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If You Like Lois McMaster Bujold hosted by Elizabeth

We are starting a new series called “If You Like” which will be hosted by various readers, authors and bloggers of Dear Author. The purpose of the post and the comments is to explore what we like about a particular iconic author and what other authors have books like the iconic author. Elizabeth penned this awesome entry regarding Lois McMaster Bujold.

If you would like to host an “If You Like” post, please email me at Jane at


If you like Lois McMaster Bujold –

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Lois McMaster Bujold is one of the most acclaimed authors in speculative fiction still writing today. Her first book Warrior’s Apprentice was published in 1986 and she’s published 20 more books since then. Her latest book,The Sharing Knife, Volume Four: Horizon comes out the beginning of next year. (I can’t wait!) She’s been nominated and won scads of awards- multiple Hugos, Nebulas and one World Fantasy Award for best novel. With her large and diverse backlist Prolific is her middle name.

Warning: There are spoilers in this post

Lois McMaster Bujold currently has three ongoing series:

  • Vorkosigan Saga is an extensive SF epic primarily following the exploits of the diminutive but indomitable Lord Miles Vorkosigan. These are probably her best known works to date. The first books involve Miles’ parents Aral and Cordelia (Shards of Honorand Barrayar both found in Cordelia’s Honor ). The most recent book, Diplomatic Immunity, has Miles unraveling a plot aboard a space station while awaiting the birth of his twins. There are about a dozen books and short stories in between. Bujold is currently working on a new book involving Miles.
  • Chalion books are set in a fictional universe loosely based on Spain in the 15th century at its unification. Chalion books are heavy on theology, and the gods play an important part in the threads of all the books: the Father, the Mother, the Daughter, the Son and the Bastard. The series features stand-alone books with a different protagonist for each. In each book one of the 5 gods is offstage pulling the strings. Bujold has said she would like to write one book for each of the five gods in the theology, so far she has only written three: The Curse of Chalion for the Daughter, Paladin of Souls for the Bastard and The Hallowed Hunt for the Son.
  • The Sharing Knife books are fantasy novels set in a world loosely based on the country south of the Great Lakes in North America with technology roughly equivalent to the 1800s, minus explosives and gunpowder. The tensions between Lakewalkers and Farmers is reminiscent of the early culture clashes between settlers and Native Americans. In these books the romance takes front and center more than in any other Bujold. Dag is a Lakewalker, member of a nomadic, magician-warrior clan. Fawn is a farmer girl who ran away from home and right into Dag. There is a wide age gap standing between the two, but more than that, a deep-seated bigotry from both their kin that Lakewalkers and farmers do not marry. The whole world is telling Dag and Fawn they can’t be together, but the two of them forge their own way by holding strong to each other.

book reviewThe Spirit Ring was a stand alone fantasy novel set in Italy that dealt with metallurgy and necromancy. It reads almost like a YA book. The hero and heroine are only 17 and 15 respectively, and they have somewhat immature perspectives. There’s a more cooperative resolution than in most of her books, in that the hero and heroine’s work to save the day is supplemented by contributions from the book’s minor characters. A warning: there is more violence than one would expect in a young adult book, and lots of corpses onstage for the action, as well as one incident of infanticide early in the book.

I started reading Lois McMaster’s books after reading reviews on this blog and at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. I’d heard her name before, but my interest in Lois McMaster Bujold wasn’t really piqued until SBTB gave The Sharing Knife: Beguilement a rave review. I didn’t buy the book then but it stuck with me, and this year when I got my first ever library card, I saw a copy of Beguilement on the shelves and checked it out on a whim. Boy, am I glad I did! In a few short months I have devoured her backlist and discovered a new auto-buy author.

Setting (era): Diverse
Her time periods range widely. The Vorkosigan Saga is set in a hi-tech universe approximately 1000 years in the future with wormhole technology, babies grown in replicators outside their mothers, along with typical SF standbys likes stunners and holographics. The Spirit Ring is set in a fictional Italy in the 1500s. Chalion is set in a pseudo-medieval fantasy world. The fantasy world of The Sharing Knife feels more like the American frontier (complete with riverboats and straw hats).

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Setting (geographic): Also Diverse
One of Bujold’s greatest strengths is her world-building. Her worlds go "all the way to edge of the page" as she puts it. She firmly fixes her settings in your mind without info-dumps or "As you know, Bob-" dialogue. And variety is her specialty. If you can think of it, chances are she’s set a book there: cities, boonies, back roads, lakes- in the Vorkosigan books alone you get rolling foothills, mountain caves, underground cities, arctic military bases, space stations, bio-domes-On and on. She’s also got this way with words, simple but so elegant. Here’s an excerpt from her latest book The Sharing Knife, Volume Three: Passage:

The valley of the Grace spread out below them in the gold-blue autumn light. The river seemed to have put on her party dress, her banks and bending hillsides a swirl of color: scarlet and purple-red, glowing yellow, bright brown. The water reflected the azure of the sky, save where it broke into a sparkling shoal, necklace to the dress. Brooches of boats slid upon the water- a distant keel, a broad, blunt ferry- with a girdle of flatboats pulled up along the farther shore."

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But it’s not just about the landscape.
I used to believe an author only had one real, fully-formed, intricate world inside them. (Like Anne McCaffrey- her Dragonrider books are incredible, intricate and so well-developed. Unfortunately, in her other books the world-building is depressingly lackluster). Bujold has disabused me of this notion. Every world she creates is fully-formed and functional, perfectly inhabitable by the reader. The theology, the culture, the politics, and the history of the place-whichever place- are instilled so deeply on every page it’s like an immersion course, you could almost do anthropological studies on a Lois McMaster Bujold world. Her real brilliance is that she can do this without overwhelming the reader, and never once have I felt one of her world-building details was out of place or inorganic to the world. It’s a little hard to explain, but to me it sort of feels like if I was plunked in the middle of one of her books I could look all around me- up, down, sideways- and everything would be there, would be real. Forks on the table, paintings on the wall, manure in the streets, socio-political conflicts dating back centuries, etc, etc- One of my particular favorites is the religion in Chalion. It’s so logical, so seamless and legitimately real right down to the way they salute they’re gods, you’re half tempted to start your own church of the Five-Fold Pathway by the end. There are really plausible rituals and all the characters have varying levels of religious zeal. They aren’t zombies or moral mouthpieces. The church doesn’t feel like cobbled together bits of earth religions, either. It is very uniquely its own, belonging to no other place but Chalion.

Heroine type: Smart. Strong. Brave. Centered. They all save themselves, save the heroes, and save the day. They are just as capable as the heroes are. They can be naïve or jaded but never TSTL doormats. These girls don’t flounder or screw-up just so the hero can save them. They multi-task: saving themselves while ruling the world, thank you very much.

In the Vorkosigan Saga: (just a few)

  • Kareen: Blonde. The bouncy daughter of the emperor’s own ex-personal bodyguard (that would be her mother), she’s ambitious and personable. The middle child in a brood of all blonde "commandos", she could sell water to a drowning man but she’s still torn, figuring her place and who she wants to be.
  • Ekaterin: Brunette. An elegant widow in her early thirties, just coming out a soul-sucking, heart-blighting marriage. Damaged, unsure of herself at first, she’s sharp-witted, fierce, with a spine of steel and impeccable taste in all things.
  • Cordelia: Red-head. A force of nature. At the start of the series (Shards of Honor) she’s in her mid-thirties, a science officer in despair of ever having a family or finding love. She’s tough, impulsive, and open-minded, with a bone-dry sense of humor. She not only pulls herself out of dire situations, she saves the hero too, and her ship’s crew and his ship’s crew and her planet and his planet

and- In Chalion: The romances tend to be relegated to the background, present without dominating the plot. All the women of Chalion, though, are clever and powerful, treading the dangerous waters of political intrigue with sure strokes and brave faces. Ista is the protagonist in Paladin of Souls; she’s middle-aged royalty, a faded beauty emerging from nearly two decades spent accursed and half-mad, stifled and confined for her own good by those who love her. In Paladin of Souls she reclaims her liberty and her life. She has a wonderful sense of self-direction and aggressively defends her autonomy, not only from those who love her and want to shelter her but even from the gods themselves.

book review In The Sharing Knife: Fawn is innocent, painfully young, but steadily learning more about the Wide Green World as the series progresses. In the first book she begins naïve, but with her voracious curiosity she grows towards full womanhood. She’s got the patented Bujold bravery and a lively sense of humor. The most appealing thing I find, though, is her unquenchable joy for life.

Hero type: Clever. Honorable. Driven. Leaders of men. Her heroes are so attractive, every last one of them, but it’s not because of how they look: it’s because of who they are. One interesting thing is, with the exception of Thur in The Spirit Ring, each and every one of her heroes has some kind of physical oddity. Aral has a large L-shaped scar on his face. Miles is very short with a mild hunch, has scars all over his body from various corrective surgeries and a giant one on his chest from a sniper shot. Cazaril is skinny and sickly for most of his book, his back is covered in whip welts, he has a sizeable tumor and he’s missing part of a finger. Dag is rugged, with the generally beat-up body of an old warrior, his left hand was bitten off by a wolf. These gentlemen probably aren’t winning any beauty pageants, and yet they are all so comfortable with who they are, what they are, it makes them so, so appealing. It’s obvious why the ladies want them- even if the heroes can’t understand it themselves.

