Sunday, 20 May 2018

The Flowers of Vashnoi by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Flowers of Vashnoi by Lois McMaster Bujold is a brand new novella in the Vorkosigan universe that dropped just last week. Very conveniently, the timing perfectly matched my and Katharine's chronological read-through of the series. The Flowers of Vashnoi takes place shortly after Captain Vorpatril's Alliance (the summer after that book, according to the author's blog) and before the events of Cryoburn. It closely follows Ekaterin Vorkosigan, Miles's wife.

Still new to her duties as Lady Vorkosigan, Ekaterin is working together with expatriate scientist Enrique Borgos on a radical scheme to recover the lands of the Vashnoi exclusion zone, lingering radioactive legacy of the Cetagandan invasion of the planet Barrayar. When Enrique’s experimental bioengineered creatures go missing, the pair discover that the zone still conceals deadly old secrets. 

It was very exciting to have a new Vorkosigan book to read but I admit that I was a little apprehensive at the prospect of reading a new book in the series after having spent quite some time re-reading the other books. (Not that that kind of situation hasn't arisen before with other series by other authors.) Happily, there was a very short gap between Bujold announcing the book on her blog and it being available to read. And of course, I needn't have worried about the enjoyability of the book. It was great.

The story follows Ekaterin as she and Enrique (who you may remember as the creator of the butterbugs in A Civil Campaign) work on introducing radiation-processing bugs to the radioactive wasteland that was once the capital, Vashnoi, in the Vorkosigan District (until the Cetagandans nuked it 80 years ago). When some of the bugs disappear, Ekaterin and Enrique end up having an unexpected encounter with some of the poorest District residents. Among other things, this story touches on some of the themes in The Mountains of Mourning, but this time seen from Ekatarin's perspective.

While we have had stories from Ekaterin's point of view before (generally split with chapters Miles's point of view), this is the first time we've been inside her head since she got married. I liked the glimpse we got of her attitude towards Miles now that he's a normal part of her life and not someone she just met or someone being (badly) courted by him. It was also nice to see Ekaterin focusing on work she feels passionate about and moved on so completely from her previous marriage.

I definitely recommend this novella to fans of Bujold's work. On the other hand, I don't especially recommend it as an entry point into the series. I'd say A Civil Campaign is somewhat required reading before picking this one up, but then one needs to also read at least Komarr before A Civil Campaign. But if you're already familiar with the series, The Flowers of Vashnoi should be a fun, quick read.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: May 2018, self-published
Series: Vorkosigan saga, latest book published, chronologically 20th if you count the novellas as individual entries
Format read: ePub
Source: Purchased from iBooks

2 comments:

  1. Yes, I only just discovered it had come out and bought it on iBooks. I'm not doing chronological order right now - I read CaptainVoroateol's Alliance after Cryoburn, as it was a cheerier novel, and I'm finishing Gentleman Jole before I let myself read this, as I have been way behind.

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  2. Vorpatril. I meant Vorpatril - a lovely book that let you see a bit more of Ivan, who is definitely not "you idiot Ivan" and gave us insight into a Jacksonian family.

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