Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Winterfair Gifts by Lois McMaster Bujold

Winterfair Gifts by Lois McMaster Bujold is a novella set in the Vorkosigan universe. Chronologically it follows the novel A Civil Campaign and comes before the novel Diplomatic Immunity. It does not really stand alone without having read the few books preceding it in the series. This review also contains general spoilers for some of those earlier books.

This Hugo-nominated novella adds a delightful extra chapter to Bujold's Vorkosigan series, describing the wedding of Miles and Ekaterin and events leading up to it. In the festive season of Winterfair on the planet Barrayar, Lord Miles Vorkosigan is making elaborate preparations for his wedding. The long-awaited event stirs up romance and intrigue among his eccentric family and friends, particularly for bioengineered space mercenary Sergeant Taura and shy, diffident Armsman Roic. But Miles also has an enemy who is plotting to turn the romantic ceremony into a festival of death. Winterfair Gifts offers another of Bujold's witty, character-centered science fiction plots with a twist of romance.

I would say the most interesting thing about this book is that it's told from the point of view of Armsman Roic, the most junior of the Vorkosigan armsmen. He is usually assigned to night duty and we previously met him in that capacity in A Civil Campaign, when events rather escalated. Trying to live down those events — which really weren't his fault — Roic just wants to regain the good regard of both Miles and Head Armsman Pym. In this novella we follow Roic around while he goes about his less usual duties in the lead-up to the Vorkosigan wedding.

It was an amusing story, and I enjoyed following Roic around, for all that I'd forgotten he was the point of view character in this one. It was particularly interesting to see his perspective on various characters that we're used to. Not only Miles — which was expected, and who we've seen him from other people's points of view before — but also the more prominent side characters who make an appearance here. Roic expends a lot of attention on Taura, who is visiting Barrayar for the first time with Elena, her husband, and Arde the jump pilot — the latter being a source of fascination to Nikki. We also get a fresh perspective on other characters such as Aral, Cordelia and Gregor from the perspective of an underling.

This was a fun quick read and I definitely recommend it to fans of the Vorkosigan series, especially those who've read the earlier books. Fun as this novella is, it does not stand alone without some knowledge of the rest of the series that came before it. I really enjoyed re-reading it and pretty much inhaled it in a single session.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: 2002, in the Irresistible Forces anthology, edited by Catharine Asaro
Series: Vorkosigan Saga, chronologically after A Civil Campaign and before Diplomatic Immunity
Format read: ePub as part of the Miles in Love omnibus
Source: Purchased from Baen several years ago

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