Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Flowers of Vashnoi (Vorkosigan Saga #14.1), by Lois McMaster Bujold

Lois Bujold, May 2018

Miles and Ekaterin Vorkosigan have been married for four years now, and in addition to Ekaterin's son Nikki, they have two children of their own, toddlers Sasha and Helen. Aral and Cordelia have gone off to Sergyar as Viceroy and Vicereine, and Miles and Ekaterin have taken on responsibility for the Vorkosigan District.

That district includes the Vashnoi exclusion zone, nuked by the Cetagandans during the invasion eighty years ago, and the source of much of Barrayar's horror of mutation. Ekaterin and Enrique Borgos, the scientist who created the butterbugs, are working on an attempt to recover the lands, with new bio-engineered bugs. The new bugs will, if successful, clean the land of radiation, and recover useful metals.

Unfortunately, the Vashnoi exclusion zone has more old secrets than just how long it will take to make the land usable again.

This is in a sense Ekaterin's first real test as Lady Vorkosigan. Miles is caught up in his own duties when an emergency arises at the test site for the new radbugs, Ekaterin has only Enrique with her when they discover the cause of the problem. Enrique is from Escobar, with little to no knowledge or experience of Barrayaran history, customs, traditions, and especially of peasants with not much more education than in the Time of Isolation. He's also a science geek, not overly graceful or skilled with people who can't converse at a fairly high level of education. Part of Ekaterin's challenge is not just being Lady Vorkosigan for people who have good reason to be frightened of being found, but managing Enrique, so that his presence is helpful rather than an additional problem.

This novella is a nice look at Ekaterin growing in to her role, a role that places her at a higher status and very different responsibilities than she was educated for. This is the other side of her second marriage giving her more freedom to pursue her own interests and goals, and it's an important part of Ekaterin becoming who she will need to be, as the future Countess Vorkosigan.

It's a very nice little novella. Highly recommended.

I bought this book.