meilufay’s #CBR4 review #45 The Warrior’s Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold
Goodreads tags this as Vorkosigan Saga #3, which number refers to where the book fits chronologically, rather than when it was published. Since it is the first book to feature Miles Vorkosigan as its protaganist, a lot of people suggest it as the first book you should read in the series. Lois McMaster Bujold is the best person to address this, which she does here: http://www.myspace.com/loismcmasterbujold/blog/543224694 I’ve been more or less reading the Vorkosigan books in Bujold’s suggested order because I read one book (A Civil Campaign) out of sequence and felt that one of the reasons why I didn’t enjoy it was because I hadn’t read any of the other lead-up books. I really wish I was one of those people who can happily pick up a series in the middle and then go back when and if they want to because there’s something like 20 books in this series and I’d *much* rather skip to the much-loved ones rather than slog through the entire thing. Oh well.
One note about reading order: a major plot point in this book is the terrible secret about Elena’s parentage. It’s possible to read this book and learn the secret when Elena does but since the first two books deal with Elena’s father in detail readers may find this storyline more satisfying if they read this book third rather than first.
As I mentioned earlier, this is the first of the Vorkosigan Saga books to feature Miles (the series’s protaganist) as its hero. The first two books focus on Miles’s mother, Cordelia Naismith. I really enjoy Miles as a character and I can see why Bujold has expended so much ink writing about his adventures. He’s a little bit like Bean from the Ender’s Game series or Tyrion from George RR Martin’s books – he’s incredibly intelligent but because he’s basically a dwarf, he is constantly underestimated by other characters. His physical liabilities also mean that Miles must be very strategic about how he approaches problems – he is literally all brain and no brawn. Despite the fact that Miles comes from one of the richest and most powerful families on his world, he is despised and looked down on because his culture values physical perfection. The fact that Miles is so challenged means that, despite his status and genius, Miles is a character audiences can instantly relate to. He’s an underdog and no matter how successful he becomes he is *always* the underdog because he is always at a physical disadvantage. I suspect that the continuing success and popularity of the series has a lot to do with this basic fact of Miles. Unlike other heros, he can’t get too powerful.
I don’t want to get too much into the plot because I don’t want to spoil it. I’ll simply say that Miles is 18 (or so) during this story. He’s in love with a girl he’s grown up with (a girl who is physically perfect but is technically of lower rank). He wants very badly to be accepted, but he wants to earn his acceptance. He does not want anyone to say that he has achieved anything because of his family’s wealth and power. He wants to be “normal” – he does not want to be special or treated as though he’s special. But of course he IS special. He’s a genius. He’s a survivor. He literally looks and thinks differently from everyone else. And that means that as badly as Miles wants a normal life, he’s not going to get one. It is clear to the reader, even though it is not clear to Miles, that he one of those storied people who have greatness thrust upon him. Greatness IS thrust upon him in this book and part of the fun of the book is to see how Miles handles it. The other fun part is that it takes place in a science fiction reality with spaceships and shiny weapons. I personally am not a fan of futuristic storylines that feature emperors and aristocrats but I understand that I’m in the minority. I give Bujold credit for acknowledging the political, moral and ethical ramifications of setting her story in novels in a society which is essentially led by a military dictatorship but that doesn’t mean I’m comfortable with it.
I enjoyed this book but I am not in love with this series. I can see why other people love it, but I do not.