Lois McMaster Bujold
The Warrior's Apprentice (1986)
Set 17 years after the events surrounding his birth in Barrayar, this is the first book in an ongoing series about Miles Vorkosigan. Son of Aral Vorkosigan, ex-Regent to the emperor and now Prime Minister, and Cordelia Naismith, a woman from the modern world of Beta Colony, our young hero has been born into the Vor nobility of the Barrayan feudal society. On a planet still struggling to rid itself from medieval customs and beliefs, he is doubly hampered by his brittle bones and stunted growth caused by a poison gas attack on his parents when his mother was pregnant with him.
Having failed the qualification exam to enter officers' training at the Imperial Service Academy due to his physical disabilities, young Miles is left with little immediate perspective for his future life and jumps on the opportunity to make an off-planet trip in the company of Sergeant Bothari, the family's loyal bodyguard, and Bothari's daughter Elena, secret subject of Miles's romantic dreams, to visit his grandmother on Beta Colony where he slides headlong into his first adventure. First saving a pilot and his jump ship, then taking on a smuggling job, Miles is quickly involved into a small interplanetary war and must improvise the Dendarii Free Mercenaries into existence, in an ever growing hoax carried by his boldness, chutzpah, and extraordinary leadership qualities, as well as pure chance. In the end, Miles still has to defeat a plot at home directed against him but backhandedly aimed at bringing down his father.
Again a Bujold book that is next to impossible to put down. Miles's good luck isn't always quite plausible, but outstanding characterization and an emotionally powerful narrative make the characters come alive in this novel about people and their interaction, their lives, and deaths. Bujold's dry wit is a welcome bonus.
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