, past what normally would be considered marrying age. It’s very touching, and I found myself rooting for them throughout the book.
There is some great humor in the book as well. The scene where they break the news to Miles made me chuckle out loud. Also, while the romance is still a secret, Cordelia and Oliver’s getaways to an isolated lake don’t create rumors of the relationship, but rather conspiracy theories about the lake.
The only aspect of the book that was problematic for me was that the release of the information about their relationship was basically the only drama in the book. There were other scenes that carried some subplots of political intrigue, but they just weren’t all that interesting. I felt like I had to wade through it to get back to the story of the relationship. I found it to be quite boring, ruining the flow of the main plot. It was as if Bujold had a great idea but had a hard time keeping it in the context of her universe.
I give this book three stars out of five. It’s good, but lacked the oomph to keep me from feeling intermittently bored throughout it.