In the Vorkosigan Saga: (just a few)

  • Miles: Ah, Miles-where to begin? He’s intriguing, engrossing with charm and wit to spare. He’s unstoppable. He can unravel the most tangled piece of political intrigue. He can bring a seven foot tall werewoman to her knees with desire. He’s a genius. He’s a brilliant tactician. He’s-under five feet tall. I’ve seen him described as one of the most fascinating, well-developed characters in fiction. I can’t really argue with that, this guy’s like an onion- oy with the layers! He’s particularly charming when he’s wooing his future wife Ekaterin in A Civil Campaign: ""What, when they issued you their honor they didn’t give you the model with the reset button? Mine’s right here.’ He pointed to the general vicinity of his navel."
  • Aral: A dedicated leader and father. He’s dealt with disasters (personal, political and otherwise) that would have crippled lesser men (and nearly cripple him but for Cordelia’s love-ahh!). "I would get up-but for some reason my legs go first and my tongue last. I’d rather fall at your feet in some more controlled fashion."

In Chalion:

  • Cazaril: Humble. Loyal. A man of truly great integrity. He’s brilliant, especially when it comes to political maneuvering in a court full of scheming nobles. Cazaril is hands down one of my most favorite characters EVER! He fell to the very depths of despair and doom and emerged soft-spoken and self-deprecating. Once a great captain of men, after his enslavement he’s become unceasingly grateful for even the smallest kindness. He undervalues himself but fights tooth and nail, blood and bone to help those he cares about and owes fealty to. A wonderful, wonderful character. Here’s a quote of Caz’s from The Curse of Chalion:

"On the galleys we were not lords or men. We were men or animals, and which proved which had no relation I ever saw to birth or blood. The greatest soul I ever met there had been a tanner, and I would kiss his feet right now with joy to learn he yet lived. We slaves, we lords, we fools, we men and women, we mortals, we toys of the gods-‘all the same thing, Palli. They are all the same to me now."

  • Ingrey: The hero from The Hallowed Hunt, he’s a loyal liegeman and a secret shaman with the spirit of a wolf trapped in his gut. Handsome, agile, athletic. He’s set to guard a noblewoman who killed the prince in self-defense, and Ingrey finds himself drawn to the girl, Ijara, longing to protect her even as he knows she’s probably doomed. I enjoy how his priorities shift from self-preservation to protecting Ijara, and the ensuing romance is very sweet.

In The Sharing Knife: Dag is awesome. He begins world-weary and welcoming his death (consequence of a shattering loss in his early adult life) and then meets Fawn. She saves him, rekindling the old hunger for life and love. He defies his family and his whole society to stay by her. He acquires a philanthropic bent once he’s met Fawn, a desire to heal the world, unite the two peoples and he sets about doing it, even if it can feel like casting stones in the ocean. I particularly love how well Bujold depicts Dag’s reactions to various complications that arise. They are always multi-layered and real. And I love the way he loves Fawn.

From Beguilement:

"For the courage of her heart, which I saw face down the greatest horrors I know without breaking. For the high and hungry intelligence of her mind, which never stops asking questions, nor thinking about the answers. For the spark of her spirit, which could teach bonfires how to burn.-All this is set beside me, and you ask me instead if I want dirt? I do not understand farmers."


book review Writing style (simple v. ornate): Tends towards the simple.
It can get a little complicated in Vorkosigan if she’s space-jargoning but generally she’s not one to use a four syllables if she can get her point across with one. Really solid, well-written stuff that serves her stories. Some books have multiple points of view (A Civil Campaign has 5) and some have just the one (All the Chalion books thus far follow only one POV character). She also has a knack for summing up really complex, deep emotional truths with laser precision. An example from Vorkosigan: "Reputation is what other people know about you, honor is what you know about yourself." And here’s another for good measure from The Curse of Chalion:

"Events may be horrible or inescapable. Men have always a choice-‘if not whether, then how, they may endure."

Dialogue (lots/little/balanced): Balanced.
There are occasionally sections very heavy in dialogue. Exposition. Interrogations. She doesn’t really do much rapid-fire back and forth dialogue like, say, Crusie or someone. Usually it tends to be a page of mostly conversation, then a page of mostly description, back and forth.

Humor (Yes/No-serious/some): Some.
A dry sense of humor permeates all her books. Occasionally events devolve into downright farce. A Civil Campaign probably has more in common with a Georgette Heyer romp than a classic space opera. At the least, all of her characters banter and joke with each other and to themselves. Usually they are self-deprecating and wry but always so, so funny. All of her books have humorous incidents but they’re not laugh-riots. This bit’s from A Civil Campaign:

"What the hell is going on down here?’ Roic bellowed, scrabbling for his stunner on the wrong side of his holster with his hands slippery from their coating of bug butter. "You woke me up! "S the third time somebody’s woke me up this morning! I’d just got to sleep. "Swore I’d kill the next sonuvabitch who woke me up–!’ Kareen and Martya clung together for a moment of pure aesthetic appreciation of the height, the breadth of shoulder, the bass reverberation, the generous serving of athletic young male Roic presented; Martya sighed. The Escobarans, naturally, had no idea who this giant naked screaming barbarian was who’d appeared between them and the only exit route they knew- Kareen cried urgently, "Roic, they’re trying to kidnap Enrique!’ "Yeah? Good-.Make sure they pack all his devil bugs along with him-’ The panicked Gustioz tried to lunge past Roic toward the door, but caromed off him instead. They both slipped in the bug butter and went down in an arcing flurry of official documentation.

Plot: (action-oriented / character-driven): 50/50.
But actually more like 100/100. Her books are so full, so rich and deep that you are captivated, dragged along on the adventures. Her characters are so real you want to buy them a drink. Her plots intricate and complex. She always creates organic, believable characters and then throws them into impossibly difficult, complicated, delicate situations. I’ve tried a couple times to sum them up here to give you an idea, but there’s just SO much drive in any given novel I don’t really know where to start.

Pace: (fast/medium/slow) Depends.
Most of the Vorkosigans are pretty fast-paced, but then there are some like A Civil Campaign and Komarr that start slower but rev into overdrive at the end. The Sharing Knife series is more slow and steady, episodic at times. Chalion is a mix edging more towards medium/slow. Her plots always manage, though, for all the sub-plots and complications, to remain tightly controlled. No sprawling, unfocused epics here, thank you very much.

book review Conflict (externally driven/internally driven/both): Both.
Bujold is always one to provide strong motivating factors, both internal and external. Here’s a couple tasters: in Diplomatic Immunity Miles is trying to get back home in time to be there for the birth of his twins. He’s side-tracked by a diplomatic nightmare. He has to worry about his own safety, that of his wife’s, the potential war brewing, a biological weapon that could kill thousands of people and a few other complications that would be too spoilery to mention. Cazaril from The Curse of Chalion has SO many conflicts. There’s a literal one growing in his belly slowly killing him, a demon and a dead soul trapped because of a curse Caz performed to save someone he loved. He’s torn politically between struggling factions. He’s torn theologically as the gods pull him every which way. He constantly questions his own decisions and motivations, wondering, hoping he’s doing the right thing and not leading his entire nation into disaster. He’s been shattered into a million small pieces and is slowly sorting through to see what still fits in his new life, his new self. Basically, in a Bujold book it doesn’t matter whether it’s external or internal- the characters are just driven. Inexorably, perhaps disastrously, driven onward to their fate.

Emotional Angst (high/medium/low): High.
Bujold writes her stories based on "What’s the worst thing I can do to this character?" They have to deal with lost loves, lost children, dishonor, death, disease, social injustice, attempted rape and so much more of the dark, twisty stuff that makes up life. Her books can get really dark but they still don’t take themselves too seriously. And as dark as the depths are to which her characters plunge they still manage to pull themselves back up.

Violence: PG-13 bordering on R.
Her violence is never gratuitous although it is often stark and shocking. I can be a little sensitive about bloodshed and I admit there have been a few scenes of hers that made me squirm, but nothing so disgusting or horrible it made me give up on the book. The Vorkosigan books are probably the most violent. In her books at large there have been mass graves, decapitations, miscarriages, graphic attempted rapes, and other acts of violence to be expected in heightened situations.

Heat level: (kisses/warm/hot/scorching): Kisses/Warm.
As far as the actual love scenes I would say probably kisses to warm. Very little sex takes place on stage. More often there’s a little lead up and then a fade to black. Or veiled allusions to what they’re doing without actually going into Insert Tab A into Slot B purple prose. There are no engorged members thrusting into love grottos here. The sex scenes are really there to build character and plot more than to titillate or excite and as such, are fairly tame. Here’s an example from The Sharing Knife: Beguilement:

Hand. Soon supplemented with tongue, in very tender places indeed. His touch was like silk, there, there, there? ah! She jerked in surprise but eased back. So, this was making love-.Minutes flew. Something was swirling through her, like some astonishingly sweet emergency. His touch grew firmer, swifter, surer. Her eyes closed, her breath came faster, and her spine began to arch. Then her breath caught, and she went rigid, silent, openmouthed, as the sensation burst from her, climbing up to white out her brain, to rush like a tide to her fingers and toes, to ebb.

