The dying Emperor of Barrayar names Aral Vorkosigan Prime Minister and guardian of five-year-old Gregor, heir to the throne on his majority. Aral wants no part of it, but there’s no-one more suitable, and the Emperor has spoken. Besides, it keeps him on Barrayar, and Cordelia is expecting. But the role raises thorny issues almost from the first, and when a terrorist bio gas attack is made, Cordelia’s pregnancy is threatened. A tetratoxin, the baby’s bones will forever be gelid, and an abortion is the only answer. However, by using a combination of Betan technology and Barrayan medical experimentation, the only child of Lord and Lady Vorkosigan survives, albeit dwarfish and with extremely fragile bones.
Barrayar explores Barrayan culture more deeply, with behind the scenes machinations, treachery and danger at every turn, particularly for the infant Miles. Bujold continues the strong characterisation (particularly striking with such a large cast), fast-paced plotting and innovative solutions. In her afterwaord she says much of her thinking comes from the question “What would be the worst thing I could do to him now?” – and the answers unquestionably pay off. - Alex