I wanted to read A Civil Campaign as soon as I read this introduction to a review of the omnibus Cordelia’s Honor:
Lois McMaster Bujold wrote what is quite possibly the most famous, beloved, and awesome science fiction romance ever, A Civil Campaign. A Civil Campaign is a Regency Romance set in space, with manners, fantastic clothes, and awkward dinner parties mixed with cloning, recovery from physical and mental trauma, inter-galactic politics, humor, sadness, glowing HEAs, and much more.
Doesn’t that sound fantastic? Really, why wouldn’t you want to read it?
I am here to report that A Civil Campaign lives up to the hype. I absolutely adored it.
This picks up a few months after the events of Komarr, with Miles back on Barrayar and bound and determined to start courting Ekaterin properly. However, he knows that she’s not all that keen on getting married again, so it’s a SECRET courtship. A secret courtship that he tells absolutely everybody about except for her.
(Don’t worry. He gets smacked for this. A few times.)
Then there’s his brother, Mark. Mark returns home from university with a brilliant scientist (that he may have helped escape from prison), a girlfriend, a bunch of bugs, and a business idea that involves all three.
And during all of this, Miles’s foster brother, Gregor (who also happens to be the Emperor of Barrayar), is getting married, which means that wedding preparations are taking up a great deal of everyone’s time.
It. Is. AWESOME.
I loved the way the various plot threads intersect and the culture clash between the staunchly traditional and conservative Barrayar society and the more progressive Beta Colony. I loved the more serious political plots moving under the romances.
I loved getting to meet Miles’s family: Mark, Ivan, Gregor, and his parents, Cordelia and Aral. Even though I hadn’t read the previous books that built the relationships between these characters, I still got the sense of camaraderie between them all. And I loved seeing how Ekaterin and her son, Nicky, slowly became integrated into the Vorkosigan family.
I loved seeing Miles in love and generally stumbling over himself and becoming his own worst enemy as he tries to do what he assumes is the right thing. (Because it’s what he wants, of course it’s the right thing.) And when he screws it up and it’s identified how badly he screws it up, Miles does apologetic like nobody’s business.
Ekaterin really grows in this book as well. After all the events of Komarr, it’s wonderful to see her come into her own, to stand up against people who want to beat her back into the mold she just escaped. And over the course of this novel, she becomes more than a match for Miles.
A Civil Campaign is much longer than most of the romances I’ve read (400 pages in a hardback), but it never feels that long. With everything that’s going on—the wedding plans, romantic plots, political plots, and business plots—it needs the space. The pacing’s brisk, and I was never bored.
There are so many things I want to talk about in this, but half the fun of the book was the discovery, seeing how all the best-laid plans you learn about in the first few chapters of the book just go straight to hell by the middle of it.
If the idea of a Regency-style romance set on another planet intrigues you, and if the elements from the quote at the beginning of this post pique your interest, then you must add A Civil Campaign to your TBR list. It was such a joy to read. I really couldn’t put it down.
I’d recommend reading Komarr first to get to know Miles and Ekaterin before you jump into this one, but as both are really, really good, you won’t be sorry.