Review: THE FLOWERS OF VASHNOI (Vorkosigan Saga #14.1), by Lois McMaster Bujold



After reading Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, I had to deal with the sad certainty that no more stories from the Vorkosiverse would be forthcoming: that latest novel had the flavor of finality, of the author having closed the door on those characters and their lives, leaving them to continue unobserved by prying eyes.   So I was happily surprised when fellow blogger SJ HIGBEE showcased this novella, a very welcome and quite unexpected find, one I might have missed for a longer time if not for her post, for which I’m very grateful.

The focus here is not so much on Miles as on his wife Ekaterin, which brings an interesting change of pace and also the possibility of observing Miles from an external point of view – and I must say that sharing Ekaterin’s observations about her rambunctious husband, as he engages with their children in target practice with food against the house cat, is just as entertaining as following any of Miles’ adventures, not to mention that it shows how the passing of years and the weight of responsibility have not changed him at all. Thankfully…

The district of Vorkosigan Vashnoi has been mentioned often in the course of the saga, and it’s an interdicted zone due to high levels of radioactivity dating back to the heavy bombardment from a past Cetagandan invasion: the place had been bequeathed to Miles from his grandfather Piotr, probably as a form of not-so-subtle sarcasm considering what the old man thought of the deformed grandson he tried to murder in his crib.  As the story begins, the radiation levels have started to subside, and Ekaterin has enrolled the Escobaran scientist Enrique Burgos – the creator of the (in)famous butterbugs first appearing in A Civil Campaign – to help in the requalification of the area.

Doctor Burgos has bio-engineered a new kind of butterbugs – the radbugs – whose function is to ingest the contaminated flora and soil of the Vashnoi territory, incorporating the radiation into their bodies and slowly but surely taking away the pollutants, so that the region can be made habitable again.  During one of their tours of inspection of the test area where the first generation of radbugs has been released, Ekaterin, Enrique and their ranger escort make an amazing discovery: the area is not deserted, on the contrary there are clear signs of habitation – and someone has been stealing a good number of radbugs…

This very enjoyable novella felt to me like some sort of mirror image of Miles’ adventure in The Mountains of Mourning, where he had to confront the harsh reality of what happened to children born with radiation-induced malformations: however, where Miles had to deal with some tragic revelations that felt much more dramatic due to his own physical problems, Ekaterin’s discovery runs on a lighter path, one where the inherent drama is tempered by humor and the acknowledgement of the fact that Barrayar’s outlook toward those who are not perfect is changing, and for the better.

As always, it was a delight to go back to these characters and place, so that my hope is that this will not be an isolated occurrence and that Ms. Bujold will opt to return again – even in this brief form – to what I consider her best creation.


My Rating: 


28 thoughts on “Review: THE FLOWERS OF VASHNOI (Vorkosigan Saga #14.1), by Lois McMaster Bujold

  1. I read Bujold’s fantasy book, and pretty much hated it so now I’m super hesitant to try the Vorkosigan stuff. Plus I seem to recollect being told there were graphic enough sex scenes in the series? Can you confirm or deny that?
    And if you read Chalion, how does it stack up to this series in tone and everything?


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I tried the first Chalion book but was sorely disappointed, since in my opinion it did not hold a candle to the Vor saga. That said, I don’t recall any graphic sex scenes, so that I can recommend the series to anyone: it’s deceptively light and fun at times, but it touches important issues like forging your own path despite physical obstacles. Miles *rules* 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have sadly not read this series! But your review (and I read Sarah’s as well) are making me think I should add it to the queue. I love the idea of radiation-eating bugs!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love Bujold, but I never got far into this series. Still, I know how heartbreaking it is to say good bye to a world and its characters, so I’m glad you found this one even if it’s just a brief visit back to Vorkosigan!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I lovelovelove the first few Vorkosigan saga books (I haven’t read them all yet), and am so happy to have so much more to read, including this one. Great review. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have yet to read any of the books in the Vorkosigan Saga so I just skimmed your review, but any author who can create such lovable characters AND masters both the novel and the novella is one I need to be reading. Not totally sure where to begin with this series though…would you say it’s best read in chronological order?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Publication order might be best, although I read Barrayar first, then The Warrior Apprentice and then went back to the prequel Shards of Honor before following the publication order. Bujold is quite good in giving background information without info-dumping, so you don’t risk getting lost 🙂


  6. A series I would like to read one day but probably not for a while yet. I think I bought the first one in this series and also the fantasy book. Maybe this series is the best one to start with by the sounds of the comments.
    Lynn 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It would seem that the fantasy series gets quite mixed reviews, while the SF series never fails to catch the readers’ attention and to keep it firmly there. What’s more, there is a wonderful, balanced mix of drama and humor that few manage to achieve with success… But I’ll freely admit I’m somewhat biased 😉


  7. Thank you so much for the shoutout! I am delighted that you loved this one so much, too:)). It was such a lovely surprise to see another reincarnation of Miles and his family, wasn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

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