It’s been a while since we read the last book in the Vorkosigan Saga, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen – see my review here – which didn’t feature much about Miles or Ekaterina, so I was thrilled to see this one was in the pipeline…
Still new to her duties as Lady Vorkosigan, Ekaterin is working together with expatriate scientist Enrique Borgos on a radical scheme to recover the lands of the Vashnoi exclusion zone, lingering radioactive legacy of the Cetagandan invasion of the planet Barrayar. When Enrique’s experimental bioengineered creatures go missing, the pair discover that the zone still conceals deadly old secrets.
Those bioengineered creatures alluded to in the blurb are our old friends, the butterbugs, which made a very dramatic entrance in A Civil Campaign during a particularly important banquet. Those of us who read this excellent series won’t ever forget that particular scene… During this incarnation, they are being used to help clean up an irradiated area, when they start to go missing.
Bujold has nailed the pacing of the novella form – not something every author used to writing full-length novels manages to do, so we hit the ground running with this mini-adventure and the pacing is judged perfectly for a really satisfying ending.
In amongst the drama and sadness of their discovery in the middle of this irradiated wasteland, there are also flashes of Bujold humour, ensuring that while I felt emotionally connected and really cared about the outcome, it didn’t overwhelm the scale of the storyline. It was a treat to have Ekatarin’s viewpoint throughout, as she has always been a strong, interesting character who appears in several of the other books.
All in all, this novella is a real treat and my only quibble is that I wanted it to be longer. Recommended for fans of the Vorkosigan Saga and anyone interested in tackling this long-running established series who would like a taster of the world.