The Warrior's Apprentice (Vorkosigan Saga)
by Lois McMaster Bujold
Cover Artist: Paul Youll
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Baen Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781476781303
Date: 03 May 2016 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Thirty years ago, a novel was published with a flawed hero. The hero's flaws were visible and helped form him and his future. From that one novel a long a beloved series developed.
Miles Vorkosigan has never been perfect. He nearly died when there was an attempt on his parents' lives. His family has a long tradition of service to Barrayaran. His grandfather and father were both heroes respected on his homeworld and elsewhere. Miles wants to follow in their footsteps. His iron determination leads him to take the test. One mistake ends that option.
He travels offworld with his childhood friend Elena Bothari and Sergeant Bothari his protector to visit his mother's family. Miles may not be the healthiest man in the galaxy, but he has a talent for collecting strays. When he helps a down-on-his-luck pilot, Miles' future begins to change. One that puts him at the head of an imaginary group of mercenaries which becomes all too real.
As a member of the aristocracy, Miles is barred from controlling more than a few armsmen. So if he survives one war, he'll have to answer to the crown.
This is the first book written in the Vorkosigan Saga, but it is not chronologically the first in the series. It is a reasonable entry point to the series. There are often two ways to enter a long series which has gone forward and backwards in time chronologically or by publication. Some authors recommend reading in the order the books are published so that the hints and stories are revealed as planned by the author, others recommend reading from the earliest setting. Bujold has stated a preference for the chronological order.
The series is military science fiction. In this case, it is the founding of a mercenary group. There is a love story which plays a role in the development of Miles. Unlike most series, a happy ending is not in the immediate offing. People die, close friends die, and mistakes have consequences. This is satisfying in that it reflects the real world, not every story has the ending the characters want.
Although I have known of the series for years, I hadn't taken time to read it. But when the thirtieth anniversary edition came around, I decided to take a chance. I was not disappointed. Bujold was truly ahead of her time writing a physically imperfect hero. She continued along those lines with gay characters, female leads, and other marginalized groups as the series progressed. These were not the characters that were typical at that time. I have friends who were very happy to see people like them in a series of novels. As I find the time, I will continue to read the series.