I would point out that there are sometimes rather frank discussions in Bujold’s books about bisexuality, hermaphrodites, sexual violence and sexual experimentation, just as an FYI for people who might be sensitive about that stuff. Bujold pulls no punches. About anything, really.

If you like Lois McMaster Bujold, you’ll like-

I’m going to break this down too:

In General:
You might try some Georgette Heyer. She has the same enveloping, precise and detail-oriented world-building. Her characters are varied and rich. Her plots can become intricate as a fold of lace. She has romance, adventure, and intrigue. The witty quips fly faster than you can keep up sometimes. These Old Shades has the dark, delicious Duke of Avon. The Talisman Ring is a hilarious romp. The Grand Sophy features an indomitable, headstrong heroine. Personally, I’ve never read a Heyer I didn’t enjoy and the same goes for Bujold’s books too.

In Particular, if You Like:

  • The Vorkosigan Saga try: Finders Keepers by Linnea Sinclair. The world-building isn’t up to Bujold, but if you’re hankering for some military SF with a romance this book reads like a poor man’s Vorkosigan in many places. The hero is pretty much a beefier, "hunk" version of Aral Vorkosigan. He’s even nick-named the Butcher too. I haven’t read any others by Sinclair but she’s a RITA award winning novelist with several other SF titles under her belt: maybe someone else can give more title suggestions. I unfortunately don’t read much SF and the stuff I have read is probably too dated for most modern SF readers. I hope other folks have more suggestions.
  • Chalion try: I would recommend Andre Norton’s Witch World series (most of which have some kind of romance). Some of my favorites would be the first two Witch World books respectively titled The Witch World and Web of the Witch World. Also, Year of the Unicorn (which actually has no unicorns in it- promise!). All three of these have well-developed, satisfying romantic subplots, killer world-building and adept character development. I haven’t read this myself yet but from what I’ve read Sharon Shinn’s Twelve Houses series has similar themes and high stakes like Chalion. A world in peril, the state religion kind of up in the air-Tell me if I’m wrong in the comments, though.
  • The Sharing Knife try: I highly recommend The Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey. Fans of The Sharing Knife books might like the conflict as two sets of peoples (Dragonriders and Holders) try to figure out how to live and support each other amidst a crisis that threatens their whole world. It features the same layered, intricate world-building as a Bujold novel and it has a lot of the same themes. Actually, the more I thought about it the more similarities I saw between the Dragonrider/ Holder and the Lakewalker/Farmer conflicts. Many, if not all, of the Dragonrider books have some sort of romantic subplot and the Dragonrider men are HAWT. I would highly recommend the first two books Dragonflight and Dragonquest. The series is pretty large so if you want to dive in I really recommend reading them in the order they were published and not by the books’ internal chronology. Oh, and don’t bother with the newest ones by her son at all. The Gryphon Saga by Andre Norton, comprised of three books: The Crystal Gryphon, Gryphon in Glory, and Gryphon’s Eyrie. They’re an off-shoot of the Witch World series and they follow Lord Kerovan, a lord’s heir and soldier, and his lady-love, Joisan, as they navigate their war-torn world. The first book has them separated by conflict and chaos. Kerovan has an out of the ordinary appearance (amber colored eyes and cloven feet) and magical abilities to match. Their marriage starts off as an arranged one of convenience but then they move towards friendship and, eventually, love, trust and true companionship. Kerovan reminds me a bit of Dag. He worries constantly if there is something profoundly evil about him because of his immense supernatural power. By the end of the first book Kerovan and Joisan set off into the wide unknown world together to wander and find answers to save themselves and their world.
  • The Spirit Ring try: Robin McKinley’s Beauty and Spindle’s End. These books are similar because of the cooperative defeat of the baddies and the self-sufficient, strong heroines. Also they share the more young adult tone. McKinley’s have more pronounced romances (being based on fairytales) than The Spirit Ring and Bujold in general.

Ok, your turn: What do you recommend?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Tehani
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 05:47:34

    I would recommend Tanya Huff’s SF as being on a par with Lois McMaster Bujold – great characters, not too hard science, and well written stories. Also just read John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War and LOVED it – another softish SF but with great characters and a smidge of romance.

  2. Selene
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 07:12:11

    Ooh, Dear Author is just full of great “If you like” posts lately! I love Bujold for her characterizations and most especially her Vorkosigan novels. Miles is a character that Acts, and often in surprising ways. And as a plus, Bujold’s worldbuilding is good but doesn’t get in the way. That said, I am less fond of her Chalion novels than her other work–although they are still good reads, I felt that they included too many a fantasy cliché.

    Anyway, some recommendations:

    Kate Elliott’s Jaran novels (the first one is called simply Jaran). Mix of fantasy and SF, with interesting cultural mixes and captivating characters. If anyone has read her Crown of Swords novels, let me hasten to add that these are fast reads, much less intricate (more reminiscient of Bujold, in fact) and not bogged down by worldbuilding. As a plus, Jaran centers around a love story, though there are romantic plotlines in all the books.

    Daughter of the Empire by Feist and Wurts. Good worldbuilding, interesting MC who has to step outside of her cultural values and make some hard choices. Quicker pace than Wurt’s novels, better worldbuilding than Feists’.

    I’d also add Robin Hobb’s novels written as Megan Lindholm–like for Elliott, these are substantially different from her work as Hobb. Simpler prose, tighter plots, but full of interesting characters. First one is called Harpy’s flight

    Oh and one final addition: Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris. Reminds me of Bujold in the quick thinking and actions of the characters. Fantasy with an SF feel. And again, good worldbuilding that is just “there”, without getting in the way.


  3. Sandy D.
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 08:20:25

    Oh, it’s hard to come up with books that you’ll like if you like Bujold. So little else measures up.

    Sharon Lee & Steve Miller’s Liaden series is very good, although uneven. It’s most like the Vorkosigan books (space opera, romance, character-driven).

    At the fantasy end of the spectrum, Jo Walton’s books (especially the Farthing series, which is alternative history) also reminds me of Bujold.

    And also Naomi Kritzer’s books, especially the “Turning the Storm” series.

  4. FrancisT
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 09:41:11

    Wen Spencer I think would be a good next step for the romance reader who likes Bjuold and wants some more romantic F/SF.

    A Brother’s Price is a fantasy in a world where there is approxmately 1 man for every 10 women and hence a) women do everything and b) the men get to be mostly protected like delicate flower Victorian heroines
    Tinker and Wolf Who Rules are two books in a series about Pittsburgh going over to the elf lands. They are sort of half fantasy, half SF and all fun
    A Deeper Blue is pure SF about a world where various spacecraft have crash landed.

    There’s also the urban fantasy series (Alien Taste, Tainted Trail, Bitter Waters, Dog Warrior) which I have to admit I haven’t read but which is generally recommended by those that have.

    More details at her website –

  5. Sandy D.
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 09:52:52

    Coming back to mention Eve Kenin’s “Driven” and “Hidden”.

    Part of the problem with doing “if you like Bujold” is that her series are so superficially different. It’s the characters that resonate in all of her books, with honor, skill, difficult relatives, culture clashes, etc.

    I actually googled “if you like Bujold” and “you’ll like” to see what other people recommended, and found some real clunkers. One library suggests Laurell K. Hamilton! WTF?

  6. Heather Massey
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 10:16:37

    Elizabeth, wonderful piece! This was so delicious I had to share it at SFSignal (John DeNardo routinely features links to profiles such as this one). Once you get a taste of Bujold there is no going back.

    To the stellar recommendations above I’d like to add Sandra McDonald’s THE OUTBACK STARS to the list. That story stuck with me in a similar way as Bujold’s CORDELIA’S HONOR. TOS is a terrific mix of accessible military SF, romance, and mystery. The romance arc has a definite beginning, middle and HEA.

    Thanks again for doing this feature.

  7. Sandy D.
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 10:38:29

    Sorry to keep talking here, but I keep thinking of why I love Bujold’s works and what reminds me of her in other authors’ works.

    And I’m coming up with a rather….um, eclectic selection of books and authors that have some of what I like so much in Bujold in them:

    J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”
    Patrick O’Brian’s whole Aubrey/Maturin series
    Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series
    Sharon Shinn – especially her recent YA stuff and the Twelve Houses series
    Suzanne Collins’ “Hunger Games”

  8. Trialia
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 10:45:08

    I’d say, having read and owning all of Lois’ books, that the author I’d most closely recommend to Bujold fans would be Diane Duane – mostly fantasy, with some touches of science fiction, some YA and some adult, some romance, angst, drama, adventure… wonderfully multi-layered and still not so complex you get bogged down in detail.

  9. Aoife
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 10:50:12

    Lois McMaster Bujold is one of my favorite writers because her characters are always multi-dimensional adults, and her worlds are internally consistent, which, frankly, I don’t think many Romance-based fantasy books are.

