Awhile back I downloaded Lois McMaster Bujold’s novella “The Mountains of Mourning” from the Baen Free Library. I quite liked it on many levels: the quality of the writing, the excellent sense of location, and the interesting, non-cliche characters and story. When I recently saw that The Warrior’s Aprentice was now available there, I did not have to think twice about downloading it. This is the third book in the “Vorkosigan” series, and the first to center on Miles Vorkosigan, the protagonist of “The Mountains of Mourning”.
It turned out to be another good read, though I do not feel it quite reached the level of “Mountains” in terms of style and sense of place. Miles is definitely interesting and not your typical hero, having to deal with being short and having very brittle bones, due to being poisoned while in utero. Most of the other main characters similarly have to deal with their own challenges, though generally more in the way of mental/emotional issues.
The action takes us to two different planets and an asteroid in three different star systems (via the convenient device of the ever-popular “worm hole”). Each planet/system is different in terms of technological level and social structure, giving interesting contrasts as well as different challenges to the characters. The story presupposes that interstellar warfare is feasible, which is probably more of a stretch than even the concept of wormholes being readily available — but hey, how can you have a space opera without that?
All in all, the story grabbed me early, pulled me along, and left me pretty well satisfied with the conclusion. My only real complaint is that I felt the plot depended a bit too much on coincidences to drive it forward (perhaps the most egregious being the past relationship between one of the mercenaries who joins Miles’s force and a couple characters who accompany him from the start of his journey. Ultimately it was still an excellent read, and I gave it 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.com.