Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Warrior's Apprentice Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Lois McMaster Bujold

Publisher: Baen Books
Genre: Space Opera, Science Fiction
Series: Vorkosigan Saga Book Two (Publishing Order)
Pages: 315

After his physical limitations prevent him from graduating the Barrayaran military academy, Miles Vorkosigan must find a new way to prove his worth to both himself and his family. Traveling with his bodyguard Bothari and his daughter Elena, Miles heads to Beta Colony to visit his grandmother in order to help Elena discover the true identity of her mother.

Where Shards of Honor skips and jumps around years at a time creating a disorganized mess of a plot that's hard to keep believable, The Warrior's Apprentice manages to keep everything together in a linear fashion. Or better put everything takes place more or less with in a year's span of time. And even though though this linear portrayal of the plot jumps from one unbelievable circumstance to another, it still manages to come across as more likely and less contrived then everything in its predecessor.

This is the debut of Miles Vorkosigan the main protagonist of the entire series. At seventeen years of age and with a title like The Warrior's Apprentice you can expect to be reading an origin story of sorts. Miles Vorkosigan is basically the blueprint for Tyrion Lannister. They're both short, disabled, have trouble with romance, but are highly intelligent leaders that manage to find themselves persevering through extraordinary circumstances. I guess unlike Tyrion, Miles switches from states of mania to depression (he is called manic depressive at various points), and he has a family that loves him, so that's always a plus.

Trying to earn Elena's favor is a big motivator to Miles, and he tries to do so by helping her discover the identity of her mother. Of course if you read Shards of Honor you know jumping down that rabbit hole isn't going to lead to anything pleasant. Bothari's relationship to Elena and Miles is very different with him being more of a father like figure to Miles and a tyrant like figure to Elena. The latter relationship being a result of his memory issues, his being influenced by Barrayaran culture, and his own personal demons is an ironic contrast to the former. Trying to gain perspective on Bothari is difficult due to all the horrible thing he's done and he's an excellent example of a morally grey character before these types of characters would come into fashion post Martin and Hobb.

The Warrior's Apprentice for brief periods of time introduces us to Ivan Vorpatril, Mile's older cousin that seems like he would be right at home in a university frat house. There is a lovable aspect to Ivan's ignorance and to the troublesome situations that seem to follow him everywhere. Ellie Quinn also makes her debut, but her role is even smaller than Ivan's. While The Warrior's Apprentice  keeps you engaged with its main plot, it's quietly introducing new characters and new situations that could or will be potentially flushed out in future installments, and that's always something to get excited about when reading a super-long series. 

Overall this is an origin story that gets a lot more bang for its buck. Warrior's Apprentice by all means shouldn't be as good as it is, and yet Bujold finds a way to make a lot of things work. It's a significant improvement over Shards of Honor in all aspects, but most especially in plot. 

Score 8.1

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