    To the suggestions others have listed, I would add Sorceror’s Legacy by Janny Wurtz which is about a young woman who is lifted from her own world/universe at the moment life as she knew it is utterly overturned, and given an opportunity to make another life for herself in another world.

    Barbara Hambly’s Ladies of Mandrigyn is still a huge favorite, and while some of the events in it are not for the squeamish, there is also plenty of ironic humour, as well as romance. Actually, I would recommend any of the Sun Wolf/Starhawk series, although, as I said before, they are darker in tone than anything Bujold writes. I also strongly recommend Hambly’s Darwarth series, as well as her Silicon Mage series. The women are always intelligent, frequently warriors in their own right, and the men they love never, ever fit the Romance-hero mold. It makes me so sad that as excellent and as established a writer as Hambly is, she apparently struggles to get published, and has had to return to teaching to make ends meet.

  10. Moth/Elizabeth
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 10:57:10

    Ooh, it’s so pretty. Thank you for making it look so nice for me, Jane! :D

    Glad you liked the piece, Heather.

    Good recommendations so far. I can’t wait to see what else people can think of. *is excited*

  11. Moth/Elizabeth
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 11:04:23

  12. GrowlyCub
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 11:24:31


    I didn’t know if you or Jane had emailed Lois, so I posted the link to this feature to her mailing list this morning.

  13. Jeff Shultz
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 11:28:13

    One very minor correction – Kareen is the youngest daughter in the all-female blond commando corps. :)

  14. Moth
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 11:31:59

    oops. I never can keep all the Koudelka girls straight for order of birth.

  15. Kimber An
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 11:37:31

    Thanks a whole bunch! I’m just getting into Bujold and I wish I had time to dive in with all fours.

  16. BJ van Look
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 12:37:31


    I stopped reading Hambly and stopped recommending Hambly when I discovered that she, her agent or her publisher refuse to allow fan-fic, far-art or fan music. As much as I adored her Antryg Windrose books, I just couldn’t get past the anti-fan attitude.

    Lois is much more sensible about her fans. :) That’s why I keep buying her (in hardcover!) and recommending her. I enjoy Miles, love Aral and absolutely adore Caz.

  17. Jessa Slade
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 13:04:21

    Great in-depth review of her work! I stumbled upon The Paladin of Souls accidentally and was blown away. What an amazing heroine. If you haven’t read it, you MUST.

    The Hambly suggestions are a good like-read for the Chalion series. I hadn’t heard about her anti-fan-fic stance, but I think the Dragonsbane books rise above any squabbling.

    I’ll have to poke around the other suggestions. The Wen Spencer stuff sounds intriguing.

  18. Selene
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 13:25:11

    I’ll second Hambly’s Ladies of Mandrigyn series. A bit darker, but great reading. And there’s romance. *G*


  19. Michelle
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 13:29:01

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write this! I also discovered Lois McMaster Bujold through a blog – word wenches – and luckily one of her books was on a front table the next time I went to Borders. It was one of the Chalion books, and I loved it – and loved the world-building. I also found the religion so interesting and fleshed out.

    I also think Bujold’s greatest strength is her characterization. I think she’s one of the best at deep point of view. I also love how honorable her heroes are while they often feel washed-up, over-the-hill, beat up around the edges, etc. and often have a military background. The one author who I think writes heroes with that same core of honor and complete lack of understanding of how wonderful they are because of it is Carla Kelly. She writes traditional regency romances, and I think all her books would have to be found used.

    I’m primarily a romance reader when it comes to fiction, so I always feel at a complete loss when I try to find someone like LMB. I still don’t feel like I know my way around the sf/fan world. I definitely plan to start reading some of these recommendations.

  20. Abigail
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 13:34:57

    Oh, well, that’s too bad about Barbara Hambly’s fandom decisions, but it really doesn’t affect whether or not her books are worth reading. There aren’t enough books I like to, in effect, cut off my nose to spite my face. Even more than her fantasy, I like her Ben January books; they are automatic grabs for me. Even the darker ones. I may not ever re-read the one where he went back undercover as a slave, but I’ll NEVER forget it. It made black history more real to me than any essay or history book I ever read. Start with “A Free Man of Color.”

    Most of these recommendations I heartily endorse. Duane – do try to find her out-of-print and wonderful Door into Fire, Door into Shadow, Door into Sunset. Way better, though sadly not so successful, than the Young Wizards.

    And thanks for the names that I haven’t read. Yay, new books!

  21. Megaera
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 14:05:43

    The problem with Bujoldalike recommendations is that her books have so many layers that it’s almost impossible to figure out which layers are appealing to the person who asks the question. I’ve even asked this question on Fiction-L (a librarians’ readers advisory listserve) and all even they were able to say was a collective, “but there’s no one like Miles” (this was back before Curse of Chalion).

    That said, here’s my usual truly off-the-wall one true readalike [g] for Bujold:

    The Amelia Peabody books by Elizabeth Peters, which are historical mysteries set in Edwardian-era Egypt. Let me list the similarities:

    Larger than life characters in an exotic setting, an unreliable narrator, romance, a hero to ooh over (Miles, of course, and in the Peabody books, Amelia’s son Ramses later in the series), characters who grow up and older and change over the course of the series, adventure that emerges from the characters’ personalities and flaws, and more romance [g].

    It’s not that I don’t like the SFnal aspects of Bujold — I do, very much. But I look on uterine replicators and wormhole travel and butterbugs and all that sort of thing the same way I view the archaelogical background of the Peabody books. They’re part of what makes each series unique and interesting, but they’re not what I read the books for.

    I’ve been looking in vain for more books like these two series ever since [sigh].

  22. Sherri D.
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 14:39:51

    HA! What a timely posting! I just finished A CIVIL CAMPAIGN and handed it off to a friend demanding she read it. I laughed all the way through. I see Lois as a SF Jane Austin with her dry humor and digs against society. Anything I’ve read by her is wonderful. I would HIGHLY recommend A.C. Crispin’s STORMS OF DESTINY, the first book in The Exiles of Boq’urain. Strong women, an enslaved prince, a terrible god. Wonderful world building. I won’t loan this book out because I know I’ll be buying multiple copies if I do. I think/hope Crispin’s still working on book two. I know she is a tireless advocate on the Writer Beware site. STORMS got me back to reading fantasy/SF after a very long break, and then I found Bujold! Great topic posting — thank you Elizabeth.

  23. Sandy D.
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 15:19:58

    I did think the Robin McKinley recommendation was right on the mark, but I’d suggest “Sunshine” and “Dragonhaven” (or even the classic “The Hero and the Crown”) instead of “Beauty” or “Spindle’s End”. McKinley’s female heroines are complicated and strong, though, like Bujold’s.

    btw, Elizabeth, I forgot to say this was a great review/summary, and much appreciated.

  24. Liz L
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 15:40:26

    Oh Miles!
    These have been my absolute favorite-must-keep-with-me-at-all-times books since high school. No other books have ever quite stacked up when it comes to sheer emotional investment in a set of characters.

    A Civil Campaign is dedicated to ‘Jane, Charlotte, Georgette, and Dorothy, long may they rule'. I had Jane, Charlotte, and Georgette covered but it took forever to find my way to Dorothy Sayers. If you love Bujold’s books because you’ve fallen in love with her characters, then Dorothy Sayers is an absolute must. It’s a genre leap- Dorothy Sayers wrote classic 1930s detective fiction about the deliciously neurotic Lord Peter Wimsey (whose personality tics and quirks line up much like Miles’s). The early Wimsey books convey the same pitch-perfect sense of time, place, and motivation captured by Bujold. I personally loved ‘Murder Must Advertise', where I could practically smell the cigarette smoke in the advertising agency. The later books, much to Sayers’s chagrin, became invested in the burgeoning relationship between Lord Peter and mystery writer Harriet Vane, whom he saved from the gallows in ‘Strong Poison'. The intricate dance of attraction and obligation between Ekaterin and Miles was borrowed straight from Harriet and Peter. And if you think Miles writes a mean love letter, wait until you read what Peter has to say! ‘Gaudy Night' might be one of my favorite romances of all times.

    Another rec I would put out there is Carla Kelly. Again, it’s all about characters. Kelly brings a certain brutal honesty to her characters’ highs and lows that replicates what I loved in Bujold’s books. Also, like Bujold, Kelly writes stories not about the rich and beautiful but about the brave and wounded. It’s a nice change of pace. Personal favorites of mine are ‘Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand,' ‘The Lady's Companion,' ‘Reforming Lord Ragsdale,' ‘Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind,' and at the top of the list, ‘The Wedding Journey.'

    For more wonderful Regency-esque/sci-fi fusion romances, try Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. They have written a series of books set in the ritual-bound world of the Liaden, where verbal slips explode into dangerous clan feuds and where sensitive, jewel-bedecked, beautiful men meet up with brainy, mouthy, tough women. I love it all- the intricate family relationships, the 100/100 balance of character and plot, the excellent and unobtrusive world-building, and the unique take on gender, relationships, and culture. My favorites here are ‘Scout's Progress' and ‘Conflict of Honors.' Both would be fairly acceptable places to enter the main Liaden storyline.

