The Warrior’s Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold
While actually the second book published in Lois McMaster Bujold’s epic Vorkosigan saga, The Warrior’s Apprentice makes an excellent place to start the series as it is the first book to introduce Miles Vorkosigan. Miles is the son of one of the most powerful men on the planet Barrayar, second only to the Emperor himself. His father is also the most renowned military fighter in a culture that prizes military prowess above all else for men. Due to a chemical attack on his mother while he was in utero, Miles is born into this culture with a body that is obviously malformed. He has brittle bones that break at the slightest opportunity and stunted growth so that he stands less than five feet tall. In the highly martial society of Barrayar, Miles is looked on as a useless mutant, who many think should have been killed at birth. As he reaches adulthood, Miles is determined to prove everyone wrong, but even with his innate creativity and intellectual brilliance, in this hierarchical and militaristic world, he’ll be hard pressed to win the respect of his fellow Barrayarans.
Though The Warrior’s Apprentice is a good place to start, all of the eighteen books in Bujold’s science fiction masterpiece are excellent. Her dialogue is fast-paced and often humorous, her world building is solid without overwhelming the story, and the stories she tells are extremely varied even while remaining science fiction stories dealing with mostly the same characters. They range from military adventure stories, to mysteries, to romance, but all of them are just so much gosh-darned fun to read. All the aspects of her Vorkosigan books are well-done, and the characters are no exception. In Miles Vorkosigan, Bujold has created a unique character whose physical limitations cause all those around him to dismiss him as unimportant, but whose mental abilities far outstrip those of most other people. It’s so entertaining to watch Miles fall from disaster to disaster, making some impulsively bad decisions and sticking his nose into the middle of both delicate political machinations and pitched space battles, and then manage to weasel his way out of those mistakes and other people’s plots using his incredibly gifted tactical mind, his understanding of how to manipulate people, and the pure fact that people underestimate him.
The Warrior’s Apprentice is an excellent introduction to Miles and the universe that Bujold has created for him. A fast-paced, character-focused, military adventure/coming of age story, it is a great way to dive into the Vorkosigan saga and experience the joy of reading about Miles’ adventures and antics. Just make sure you have the next one handy when you finish because you’ll want to dive right in.
-Illyanna L., Central Library