Lois McMaster Bujold
A Civil Campaign (1999)
Love is in the air... Bujold's Vorkosigan novels have always skirted that genre but with A Civil Campaign she has for the first time set out to write a full-fledged romance novel, with a veneer of science fiction.
The Barrayaran capital is preparing for the Emperor's wedding and the amorous mood proves infectious. Back from Komarr, Miles Vorkosigan is secretly courting the young widow Ekaterin Vorsoisson. His clone brother Mark has returned from Beta Colony with a love interest of his own. Cousin Ivan is looking for somebody to love, too, and by the end of the book some further couples will have formed. Galactic biotech collides with medieval customs, and the resultant politicial intrigues add their share of obstacles to the various romances.
All previous novels in the series were adventure/spy/crime stories of some sort. This one is much more lighthearted and the author makes full use of her considerable talent for comedy. The first half of the book sets up various plot lines that converge in a truly memorable, explosive dinner party at Vorkosigan House roughly at midpoint, and much of the second half is concerned with sorting the fallout. The writing is just wonderful. Bujold builds upon the narrative structure so advantageously used in Komarr by switching between no less than five vantage points: Miles, Ekaterin, Mark, Kareen Koudelka, and—can you believe this is actually the first time?—everybody's favorit idiot, Ivan. A dozen books have shaped a rich background to draw on. There are innumerable references to previous volumes, in particular to Barrayar.
Exquisite and quite stunningly executed. The story is largely bereft of originality, and too many characters are far too perfect people, but you are unlikely to notice or care while reading.
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