Miles’ wedding to the beautiful Ekaterin approaches, and it seems as though all of Vorbarr Sultana want it to be a success. Initially small, the celebration has – as all weddings do – grown just a little bigger than expected. Ice sculptures will fill the grounds, cousin Ivan has been threatened with dire consequences if he tries to play any pranks, and every detail has been anticipated and planned.
Except that Ekaterin seems sick with nerves, and Miles fears she’s having second thoughts about marrying a runt like him. While not all his old loves could make it – Quinn, for some reason, has sent two gifts, one of which may have a distressing subtexts – genetically-engineered warrior Taura has arrived and, thanks to Lady Vorpatril’s sense of style, looks magnificent. Concerned that the mutation-phobic populace will cause her distress, Miles directs Roic, his Armsman, to watch out for her. Roic becomes increasingly attracted to Taura, despite the ingrained fears of genetic manipulation that permeates his culture, but keeps managing to put his foot in it with her.
I’ve delayed reading Winterfair Gifts because it’s the last, at least so far, in the Vorkosigan series and I love every word. Sadly this is a novella, but Bujold has incorporated every essential element into this tale of Miles’ next stage of life – the Count and Countess, a love story, a treacherous plot, substantial growth for at least one character, humour (including a brief reprise of butter bugs), a sense of place and time, really smart characterisation, an absorbing plot, and a satisfactory resolution that leaves room for a sequel but doesn’t demand it. Though I do – more please! – Alex