Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, by Lois McMaster Bujold
The title of this book is a bit of a tease, which is not necessarily a bad thing, in that it refers to a marriage alliance made by Lord Ivan Vorpatril (best known for being comic relief in much of the Vorkosigan saga as a secondary character ). Here, in this novel, Ivan gets to stretch out and enjoy his own adventure. Naturally, this particular adventure relates to both the nobility of Ivan’s character (in particular a strain of gallantry that leads him into a sudden marriage to help save a woman in danger that leads him on a dramatic caper that extends across several planets). In many ways, this particular story is a lot like Komarr, with a gallant man dealing with corrupt Komarran officials and a damsel in distress. Here we see, in a vivid and fast-paced account, what Lord Ivan is like when he steps up to his responsibilities as a man and as a husband.
The results are heartwarming, as we see Ivan struggle in his relationships with his family (including Simon, his sort-of-stepfather) and struggle to show his wife his love and keep her from leaving him. We see humorous scenes about Ivan fretting over what others think and see a particularly disastrous attempt to divorce that shows Ivan and Taj (a refugree from a hostile corporate takeover in Jackson’s Whole) do not meet any of the grounds for a divorce. Ultimately, we see Ivan, who had lurched between short relationships with a fear of commitment and a fear that he would always be alone, learning how to be comfortable in dealing with the ups and downs of a relationship.
In the midst of all of this Ivan is faced with a massive and complicated plot wherein his in-laws seek to uncover some long-lost treasure in order to give them the seed capital to take back their House and their place at the pinnacle of Jackson Whole society. In the end, despite a rather stunning disaster in the heart of the capital city, the story ends gloriously happily, if in a somewhat complicated way. As a heartwarming story of a belated coming of age, of the way in which apparent disasters serve for the better, and a way in which decency and love triumph over greed and cynicism, this is a story that offers a rich and warm picture of a life that might have often been viewed as frivolous but which is seen to have been a response of fear. The triumph of love over fear offers a hope for those whose life is frivolous and dissipated, a hope that this is only a temporary state and that maturity comes to most, at least those who are decent and upright people.
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