    And hold on to your horses- after the final Sharing Knife book comes out in 2009, a new Bujold currently under the working title of ‘New Miles’ is slated for 2010. From what people reported from a Bujold reading at a Denver convention, our intrepid hero (and father of more than just twins) will be wandering a space station high on funky drugs after a botched kidnapping attempt. No doubt many adventures will ensue.

  25. Jorrie Spencer
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 15:46:09

    A Civil Campaign is dedicated to ‘Jane, Charlotte, Georgette, and Dorothy, long may they rule'. I had Jane, Charlotte, and Georgette covered but it took forever to find my way to Dorothy Sayers.

    Heh, for some reason I always assumed it was Dorothy Dunnett. But given the context, that is, A Civil Campaign, probably not!

    I need to try Strong Poison again. I found it hard-going at the beginning, to be honest.

  26. Throwmearope
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 15:55:36

    Ursula Leguin is my second favorite SF author after Bujold. Leguin lacks Bujold’s light, deft touch in characterization, but her worldbuilding is phenomenal. Left Hand of Darkness, no wait, the Dispossed, probably my favorites. Leguin is a bit darker than Bujold, but her writing glides you through the rough patches.

  27. Brie
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 16:04:16

    I’m currently reading the second book in The Sharing Knife series and loving it. As I read your thoughts on the characters and the writing all I could do is nod in agreement.

    I should bring up that while reading Beguilement I did not think that the world building was all that intricate, but after beginning Legacy I realized that the world building was intricate, but subtly so. I guess I’m just so used to info dumping, and confusing mythology, that I didn’t know great world building when I read it.

    I will be branching out to her earlier work soon, so thanks for the great summation of Ms. Bujold’s work. Makes it a lot easier to decide which book to move on to next.

  28. Moth
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 16:16:27

    I’m glad everyone enjoyed reading my summary so much. It really was a pleasure to write. So many of these recommendations sound wonderful (in fact I just requested some of them at the library!). Of course, it’s also really nice to hear how so many other people love all the wonderful characters and worlds of Bujold. There really is no one quite like her. :)

  29. Estara
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 16:44:47

    You really picked out the best quotes and have great descriptions about LMB’s world. If I didn’t have all the books already, I’d be ordering like crazy. Great introduction!

    And all the other comments have already mentioned the authors that come to my mind, although no one is quite like LMB.

  30. Debra Date
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 17:29:58

    I’m wondering if I am totally off base in recommending David Weber’s Honor Harrington series. It’s populated by memorable characters and death defying stories that have the same feel as the Vor universe.

  31. Laurie
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 17:35:57

    I clicked here to check out something else and stumbled on your fabulous review of LMB. Wow, what a detailed review of all things Lois.

    My online bookclub JUST finished Beguilement and had our live chat about it last night. We discussed many of the points you brought up regarding the strength of her heroines, her wounded heroes, the tender and beautiful romance, the complex yet believable world, and the tastefully titillating love scenes.

    The friend who recommended it says LMB writes science fiction for those who aren’t necessarily into science fiction. And that would be me. My attention strays when there’s a lot of heavy world-building. Bujold leaves out the intimidating info dumps and weaves in the details as she tells the story and builds her characters.

    Again, wonderful review, and thanks for all the recommendations.

  32. Liz L
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 17:49:06

    I'm wondering if I am totally off base in recommending David Weber's Honor Harrington series. It's populated by memorable characters and death defying stories that have the same feel as the Vor universe.

    Not at all- I was wondering the same thing! There is a lot more military/tech verbiage to wade through, but Honor Harrington is a character that has stuck with me a very long time.

    On the other hand, I feel as though the latest Honor Harringtons have been rather weak, mostly because they abandon the really successful and intimate formula of the first five or six books in favor of ‘Honor gets yet another promotion/medal/title/cool toy/project and has tea with the Queen’. Which is fun for a while but never has that nail-biting suspense of “How will she get out of this one, and what much loved character will die in a ghastly fashion in the process?”

    What did you think of the Honorverse add-ons? I rather liked ‘Crown of Slaves’ (strange and unexpectedly bondage-laden as it was) and ‘The Shadow of Saganaki’.

    Either way, David Weber is a painless choice for a reading experiment since so much of his Honor stuff is online for free over at Baen.

    (Just don’t be fooled like I was- unless there’s a co-author on the cover, when buying from Baen say OH JOHN RINGO NO!)

  33. Liz L
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 17:56:57

    Just because I am geeking out on LMB today, thanks to this lovely post…

    An interesting take on writing a scene I tend to take for granted in what I read.

  34. Frances Drake
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 18:24:05

    Jane, what a terrific post. More like a PhD thesis than a blog post. *G* Well done. I learned a lot that I didn’t know, which doesn’t say much, I’m learning stuff all the time. I am a huge fan of Ms Bujold, and have just posted a review of CORDELIA’S HONOR, Part I, SHARDS OF HONOR on my blog Frances Writes. If you have the time, I hope that it meets with your approval.

  35. SonomaLass
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 18:45:16

    On my shelf, Lois’ books are next to Ursula LeGuin, Naomi Novik, and Sherri Tepper. LeGuin and Tepper both wrote mostly stand-alone novels, which can be a blessing if you are a little overloaded with long series.

    I thought the Chalion books were a particular triumph; they just hit a real chord with me, lover of “high fantasy” that I am. If those are your favorite Bujold books, then I strongly recommend anything by Guy Gavriel Kay. I almost always encourage people to start with Tigana, but anything of his is marvelous.

  36. Tae
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 19:51:52

    I started Bujold with Curse of Chalion and I was hooked. She lives in the same city I used to live in, so I met her even before I read any of her books. Then I went and found everything she’d ever written and devoured it all. I’d say the Chalion series is my favorite thus far, though it’s hard not to love Miles.

    I can’t say that there’s any comparable fantasy, but for SF I love Elizabeth Moon’s Serrano/Suiza books. They’re military SF, but not so technical and there is a little romance in them.

    I love the Sharon Shinn fantasy books for the romance, though I think I enjoyed the Angel books more than the 12 Houses (both are good series though).

  37. Abigail
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 21:30:42

    Debra and Liz, I do enjoy the Harrington books, but they are really not at all comparable to Miles. There’s really not that much worldbuilding, just bulk transference of various Earth societies into the future. (Except for treecats. Treecats are WONDERFUL.) There are infodumps from hell, and far more technical info on non-existent military starships than anyone needs to know.

    That said, I have read all the books and will continue to do so.

    John Ringo — well, the Posleen books (Gust Front et al.) are HORRIBLE. How many thousand people can we obliterate on this page? and the next page? and the next page? But the council wars ones are not bad, and once I got over my shock, I actually kind of enjoyed the Kildar books. And Prince Roger is yummy.

    If you have an e-reader, Baen is re-releasing Andre Norton on their Webscription series, so if you have lost some of your early favorites, you may be able to find them there. And I have to make a plug for Baen as an e-book marketing genius. It was Jim Baen’s philosophy, that the house is continuing after his death, that free or inexpensive e-books (4 new ones plus some reprints for $15, every month) makes economic sense for the publisher, because it gets all those authors out where they can be discovered by more people. Piracy, schmiracy, piracy just brings in new potential customers. All of Bujold’s Vorkosiverse books are available at for $4-$6 each, and many of those are omnibus editions of 2-3 books. Sadly, Harper Collins (Chalion and Sharing Knife) aren’t on board with the policy.

  38. msaggie
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 22:45:11

    Elizabeth and Jane, thanks so much for the masterly treatise on Lois McMaster Bujold’s works! I agree on the recommendations of what readers who like LMB may also like. I second the suggestion of Ursula Leguin – The Left Hand of Darkness is one of my favourite novels, with so much packed into it, for all it’s just over 200 pages (my copy is anyway).

    For readers who veer towards fantasy-romance, a la Robin McKinley, I would recommend Juliet Marillier – her books are lyrical, and tend to blend mythological and druidic elements, but are very well-written, almost fairy-tale like, with “learning tales” woven into them. The fourth Sevenwaters book has just been published. I also like her Bridei Chronicles and the Viking books (Wolfskin and Foxmask). She has two YA books – Wildwood Dancing and Cybele’s Secret which are also very good.

  39. Moth/Elizabeth
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 00:08:49

    The friend who recommended it says LMB writes science fiction for those who aren't necessarily into science fiction. And that would be me.

    Totally true! Me too. I don’t really dig hard SF.

    I'd say the Chalion series is my favorite thus far, though it's hard not to love Miles.

    I concur. Cazaril’s story is just so, so wonderful but I do have a very special place in my heart for Miles and all his tribulations.

    This was so fun! Now I’m trying to think of another author I love so’s I can host another one of these. Everyone has been so very wonderful and thank you to the Janes for letting me do this. :D

    ~Elizabeth (aka Moth)

  40. Moth/Elizabeth
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 00:30:59

    Lois McMaster Bujold herself let me know:

    “Btw, if you want to make a couple of small corrections — _Shards of Honor_, not _The Warrior’s Apprentice_, was my first published book (tho’ also in 1986.) And I’ve never won a World Fantasy Award, although I’ve been nominated. _The Curse of Chalion_ actually won the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Fantasy.

