Wednesday, 3 May 2017

The Warrior's Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Warrior's Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold is another book in the Vorkosigan saga, which I have been rereading this year. It's the second book published, the first (published and chronologically) about Miles Vorkosigan and the third chronologically in the main timeline (or the fourth if you count a very distant prequel). It was originally the first book I read of the saga and, while I enjoyed it immensely at the time, I actually found it more satisfying upon rereading after the two Cordelia books, Shards of Honour and Barrayar.

Between the seemingly impossible tasks of living up to his warrior-father's legend and surmounting his own physical limitations, Miles Vorkosigan faces some truly daunting challenges.

Shortly after his arrival on Beta Colony, Miles unexpectedly finds himself the owner of an obsolete freighter and in more debt than he ever thought possible. Propelled by his manic "forward momentum," the ever-inventive Miles creates a new identity for himself as the commander of his own mercenary fleet to obtain a lucrative cargo; a shipment of weapons destined for a dangerous warzone.

I enjoyed this book the first time I read it — I loved Miles and it made me want to read the rest of the series — but I feel like I got more out of it after rereading. The background/side plot regarding the events of Miles's parents generation was actually covered in Shards of Honour and Barrayar in much more detail and the scenes in The Warrior's Apprentice harking back to those events were much more impactful having just read about them. So while The Warrior's Apprentice seemed like a good place to start (and I don't blame people for suggesting it), I think starting with Shards of Honour is a much better idea.

Miles is only seventeen in this book, which is easy to forget, given the scale of his adventures. It all starts innocuously enough with Miles failing the physical part of the Imperial Military Academy exam. His holiday to take his mind off things and consider his future options kind of spirals out of control, however, when smuggling and a warzone become involved. Miles is clever and amusing, making this book quite engaging. Although I also enjoyed the two Cordelia books proceeding it, I loved this one even more. Cordelia is awesome but Miles is larger than life and I love reading about him.

As well as Miles, we get to properly meet Elena, Bothari's daughter, and follow the next (Mile-centric) chapter of Bothari's life, after the unfortunate events we see or learn about in the earlier two books. Miles's able-bodied age-mate cousin Ivan also makes an appearance. All of these characters know Miles well and provide a counterpoint to the various new people he encounters over the course of the story. Since most of the new people are Galactics (that is, not Barrayaran), there have significantly different cultural reactions to his appearance than the generally ableist random Barrayarans back home. It's interesting to see how this can be a kind of advantage to Miles, as opposed to the disadvantage it is back home.

The Warrior's Apprentice is an excellent read. It's an OK entry point to the Vorkosigan saga, but I recommend reading it after Shards of Honour and Barrayar to appreciate it most fully. And of course, I enjoyed it enough the first time to reread it, and enough the second time to (again) give it five stars. I am very excited to continue rereading Miles's adventures.

5 / 5 stars

First published: 1986, Baen
Series: Yes. Book 4 chronologically or 2 publication-order-ly of the Vorkosigan Saga
Format read: ePub
Source: Baen — I believe a free promotion several years ago, although I also purchased the book as part of the Young Miles omnibus

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