Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, written by Lois McMaster Bujold and published by Baen Books in November 2012, is the sixteenth Vorkosigan Saga book. Chronologically, it follows Diplomatic Immunity and is followed by Cryoburn.
Captain Vorpatril's Alliance was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel and for the Locus Award for Best Novel, both in 2013. The audio version, read by Grover Gardner, won the 2014 Audie in Science Fiction.
Captain Ivan Vorpatril sometimes thinks that if not for his family, he might have no troubles at all. But he has the dubious fortune of the hyperactive Miles Vorkosigan as a cousin, which has too-often led to his getting dragged into one of Miles' schemes, with risk to life and limb – and military career – that Ivan doesn't consider entirely fair. Although much practice has made Ivan more adept at fending off his mother's less-than-subtle reminders that he should be getting married and continuing the Vorpatril lineage.
Fortunately, his current duty is on the planet Komarr as staff officer to Admiral Desplains, far from both his cousin and his mother back on their homeworld of Barrayar. It's an easy assignment and nobody is shooting at him. What could go wrong?
Plenty, it turns out, when Byerly Vorrutyer, an undercover agent for Imperial Security, shows up on his doorstep and asks him to make the acquaintance of a young woman, recently arrived on Komarr, who seems to be in danger. That Byerly is characteristically vague about the nature of the danger, not to mention the lady's name, should have been Ivan's first clue, but Ivan is no more able to turn aside from aiding a damsel in distress than he could resist trying to rescue a kitten from a tree.
It is but a short step down the road of good intentions to the tangle of Ivan's life, in trouble with the Komarran authorities, with his superiors, and with the lethal figures hunting the mysterious but lovely Tej and her exotic blue companion Rish – a tangle to test the lengths to which Ivan will go as an inspired protector.
But though his predicament is complicated, at least Ivan doesn't have to worry about hassle from family. Or so he believes...
Captain Vorpatril's Alliance has two viewpoint characters – Ivan Vorpatril and Tej Vorpatril (nèe Arqua).
Tej Arqua, the youngest daughter of Shiv and Udine Arqua, who were also known as Baron and Baronne Cordonah of Jackson's Whole, was in a tight situation. In hiding from House Prestene pursuers after her House fell to them, she arrived at Komarr with her older odd-sister Rish (aka Lapiz Lazuli, one of the Baronne's famous Jewels), and very little money. To support herself until she could find transportation off-planet, she took a job working at "Swift Shipping", while Rish, who couldn't go out because of her extreme recognizability (in particular, she was bright blue with gold vein patterns and pointed ears), hid in their rented flat. Tej ended up getting spotted by her pursuers, who tried to convince a local group of Barrayaran smugglers to help capture her. As it happened, one of the Barrayarans was actually Byerly Vorrutyer, a civilian ImpSec agent. He found Ivan Vorpatril, himself visiting Komarr to take part in fleet inspections, and persuaded Ivan to try to take Tej out on a date so that the pursuers would not catch her.
Ivan's attempted seduction failed; Tej became suspicious of him and contacted Rish as she approached her apartment. When Tej brought him inside, Rish shot him in the legs with a stunner and the two of them took him up to their rooms and tied him to a chair in the kitchen while they tried to decide what to do with him.
- "As they dragged him inside, he remarked to the air, 'Hey, made it inside her door on t'first date! Are things lookin' up for Ma Vorpatril's boy, or what?'"
- ―Chapter 1[src]
Failing to come to a decision, they went to bed, leaving him tied up. Thus, when the actual kidnappers arrived and cut their way through the window, they found Ivan. He tricked them into thinking the women had already left, all the while talking loudly enough to wake them. Tej and Rish stunned the kidnappers and fled with Ivan. They agreed to go with him to his apartment; along the way, he paused to make an anonymous call to Dome Security to pick up the kidnappers.
By the following afternoon, at the end of the workday, Komarr's Dome Security had managed to track Ivan down as a person of interest in the matter of the disappearance of Tej and her 'maidservant'; they showed up at his workplace and asked a great many not-very-friendly questions. Matters got harder to manage when Tej's Jacksonian pursuers decided to try to smoke her out of hiding by reporting her as an illegal entry; both Immigration and Dome Security arrived in the morning at Ivan's flat; Security accused him of kidnapping and/or killing Tej at the same time that Immigration was seeking to deport her. Tej and Rish responded by planning to jump off the balcony to their deaths rather than be captured. In a panic, Ivan proposed marriage to Tej – Dome Security wouldn't be able to claim he'd kidnapped her and Immigration wouldn't be able to arrest and deport a dependent of a Vor. He poured his breakfast groats into a circle; they stepped inside and stated their vows; and thus, they were married.
- "I, Ivan Xav Vorpatril, ..., do take thee, uh ... what did you say your name was, again?"
