Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Cetaganda by Lois McMaster Bujold

I am sorry all the Bujold covers are dreadful. It was this or a 
small, blurry, non-English one. (I would have gone with 
non-English if they were less uniformly of low resolution.) 
Cetaganda by Lois McMaster Bujold is chronologically the third novel about Miles Vorkosigan, though it was published ninth. Generally, I recommend reading it in chronological order after The Vor Game, which I recently reviewed. It almost stands alone — it's a complete story but many of the character implications and connections will be missed by someone who hasn't read the earlier books. It's also the source of some of the humour.

The latest installment in the adventures of Miles Vorkosigan. Miles and Cousin Ivan travel to Cetaganda to play the part of sprigs of nobility doing their diplomatic duty. But when the Empress of Cetaganda dies naturally, and her lifelong attendant dies unnaturally, Miles and Ivan finds themselves in the thick of it.

Cetaganda sees Miles and his cousin (That Idiot) Ivan sent on a diplomatic mission to attend the Dowager Empress of Cetaganda's funeral. It's not a complicated mission, but rather one that requires them to stand politely in the correct places, eat, and socialise. Miles has never been good and standing around, however, and trouble has a tendency to find him even when he doesn't go out of his way to seek it. And really, if he didn't take matters into his own hands, how could he prevent interplanetary war?

Apparently, last time I read Cetaganda I only gave it four stars (on Goodreads individually and on LibraryThing for the Miles, Mystery and Mayhem omnibus, although the latter could've been because Ethan of Athos came after it). I'm honestly not sure why since I laughed a lot reading it this time 'round and have thus promoted it to five stars. Only a small portion of that laughter was because I remembered how it ended.

I really enjoyed reading about Miles and Ivan. This is the most we've seen of Ivan in one book since I started rereading chronologically, so that was nice. It was also very interesting to see some of the details of the Cetagandan Empire which, until now (in the books, chronologically) has mainly been seen as a military threat. In Cetaganda we see a lot more of its art and culture. (The kitten tree, burned into my mind from the first read-through did not become more pleasant the second time around, however). Rereading, I think, also gave me more space to contemplate said culture rather than just rushing through to see what Miles would do or what would happen to Miles next.

I highly recommend this book to people who have read the earlier Vorkosigan books. If you haven't, then better to start with Shards of Honour or, at worst, The Warrior's Apprentice.

5 / 5 stars

First published: 1996, Baen
Series: Yes. Vorkosigan Saga. Book 5 chronologically out of 16 maybe, I think
Format read: ePub in Miles, Mystery and Mayhem omnibus
Source: Bought from Baen several years ago.

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