    Ta, L. (being meticulous.)”

  41. Shannon C.
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 01:41:12

    Excellent post. And most of those I’d recommend have been mentioned already, though I’d like to give a shout out to those recommending the Liadan books. I just read Conflict of Honors and loved it. It wasn’t as deep as the Miles books, but I lurved me some Shan. *sigh*

    Also, I’ve only ever read the Ukiah Oregon series by Wen Spencer and I’m not seeing the similarities. Ukiah’s a great character, but those plots… They often turn left at bizarre and just stay there.

  42. FrancisT
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 05:05:45

    Also, I've only ever read the Ukiah Oregon series by Wen Spencer and I'm not seeing the similarities. Ukiah's a great character, but those plots… They often turn left at bizarre and just stay there.

    Like I say, I haven’t read those books so I can’t comment. I think the rest of the Wen Spencer oeuvre is good though and Tinker/Wolf Who Rules are somewhat reminiscent of Liad (well I see similarities)

  43. Angela James
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 08:21:54

    Web Spencer’s Ukiah Oregon series and the Tinker/Wolf Who Rules books are very, very different. I think the Tinker rec was a good one in relation to this conversation.

  44. Muria
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 09:31:37

    I love Lois’s books. I’ve been looking for filler books until the next Miles book comes out, so thanks for the recommendations. I will say that I don’t personally care for the Honor Harrington book that I read, as I thought the violence was a bit too graphic and aloof (it’s silly, but I felt extraordinarily detached, but repelled by the death scenes). YMMV, of course.
    For the humor part, I highly recommend Terry Pratchett, particularly the Watch books (_Guards!Guards!_, _Men at Arms_, _The Fifth Element_ (probably my favorite of the bunch), _Nightwatch_, and _Thud!_). The characters are well drawn, and the world is fairly well established (then again, I’ve been reading his books for at least 18 years, so it’s pretty cemented in my head by now). I’ve re-read the last three books of the series almost as many times as I have Lois’s books. While the fantasy tropes are there, it’s satirized. The first book I read of his, _The Light Fantastic_, was a brilliant satire of the fantasy standards.
    For other light fantasy, I usually recommend anything by Diana Wynne Jones, and Robin McKinley (though I couldn’t get into _Dragonhaven_, for some reason, but I loved _Beauty_). I second the recommendation for Barbara Hambly’s Sunwolf series, though I thought her dragon series ended up being pretty depressing.

  45. Liz L
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 11:39:50

    Jorrie Spencer-

    I need to try Strong Poison again. I found it hard-going at the beginning, to be honest.

    I agree that one starts slow- I don’t remember *loving* Strong Poison, although I was hooked when (I think) Freddie dropped a couple of breezy Gilbert and Sullivan quotes into his rather vacuous conversation. Every time I read “Freddie” in that book, I found my brain substituting “that idiot Ivan”… I think the early books are a lot of fun, but they tend a bit more to the superficial, almost manic wit of one of those clever old movies. It’s the later books that really delve into character, but in order to become invested in the characters in the first place, the early books are a must. A bit of a quandary… The only book I would dis-recommend for starting out would be ‘The Five Red Herrings’. That was Sayers’s experiment with the classic mechanical train schedules-and-alibi mystery. Peter doesn’t even get high off detecting until the last fifty pages.


    Debra and Liz, I do enjoy the Harrington books, but they are really not at all comparable to Miles.

    You’re absolutely right, and thank goodness I read the Honor books before the Miles books. The characterizations in Miles kinda spoiled me for vast swathes of military sci-fi. Also, I’ve successfully recommended Miles to romance readers and fantasy readers. I’ve only had success recommending Honor to fairly hard-core military history/military sci-fi readers (basically, my dad).

    Shannon C.-

    I just read Conflict of Honors and loved it. It wasn't as deep as the Miles books, but I lurved me some Shan.

    Strangely enough, the first time I read Conflict of Honors (which was back before I really read much romance) I was slightly bored. When I went back and reread it this year, I was blown away by what a great romance it was. I think years of reading the Big Mis prepped me to appreciate a completely reasonable, fascinating, and compelling misunderstanding stemming from the different expectations and assumptions made by two people from different cultural backgrounds. And Shan is quite yummy, of course…

  46. votermom
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 20:17:14

    My friend who is a big Bujold fan and romance reader loves me for recommending Catherine Asaro’s science fiction to her.
    I’m also a Wen Spencer fan – her A Brother’s Price is probably one of my favorite feminist novels.

  47. BlueRose
    Nov 12, 2008 @ 02:13:08

    I came here from the Bujold Mailing list, and wanted to see what the fuss was about. First of all *excellent* article, and second lots of fab recommendations.

    Should I be concerned that I think I have read something like 95% of all the books/authors recommended above?

    I also put my hand up and RAVE about the Liaden books, they arent as deep as the Miles ones for example, but are funny and witty and clever and have cats as main characters.

    Janny Wurts and Michelle West (not yet noted above I dont think) both do big fat series with big fat books. They both do excellent deep complex characters, lovely world building, celtic knot plots. Heavier going than Bujold but rewarding in their own way.

    Elantris by Brandon Sanderson was mentioned, and I heartily endorse that – its an excellent one off, but I was disappointed by his series. The majic was cool but the story and characters just bored me.

    Jaran by Kate Elliott is also mentioned, and its only 4 books of a series that was just getting good but her main character has a *lot* of Cordelia parallels – falls in love with a charismatic man from a different world with lower tech levels

  48. Chicklet
    Nov 12, 2008 @ 09:54:41

    I second the recommendation of Guy Gavriel Kay, who writes Fantasy (not Science Fiction) and is aces at world-building and characterization. My first exposure to him was The Fionavar Tapestry trilogy (The Summer Tree, The Wandering Fire, and The Darkest Road) and I’ve been hooked ever since. Sublime.

  49. El-senrab
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 00:36:56

    I just came from the bujold nexus/LMB’s my space entry about this site. Great review! Bujold is the best with a range from raucous romps – The Civil Campaign, to mystery – Memory, to touching romance – The Sharing Knife series. It is hard to find LMB’s equal on beloved characters and engaging adventure in a world that keeps your imagination awake.

    I also highly recommend: Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry trilogy and all his further books. Orson Scott Card’s – Ender series also a great one.

  50. mary anne
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 01:18:45

    Bujold is one of my top three or four, buy-without-stopping-to-browse-first authors. She’s in a category of her own. The others I recommend are Megan Whalen Turner (the Thief series) and Emma Bull. And I also read anything by Carla Kelly (mentioned above – she writes Regency Romances, which are a genre hop, but great characters.) Turner has not published any other novels besides the Thief series, so I try to space out my re-reads and really savor them – it’s a long time between new novels from her. Bull just released a new one last year; she had also had a long dry spell. But she has been collaborating with several other SFF authors on a web-based series called Shadow Unit – it’s been fascinating to follow. And finally, I would throw in a recommendation for Sherwood Smith – very involved world-building and complex, engaging characters, especially her latest Inda series.

  51. BlueRose
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 02:30:25

    Oooh Oooh How could I forget Sherwood Smith!!!

    I second, third and forth the recommendation for the Inda series, they are EXCELLENT.

    And very Bujold like in general story structure, and the lovely depth and personality to the characters.

  52. Selene
    Nov 14, 2008 @ 08:15:18

    Am I missing something with Sherwood Smith? I tried to finish Inda, I really did, but it was putting me to sleep. The whole coming-of-age type of novel rarely works for me, I’ll admit… Does it get better towards the end?


  53. mary anne
    Nov 14, 2008 @ 11:03:23

    I have to admit a weakness for “coming of age” stories, which probably explains why I like Sherwood Smith so much. Many of her stories are in that vein. Though if you think of it, do we ever really “come of age?” Isn’t every good story one where the characters grow, and change, and come into a new age?

    Enough of the philosophy. As I was walking by one of my bookshelves yesterday, I saw a few of Martha Wells’ books, and thought, “How could I forget her in my top most recommended authors?!” Great books and great characters. Too bad she has not published anything new lately. Except, I think, for a Stargate novel, which I have not followed, so have not picked up the book

  54. Selene
    Nov 16, 2008 @ 05:58:13

    Mary Anne–

    Isn't every good story one where the characters grow, and change, and come into a new age?

    Well, yes, but I find that in growing from child to adult most people tend to face certain issues, and I tend to find it dull reading about them. (Having already faced them myself once upon a time? Who knows…) I’d rather read about mature people growing and changing and making decisions. *shrug*


  55. Stephanie Leary
    Nov 17, 2008 @ 11:45:07

    I just finished the Miles books about a week ago. I’m still in that dizzy, madly in love stage of having discovered a new favorite. The friend who loaned me the books had just borrowed my Scott Lynch books, and told me I’d like Miles because he was a lot like Locke Lamora. Even now that I’m done, Locke isn’t the first comparison that comes to mind, but… yeah. My friend is right.

