It’s been many years since I first picked up a Vorkosigan novel, and ages since the last. If you’ve followed Bujold’s space opera you’ll know a lot has happened, and characters and worlds have grown, changed, and died over the years.
In this context it makes no sense for Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, a new Cordelia novel, to feel the same as an old one. Decades have passed; we’re back on Sergyar where Cordelia Naismith first met Aral Vorkosigan, though things are very different now. Aral is dead, Miles is a father of what appears to be a small army, and, in general, people are not running around shooting each other and decapitating emperors.
For some readers this is A Bad Thing, and for others, a Right and Fitting Maturity.
I enjoyed this book and it’s an easy, flowing read, but if you’re looking for whizz bang flash and epic space battles, you’re not going to get it here. The Vorkosigan books have always been about people more than anything else, but now those people are older, relationships have changed, and the focus, while still filtered through a military haze, is distinctly romantic and familial. Yes, there are some planetary side plots, but they are there really to support the main plot about Cordelia’s relationship with her husband’s (and her own) lover Oliver Jole, and their future unborn children. These are negotiations of a new space after the end of something, the rebuilding of love after death. And quite literally, the rebuilding of dynasties and capitals.
And yes, that is going to bore some readers.
For me, it felt like the perfect final bookend to the story that began with Shards of Honor. A novel-length epilogue, if you will.
Recommended for: Long-time fans of the Vorkosigan series, but the ones who keep a little flame of romance alive in their hearts.