Series: Vorkosigan Saga #16
Published by Baen on February 2, 2016
Genres: Romantic, Science Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Sexual Content: Kissing, references to sex.
Reviewed by: Julia
Three years after her famous husband's death, Cordelia Vorkosigan, widowed Vicereine of Sergyar, stands ready to spin her life in a new direction. Oliver Jole, Admiral, Sergyar Fleet, finds himself caught up in her web of plans in ways he'd never imagined, bringing him to an unexpected crossroads in his life.
Meanwhile, Miles Vorkosigan, one of Emperor Gregor's key investigators, this time dispatches himself on a mission of inquiry, into a mystery he never anticipated; his own mother.
Plans, wills, and expectations collide in this sparkling science-fiction social comedy, as the impact of galactic technology on the range of the possible changes all the old rules, and Miles learns that not only is the future not what he expects, neither is the past.
With such a well-established series, it is impossible to judge the emotional heft of GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN outside the context of its predecessors. Still, these main characters' are mourning under a veil of other, of stigma, that will be all too familiar to anyone who has been told their love is "less than" because it is outside common societal norms. As innovative and intellectually adventurous as the best science fiction can be, GENTLEMAN JOLE is also tender and lovely, an exploration of a relationship no less valid for it's rarity.
This is a familiar magic of Bujold's entire Vorkosigan series, showing the intersection of advanced societies with the socially backwards, feudal planet of Barrayar. Readers will be able to jump in at this point in series and still get a lot out of this lovely story, but I highly encourage plumbing the depth and breadth of this world more thoroughly. Mourning Aral myself, this exploration of his personal struggles and relationship was ever so much more emotionally resonant from knowing him before.
Part of me was frustrated by the retrospective nature of this book, wanting more immediacy than the reminisced glimpses Oliver and Cordelia offered. But this device supports two benefits. One, the focus is on the emotional reality of Cordelia and Oliver, the way their past experiences shape their present, rather than the mechanics of a plural marriage, secret or otherwise. Two, there are repeated explorations about what, if any, transparency individuals owe others with regards to their personal lives. Cordelia's son Miles became my avatar as a reader, his opinions and questions gently fielded by Cordelia and Oliver alike to emphasize that he was family, he was welcome, but he didn't "get a Betan vote" on their lives.
In a saga that began with Cordelia's and Aral's love story, there is something fitting about revisiting them again in the aftermath of their relationship. But beyond these beloved characters, GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN also offers a a gentle, humane window into a grief made all the more terrible through suffocating, societal indifference.Series Titles:
- Shards of Honour
- The Warrior's Apprentice
- Ethan of Athos
- Falling Free
- Brothers in Arms
- The Vor Game
- Mirror Dance
- A Civil Campaign
- Diplomatic Immunity
- Captain Vorpatril's Alliance
- The introduction to Cordelia can be found in the release of a duology called CORDELIA'S HONOR, and you can read the Smart Bitches, Trashy Book review here.