    I’m glad others have mentioned the Liaden Universe series. I’ve worn out two copies of Scout’s Progress, and Local Custom isn’t looking too healthy either. Fortunately Ace is reissuing the whole series next year.

    Selene, I had a hard time getting into Inda as well, but I’m so glad I stuck with it, because it did pick up toward the end, and The Fox (book 2) is stunning. My only concern about the third book is that it was so satisfying, I can’t imagine the fourth topping it! I really love these books, although I do admit the abundance of nicknames and interchangeable titles makes it hard to follow who’s who. I finally resorted to keeping the character list handy.

  56. Michaela August
    Nov 22, 2008 @ 13:09:12

    Wonderful article and discussion! Being familiar with and loving most of the authors already mentioned, I want to add just a few more names of authors whose prose is as electric, riveting, seamless and enfolding as Bujold’s:

    Carrie Vaughn, whose Kitty the Werewolf Urban fantasy series has the same kind of clear-eyed, honorable heroine as Cordelia Naismith, with a more complicated romantic story and a really good grip on fantasy vs real life troubles.

    Charlaine Harris, hopefully even more famous now since True Blood has been made an HBO series. Like Dorothy Sayers, she has written many mysteries, and for her the South as a setting is as much a character as the people. Besides her several mystery series, and the Southern Vampire Series, she also has a series about a woman who finds dead people. Her main characters have complicated, violent pasts and get into complicated romances and really violent situations, but they don’t lose hope.

    And some authors whose world-building comes close to Bujold’s:

    Carol Berg, fantasy author of several series. Her most recent, Flesh and Spirit, Breath and Bone is a lyrical story of a seemingly-doomed world whose hero goes through more changes…

    Kristine Smith, whose heroine starts out as a Super-Admin, super-soldier in hiding and goes from there to… And the series is complete, which I know is an issue for some readers.

    I could go on: repeating recommendations for Martha Wells, Kate Elliott, Robin Hobb, Elizabeth Moon, Terry Pratchett, Carla Kelly, Miller and Lee (their Web site has a “Friends of Liad Congruent Authors List” for more ‘if you like them, you’ll like…’ books.)

    Adding Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden series. Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series…

    So many books. Why do I wish there were more?

  57. Heather>>The Galaxy Express>>Tofu Turkey Time-Out
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 19:57:34

    […]Dear Author presents a stellar, in-depth profile of Lois McMaster Bujold[…]

  58. ozettegirl
    Nov 30, 2008 @ 21:42:14

    wow everyone

    I cannot tell you how delighted I am to have found this post and this group of readers. I was despairing of EVER finding anyone who could appreciate LMB. (outside of my family, that is).

    LMB’s books are part of the fabric of our family–or our lives even, although you might not believe it, its true. We’ve all read them, shared them, quoted them verbatim, and refer to them with glances and jokes. Cordelia, Aral, Miles, Ivan, Ekaterine… they’re all old friends.

    its so awesome that y’all have read them too!

    ok, for recommendations (I’m sorry but nothing comes close for me) but one must find other things to read between LMB re-readings….

    for complex world-building
    Deeds of Paksenarrion (the 3 books in one) by Elizabeth Moon is excellent. High-fantasy and a strong female heroine.
    A Man Rides Through/Mirror of her Dreams by Stephen R Donaldson ( i couldn’t get into his other books, but liked these 2)

    for great characters
    Villains by Necessity by Eve Forward has some great characters

    for space opera
    Stardoc (at least the first three or four I really liked)

    someone already mentioned Sharon Shinn. I’m not a huge fan but I did really like Summers at Castle Auburn (its young adult fantasy)

  59. ozettegirl
    Nov 30, 2008 @ 22:01:28

    sorry, to continue from just above:

    another few books that I’ve liked:
    Crown Duel/Court Duel by Sherwood Smith (I read your discussion above–these are the only books I’ve really liked from her)

    The Blue Sword by McKinley (already mentioned above)

    Dealing with Dragons (Patricia Wrede is awesome–and this series is funny!)

    Pride and Prejudice (classics are awesome)

    War for the Oaks by Emma Bull (urban fantasy)

    Illusion by Paula Volsky (an alternate reality version of the French Revolution)

    Recluce books by L E Modesitt Jr (start with Magic of Recluce) —awesome world building

    I have to go but I hope that you’ll give some of these authors a try. Again, so glad to hear from you all and know there are others out there who really love Miles et al too!! (I knew there had to be some!)


  60. Wombat
    Dec 09, 2008 @ 15:54:25

    Excellent review/overview, thank you!

    I second many of the recs above, especially McKinley, but must specifically say this:

    In these discussions I rarely see LMB fans recommending Ursula K. LeGuin, but I think she is a great fit for us. She also writes a range from SF to high-magic fantasy, although she rarely gets as far toward techno-SF as some of the Vorkosigan series does.

    I think lots of people read one or two of Le Guin’s books, don’t fall in love with her because they pick the wrong books for their particular preferences, and never realize that in the spectrum of her writing there are probably some, or many, other books they would like.

    She also, like LMB, went from strong to stronger to incredible! as she aged. She is in her eighties? now, and sadly I found her last book a bit disappointing: she got obsessed with a minor character out of Virgil and wrote a novel from her perspective, which is cool but I thought it fell a bit flat. But others of her works of the last few decades are as stunning as the best of LMB.

    So: if you like Chalion & The Spirit Ring, try the EarthSea trilogy and especially its 3 follow-ups written decades later. The follow-up novels and short stories re-visit the one strong female protagonist from the original trilogy and make her central, then bring in more new strong females. Fantastic! Also try The Wind’s 12 Quarters, short stories.

    If you love Miles & the Vorkoverse, try The Left Hand of Darkness, and any of her books in the Hainish group (though I found Worlds of Exile and Illusion kind of depressing.)

    If you love The Sharing Knife, try Always Coming Home (not the same type of romance, but a wonderful imagining of a far-future but not high-tech Pacific Northwest civilization.)

    Ok, wow, I’ll stop now. Thanks to all the recs above, I’m going to the library!

  61. BlueRose
    Dec 09, 2008 @ 16:47:13

    I have tried Le Guin but I seriously struggle with her gender politics and politics in general and I have never enjoyed a Le Guin story. I think the last book I read was the Dispossed and it annoyed me so much I have never read anything of hers since and I am unlikely too ever again


  62. chris
    Dec 11, 2008 @ 18:20:15

    A Civil Campaign is dedicated to ‘Jane, Charlotte, Georgette, and Dorothy, long may they rule'. I had Jane, Charlotte, and Georgette covered but it took forever to find my way to Dorothy Sayers.

    Interesting – I know who Jane, Georgette, and Dorothy are, but can’t figure out Charlotte.

    One other author I love but haven’t seen mentioned in this thread yet is Jane Lindskold – I can’t really put a finger on what they have in common other than character and plot not being an either/or decision, though.

    It seems like most of these recommendations (including mine, I admit) are for other SF/fantasy, not for other romance. (Except Heyer.) Does that mean that most of the people here are mostly SF/fantasy readers so that’s what they recommend, or what? For me personally, Bujold was the one who lured me over the line (such as it is) between the genres, and it was about the time I was reading Dag’s speech to Fawn’s family (quoted above) that I realized I liked romance if it was well done.

    But I don’t really have much of a map to tell the well-done romance from the poorly-done romance… there’s a couple other authors I’m looking at based on their contributions to Irresistible Forces and that’s about it so far.

  63. Laura
    Dec 11, 2008 @ 21:49:16


    I know who Jane, Georgette, and Dorothy are, but can't figure out Charlotte.

    Charlotte Bronte.

  64. Liz L
    Dec 12, 2008 @ 10:50:42

    Hi Chris-

    I’ll plug away again for Carla Kelly as being the epitome of what I’d call good romance. If you liked the relationship between Dag and Fawn I think you’d appreciate Kelly’s couples as well. Kelly wrote quite a few Regency Romances set in and around the Penninsular Wars, and many of her road romances feature two people struggling through tough times together and growing closer as they see the best (and the worst) the other has to offer.

    I’ll put in an extra special plug for “The Wedding Journey” as being a fantastic road romance a la Dag and Fawn. The hero is a shy Scottish surgeon who turns out to be a fantastic leader, and the heroine is a sturdy survivor of years following the drum with her no-good parents. The slow growth of a romance between the two is absolutely fantastic. This is also one of the easier Carla Kelly books to find, as it’s still in print.

  65. GrowlyCub
    Dec 12, 2008 @ 10:57:52

    I think Kelly must be an acquired taste, because I thought The Wedding Journey was one of the most boring books with a couple I couldn’t have cared less about I’ve ever read and I was told after the fact by long-time fans that it’s not the best Kelly title to start with. I’ve since tried one or two more and never made it past the first few pages. Just seems to be a case of reader/writer incompatibility.

    It would have never occurred to me that it has anything in common with Dag and Fawn except for being road books.

    Different strokes and all that. :) Btw, can I brag and mention that I got the Horizon ARC via the Harper Collins First Look program? :) Yummy!

