Review: Komarr by Lois McMaster Bujold

The planet of Komarr has had it’s artificial sun damaged in a bizarre maybe-accident of unknown causes, and Miles Vorkosigan’s first official mission as Imperial Auditor is to find out what happened and why. But his hosts, the Vorsoisson family, have concerns of their own, and it’s not long before Miles’ irrepressible curiosity entangles him in those, as well.

I’ve read Komarr twice now, and although I really enjoyed it the first time, I definitely underrated the impression it would leave on me – and which it absolutely lived up to on re-reading. Miles’ investigation here is a fascinating one, full of twists and seeming-dead ends, and (although this isn’t a constant issue throughout the novel) Miles himself is an interesting choice of investigator; the bloody history between Komarr and Barrayar (Miles’ home planet) provides a tense backdrop to this adventure by itself, but it’s made even more so by Miles’ father’s role in suppressing the Komarran revolt…

To me, however, the best thing about this book was its characters: Miles is as magnetic as always, but the motley mix of Professor Vorthys, Nikki, Tien, and Tien’s co-workers at the Terraforming Project make for interesting interactions all around… and that’s without even mentioning Ekaterin, the most important new character in Komarr, and (in my opinion) one of the best, most in-depth characters in the whole series. Historically, I haven’t been a huge fan of Miles’ love interests (I liked Taura, but his crush on Elena was very one-sided, and Elli only ever seemed to love parts of him…), but Ekaterin became a firm favourite of mine almost as soon as she was introduced; she’s a great match for Miles, as well as an incredible character in her own right. There’s no actual romance between them in this book, but the beginnings of romantic feelings are definitely in evidence.

I also really appreciated how much of the book was told from Ekaterin’s perspective, which I felt let me get to know her a lot better (and quicker) than I have some of the other supporting characters in Miles’ stories. Her part of the storyline – focusing on her failing marriage and her concerns over her son’s health – is incredibly compelling, as emotionally complex as Miles’ investigation is technically. And I loved seeing Miles though Ekaterin’s eyes; her confusion over him, and over her reactions to him, and the gradual way she comes to understand him as their friendship grows…

The Vorkosigan Saga can technically be read in any order, but I would recommend reading at least Memory and the short story The Borders of Infinity (not to be confused with the short story collection of the same name) before checking out Komarr, just for background information on some of the things Miles talks about here.

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