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A Fan's Playground
Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, by Lois McMaster Bujold 
Combeferre
Okay I've finally admitted that there's no point to continuing to try to read through this series in order, given that I've been freely reading fanfic from throughout the entire timeline of the saga. So I felt like giving this book a try and so I read it even though I am skipping over a number of books to do so. At some point I'll come back to at least some of the books I skipped. Probably. *

It was particularly interesting to approach this book after having read a novel-length fanfic that covers the events of the book from Byerly's side of things (A Bit Too Much Good Work by a_t_rain, very good, highly recommended). So I went in knowing basically what to expect from the plot, but Ivan and Tej make for very different pov characters that Byerly and Rish. It was great, but in a very different way than that fic is great.

I do love Ivan a lot. Poor Ivan, so beleaguered by his many difficult and terrifyingly competent relatives. I was rather surprised when the book ended with Ivan and Tej happily alone on a tropical island, but then I was like...you know what, actually, that is totally at least what Ivan thinks he wants for a happy ending. Freedom from the total ridiculousness that is everyone he is related to! A relaxing life with someone he loves!

I'm less fond of the Very Heterosexual Content in places in this book. I don't mean the fact that there are M/F relationships. But like, idk, the way people keep commenting on and/or noticing Tej's boobs. And the way that Ivan requests a kiss from Tej in recompense for something during that first 24 hours he knows her, and the narrative doesn't see a problem with it even though Tej is clearly not into it at the time. Stuff like that. It's....male gazey. Which feels weird coming from a female author but there you go.

But I'm also not fond of the fact that this book does put both Ivan and Byerly firmly into heterosexual relationships. Is there anyone in this series who doesn't end up eventually with a different-gendered life-partner? I mean, other than the thing with Aral and Jole, and even then I gather Jole ends up with Cordelia after Aral's death; and Aral's primary partner throughout the series has of course been Cordelia. (I haven't read the book where this all gets revealed yet though. Probably never will, what with the focus on babies/reproduction that I understand it contains, which has never been one of my favourite themes in this series.)

On another note, the book hinted at one point that Ivan's efforts towards middlingness are because it helps distance him from the possibility of Emperorship and the civil war that would inevitably follow if he was pushed into that role. It was interesting to see throughout the book both the indications that Ivan is in fact a very intelligent and capable young man (snake-wrangling for his Admiral!), and also a far more ordinary one than various of his relatives. If he'd cared to have ambition, he could have been a very different person, but he emphatically rejected that possibility for his life, and prioritized other things. And so, as Tej comments, he is nice, and he is a calming and relaxing presence. Which are actually great qualities in a person and a romantic partner - he would be far less exhausting to be married to than most of the other men in this series!

I wasn't expecting so much Illyan content in this book! Illyan continues to be one of my favourite characters in this series, and it was seriously neat to see what Illyan's like post-retirement and without his memory chip. And from a very different pov. I rather wish that the book had done a bit more with the relationship between Ivan and Illyan, especially after that comment from one of the Arquas about Illyan wanting more of a familial relationship than Ivan's ever really felt comfortable wanting.

All in all: an enjoyable and non-stressful read. A very Ivan book. It was great.


*Komarr looks interesting. Diplomatic Immunity and Cryoburn look okay. A Civil Campaign looks like a total disaster for my embarrassment squick, which is too bad because it's a book where Dono has a larger role and I'm interested in reading more about Dono!

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Comments 
2nd-Apr-2017 05:49 pm (UTC)
One of the things that really struck me about CVA was that even though it's strongly implied if not stated that Tej is bisexual, she ACTS heterosexual, and not only that, makes the kinds of assumptions about other people that a bisexual person wouldn't. I feel like Bujold intellectually wants to include queer/poly/trans/sexually complicated characters, but her actual execution of them is really limited by her own cis, straight, monogamous default blinders. It kind of frustrates me about the books, and is one of the areas where I think fandom (often) does better.
2nd-Apr-2017 10:47 pm (UTC)
....wow I totally missed that Tej is supposed to be bisexual - because yeah she reads so thoroughly het. It's too bad Bujold is so bad at seeing past her own experience in matters of sexuality.
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