Book Review: The Warrior’s Apprentice

The Warrior’s Apprentice, by Lois McMaster Bujold

Being the sort of reader who tends to read a lot of nonfiction, it is always nice every once in a while to read some good quality fiction and to enjoy the depth that can be found in fiction [1]. As a fan of fantasy literature, I found this particular book to be a good one, in that it provided a very exciting plot with very powerful characters and careful attention paid to worldbuilding. The hero, Miles Vorkosigan/Naismith is a particularly powerful character because of his immense determination and improvisational genius as well as his struggling against his own physical limitations, being frail and deformed (something I can relate to myself) because of events beyond his control when he was in his mother’s womb. Long viewing himself as a failure because of his struggles, and because of his lack of purpose in life, his boredom and search for truth and adventure and excitement lead him into a dangerous situation that proves his mettle and his worth and that has immensely complicated consequences for his own life and that of those around him.

One of the real strengths of this novel is the way that it paints its characters in a particularly complex light. In the course of this novel [spoiler alert] we are forced to wrestle with the fact that a character largely praised for his loyalty is found to have been a rapist and a torturer in his previous life, having built an elaborate lie that comes crashing down with fatal results to him. By and large, the characters in this story are not the masters of their own fate, but are largely praised based on their resourcefulness in dealing with their fate and in making the best of it. This is a novel with serious consequences and deep moral complexity, whether it comes to a grim look at the costs of deviant sexuality or the body counts that result from logistical and tactical failures as well as political games. This is definitely a complicated moral universe that has within it room for both retribution and justice as well as mercy and nuanced views of its characters and their actions.

This is not to say that the novel is perfect. As is the case, I find that this novel is one of far too many works that I have read [2] that deal with the subject of rape. By and large, this is not a romantic tale nor a romantic sort of universe, at least as it is described so far, and the romantic longings of the protagonist are definitely not fulfilled (something I can relate to all too well). It is a breezy, fast-paced read that is heavy on action and that does not skimp on providing difficulties and obstacles for its longsuffering hero to overcome, and one that ought to appeal to those who like speculative fiction in general and that enjoy a good popcorn sort of work that provides political intrigue as well as a thoughtful examination of the way that people who are obviously disabled are viewed in our own society. The author has a clear favoritism for outsiders and underdogs, and likely readers who appreciate this work will share that bent.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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18 Responses to Book Review: The Warrior’s Apprentice

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