- ―Ivan's oath to Tej[src]
Soon afterwards, Ivan, Tej, and Rish travelled to Barrayar so Ivan and Tej could get a divorce and so that Tej and Rish could arrange a journey to Escobar to rejoin as much of their family as still lived. Ivan spent time showing Tej and Rish around Barrayar, introducing them to friends, and providing driving lessons for Tej and cooking lessons from Ma Kosti for Rish. It turned out, however, that Ivan's family rather approved of his new bride. Thus, when Ivan and Tej went to Ivan's Uncle Falco to get their divorce taken care of, Falco stated that they had no apparent grounds for divorce and refused their request. Further, he stated that his court would not hear a repeat of the request for six months.
- "As the week went on, Ivan contemplated the merits of inertia as a problem-solving technique with growing favour."
- ―Chapter 13[src]
Just as Ivan started to really appreciate the benefits of married life, things were thrown into complete disarray by the arrival of Tej's family. Acting on a tip from Lilly Durona, who was sheltering her brother Amiri, they showed up at the Vorbarr Sultana shuttleport under a variety of false identifications and arranged a two week temporary visa with the authorities, officially under Ivan's supervision. In very short order, it became clear that they had much more on their minds than retrieving Rish and Tej, and Ivan and Byerly found themselves desperately trying to work out what was happening. Worse, Ivan found himself needing to court his increasingly elusive wife to persuade her to stay with him.
It so happened that Tej's Grandmama, Moira ghem Estif, had been on Barrayar in the very last days of the Cetagandan Invasion, and she knew of a rather deeply-buried bunker that had once contained a whole lot of treasure stored in it. It didn't appear to have been discovered by anyone, so it ought to still be there. The Arquas took on a treasure hunt, with some cooperation from Simon Illyan, who was hoping to generate an alliance with a restored House Cordonah. The first check in their plans came when they discovered that the bunker was almost underneath ImpSec Headquarters itself. With a little help from Simon, they managed to carry out a sonic survey under Imp Sec's nose under the guise of a dance performance by the Jewels. They found a nearby building with a parking garage underneath it and began excavating by means of a GalacTech mycoborer - a newly-developed, untested microbe that devoured carbon in soil and sedimentary rock silently and left tubes lined with its own waste products behind itself. The mycoborer did not, however, dig a very straight path, and the path it created had many side-branches. Along the way, the Arquas found the skeleton of a man (Sergeant Abelard) with decaying explosives in a cross-tunnel, but continued onwards. Meanwhile, Ivan and Byerly learned enough of what was going on to question Simon Illyan about it all; he claimed the bunker had been found and marked as cleared.
Ivan managed to persuade Tej to allow him into their plans as part of a bet with her – he claimed the bunker would be empty, she claimed otherwise; in the meantime, she made him promise to help out with carrying and such. The Arquas and Ivan entered the bunker; it was packed full of valuable antiquities (eventually valued at around 8 billion marks).
- "How did I get into this mess? Miles isn't even here."
- ―Chapter 21[src]
However, as soon as they began gathering up armloads for carrying out, they learned that the carriers/smugglers they'd hired had turned on them. These carriers failed to be careful about not carrying charged items underneath the ImpSec building to the bunker, so the authorities were sure to find them all soon. In fact, ImpSec got into a stunner-tag battle with the carriers in the tunnels; this led to the explosives carrying out their mission in life and breaking a nearby storm pipe. The tunnels began to fill with water, trapping Ivan, the Arquas and the smugglers in the bunker.
- "I would follow you to the ends of the bunker."
- ―Ivan's true oath to Tej[src]
Some number of hours later, ImpSec broke through from the park above their bunker with earth-moving equipment. All were rescued, some were arrested. To Simon's delight, the hideous, windowless ImpSec building, undermined by tunnels underneath that were draining large amounts of mud into the nearby river, promptly sank into the ground. In the aftermath, Emperor Gregor decided to allow House Cordonah 10% of the value of the treasure since it would have remained undiscovered without them, but he deducted about half of that for "expenses" and deported them back to Jackson's Whole. Byerly was ordered to go with them, and Ivan was ordered to take a posting (with Tej) on the very-far-away planet of Ylla for at least two years. With a bit of creativity from Ivan, this punishment turned into a rather pleasant tropical retreat, where Ivan and Tej spent time enjoying an idyllic existence, reviewing news from home while sipping "fruity girly drinks" by the sea.
- Moira ghem Estif
- Pidge Arqua
- Star Arqua
- Amiri Arqua
- Ma Kosti
- Gregor Vorbarra
- Falco Vorpatril
- Vigo Imola
- Miles Vorkosigan
Behind the scenes
- The author has named two sources (dendarii.com's archives from April 21, 2013. "Chapter 23 - ImpSec takes a dive" and "Job Offers") for inspiration for this book:
- Why Buildings Fall Down by Mario Salvadori and Matthys Levy
- When she visited St Petersburg, Russia, she saw the old Communist Party Headquarters, which had been converted to a nightclub.
- Strong parallels exist between Ivan and Tej versus Freddie Standen and Kitty Charing of Cotillion by Georgette Heyer.
- Amiri's declaration of "Marvelous things" upon seeing the interior of the cache is a shout-out to the exchange between Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter upon the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb.