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The Flowers of Vashnoi
by Lois McMaster Bujold
2018, Kindle, $3.99, 73 pages
Published: May 2018

Vorkosigan land
Long tainted by old fallout:
Bugs bring a new hope.

Hurrah!!! YES!!! A new Vorkosigan story!!!! I capered with glee when I saw this was available. Along with millions of other readers, I ardently hope Bujold continues to write stories in this my/our favorite series.

Vashnoi, the radioactive “parting gift” of the defeated Cetagandan invaders, has been a running joke in the Vorgosigan-Naismith series since The Warrior’s Apprentice, when a desperate-for-money 17-year-old Miles leveraged his direct ownership of the land to back a loan — not bothering to mention that the region still glowed at night.  That dubious inheritance also contributed to the serious theme of how Miles has had to confront a legacy of mutations and infanticide in the Vorkosigan district, the only district on the entire planet still struggling with these problems on a large scale. His own teratogenic mutations have won him the unpleasant epithet “The Mutie Lord” and have effectively barred him from any chance at succession to the emperor’s throne, not that he ever wanted such a barbed blessing.

When the socially inept, financially strapped, but scientifically brilliant Enrique Borgos introduced the possibility, in A Civil Campaign, of bioengineering bugs to consume radioactive waste and decontaminate the soil, it was obvious that Miles would use his forward momentum and every resource he could commandeer to spur this particular, peculiar project on. We readers know this has been happening, but have been left to wonder and compose fanfic in our imaginations as to the how.  Until now.

Accompanying Borgos on a visit to the radioactive region to see how the deployed experimental bugs are faring, Miles and Ekaterin Vorkosigan discover anomalies, and Miles just manages to glimpse what he swears looks like a wood elf. But Miles is called away by his duties as Count’s Voice and Emperor’s Auditor, and so it is Ekaterin who sets out to discover the truth of missing bugs and stolen supplies, evasive rangers, a children’s graveyard. And a wood elf. Miles had to face his responsibilities as lord of Vorkosigan’s Vashnoi in “The Mountains of Mourning”; now it is Ekaterin’s turn to find out how heartbreaking and hazardous it is to be Lady Vorkosigan, just as Cordelia Naismith did 35 years previously. Ekaterin has a mystery to solve and lives to try to save, and a larger problem of social momentum to redirect for a better outcome. Along the way, she realizes that the inheritance Miles always regarded as a veiled insult by his grandfather may have been a larger, greater gift of trust. 

Wonderfully written, with Bujold’s trademark layering of character development, plot revelations, and making potent words serve three purposes simultaneously, this is a most auspicious beginning to the season of summer reading. Enjoy!— Chris Wozney

For other titles by Lois McMaster Bujold click here

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