  66. Kathleen Hanrahan
    Dec 16, 2008 @ 00:36:57

    @Abigail: Although Harper Collins isn’t as generous about the books they publish (Chalion and Sharing Knife) as Baen is, those books are available as e-Books from Fictionwise in a couple of formats, from Amazon in the Kindle format , and from Sony in the Sony Reader format . And usually the pricing isn’t too far off paperback prices.

  67. Lisa Paitz Spindler, Danger Gal»Blog Archive » Danger Gal Friday: Lt. Jodenny Scott
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  68. Ulrike
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 01:02:49

    The heroine of Hallowed Hunt is Ijada (not Ijara). I’m not usually very good with names, but I happen to be reading it right now.

  69. Chenebe
    May 04, 2009 @ 00:15:19

    I’m working my way through some of the recommendations here, none too methodically, but thought I would weigh in with my experience so far:

    Twelve Houses series by Sharon Shinn: Yes, if you liked Bujold’s fantasy. No, if you prefer the Vorkosigan universe.

    The Honor Harrington books: No, sorry. It’s got a similar light touch to the Vorkosigan universe but it lack heart.

    The Liaden universe: I liked it even less than the Honour Harrington books. Space opera for sure, but the heart of the story is very forgettable. Strangely, reminded me of Anne McCaffery’s book Killashandra.

    Jaran by Kate Elliot: I found it hard to get into. Maybe it’s the aliens. The writing was clear enough, but everything just felt a little contrived. Doesn’t have the sparkle I love in Bujold’s writing. Maybe I should try the Crown of Swords series.

    Sherwood Smith: Fun if you enjoyed Civil Campaign, as the Crown Duel series is a homage to Austen too I think.

    I’m trying to read Heyer and Sayers, but have not found the magical connection everyone talks about? Granted, Wimsey is pretty funny. I do like a hero in control of his environment. But I sold my copy of Cottillon after I read it, the hero and heroine just annoyed me.

    The two recommendations that I REALLY enjoyed: The Amelia Peabody books, and Old Man’s War by John Scalzi. They really have HUMOUR, which I realise is what I prize most in Bujold’s writing, which I also why I vastly prefer her sci-fi work (considered low sci-fi I think, although I think she redifined space opera) to her fantasy works (high fantasy takes itself soooo seriously).

    Anyway, will continue working through the list, and post further responses. Just wanted to say thanks to everyone who made recommendations. It’s been really fun working through it.

  70. Frances
    May 04, 2009 @ 05:38:12

    Chenebe, Well done! I haven’t read all of them, but I agree with your assessment on those that I have read. Helps me to know the others to go after. Thanks.

  71. Chenebe
    May 18, 2009 @ 00:27:25

    ‘A Brother’s Price’ by Wen Spencer was very enjoyable. Fun, well thought out societal dynamics if men were rare and valuable. Nice character interactions, I especially liked it when Jerin rapped the princess’ fingers when she wanted to dip it in the maple syrup!

    I also tried ‘Elantris’ which was recommended here, but found it not as easy to get into. The feisty, intelligent princess is an appealing character, but the evangelical priest just bored me.

  72. Moth
    Jul 08, 2009 @ 19:54:31

    Interesting interview with Bujold, focused on one of my favorites: Paladin of Souls.

    The old model of “maid, matron, crone” for women's lives was based on a much shorter average life-span. Modern technology, over the past 150 years, has literally doubled the life expectancy of women in industrial societies (from 40 to 45 years to 80 to 90 years). With lower birth rates, “matron” takes less of a bite than ever out of the prime years, and the debilitation of old age is pushed off for decades. This gives instead a life structure of “maid, matron, 20-or-30-year-blank, crone.” There are no historical social models for that second-maturity period.

    She is a very smart lady. :)

  73. Chenebe
    Jul 08, 2009 @ 20:27:09

    She’s a genius! *sigh*

  74. Angie
    Oct 16, 2009 @ 09:28:37

    @Debra Date:

    I also highly recommend the Honor Harrington books by David Weber.

    Honor has a machiavellian turn of mind somewhat reminiscent of Cordelia/Miles when solving problems.

    David Weber’s “The Apocalypse Troll” also contains a strong and awesome heroine.

    I also recommend the lyra books by Patricia C. Wrede if you can find em.

    I second the recommendations for Barbara Hambly, Wen Spencer, and Diane Duane.

  75. Barbara W
    Mar 25, 2010 @ 21:52:36

    I don’t remember how I started reading LMB, but I love her books, and I agree with all of the people who made comments about how other writers don’t really compare. I appreciate all of the recommendations, though, and I look forward to checking them out.

    Nobody mentioned the Lieutenant Leary series by David Drake if you enjoy military SF. The hero isn’t as good a character as Miles, but he is still interesting as is the heroine, and Drake’s writing is good, and his worldbuilding doesn’t get in the way. Very readable.

  76. Elizabeth/Moth/Verona
    May 04, 2010 @ 00:49:23

    Author of the article here: In case anyone’s interested I wrote an opinion piece for my blog about SF Romance (which mentions Bujold):

  77. Chenebe
    May 05, 2010 @ 02:57:03

    I just read Dorothy Sayer’s ‘Gaudy Night’ (she was one of the four Bujold dedicated her book ‘Civil Campaign’ to) and right at the end if you get there is Lord Peter Wimsey’s speech to Harriet Vane apologizing for proposing to her. If you loved ‘Civil Campaign’ like I do … it is a REAL TREAT as you realise that Miles Vorkosigan does a Lord Peter Wimsey. :)

  78. Top Ten List from Verona St. James | Dear Author
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    […] fact: She wrote the “If You Like Lois McMaster Bujold” article that was up on Dear Author last […]

  79. Abby
    Oct 27, 2010 @ 11:08:42

    I ADORE Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Sharing Knife series, but I tried her futuristic novels and I wasn’t too interested in them. I might try them again later, but I would LOVE it if someone could recommend to me a series similar to The Sharing Knife that is equally well written and engaging, but maybe with a little more romance? I really did love the romance in The Sharing Knife series, but I like more, I find that it just makes everything a little more interesting ;)

  80. Abby
    Oct 27, 2010 @ 11:44:23

    @votermom: Catherine Asaro is awesome! And there are some parallels between her and LMB…There’s a website all you guys might want to check out,, it gives a complete list of an authors novels, any new books coming out, and any books the author recommends. It’s pretty much awesome!

  81. Angela James
    Oct 27, 2010 @ 18:10:51

    @Abby Have you ever tried the Warlord trilogy by Elizabeth Vaughan? She also wrote another fantasy series, the “Star” series. Both have quite a bit of romance, though the Warlord one moreso, I think. Here’s the author’s Amazon page:

  82. Abby
    Nov 17, 2010 @ 02:14:15

    @Angela, yes, I love the Warlord trilogy, although I liked her Star series better!

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  84. sue
    Nov 25, 2012 @ 01:09:32

    my favorite type of book is sf/fantasy with some romance. some authors I didn’t see mentioned that might appeal are Lindsay buroker, Andrea host, Kristen cashore, illona andrews. books that might appeal are the smoke thief ( Abe), the iron duke ( brook), angelfall (EE), the hobb(Briggs), the rook ( omalley), the laurentine spy (gee). I think my sparkling misfortune by Lond is a light and funny read as well. the illona Andrews team is great to fans ( and there is free serial on the website) as is Lindsay buroker who also has a few free books.

  85. Maggie
    Dec 30, 2013 @ 23:03:54

    Hey, I know a long time has passed – but this topic has been so helpful, I thought I’d do my bit and give some recommendations (although I agree that Lois in incomparable). Someone has mentioned Ilona Andrews (a husband a wife team) – really good writing – I’ve bought all their books. A few others I’d recommend: Jim Butcher (NOT the Harry Dresden books – they never grabbed me), but his Codex Alera books are wonderful though you must read them in order. Also Karen Traviss – she’s British sci fi, with an eco-conscience – took me a while to get into her first in a series “Ally” but once I did, I was hooked and bought the series. Also I like C S Friedman – especially “This Alien Shore”. Cheers

  86. Gao AnTian
    May 03, 2014 @ 12:56:57

    I have been reading Dorothy L Sayers since I was twelve and discovered LMB when doing research for a high school paper on DLS. They are both truly a wonderful combination of smart, funny and having real emotions and depth.

    I highly recommened Catherine Asaro, but despite all the romance in her books, very science heavy (she has a PhD in physics as well as being a ballerina and a singer) but you can easily skip that for the characters and plot. Should be a warning though that her Skolian Saga has a lot of (non-graphic) rape. However, try her more obscure works, they are actually my favorite: The Veiled Web, The Phoenix Code, Sunrise Alley and Alpha. Lots of questions of can robots love.

    I don’t think anyone has mentioned the Kris Longknife series by Mike Shephard yet. If you like manic Miles and space opera and crazy rescue missions, this is a good fit. The books are a bit formulaic and predictable, they don’t have the incredible surprises and amazing plots of LMB, but they are very, very fun and have a touch of romance. Also, lots of them, I think 10 or so now.

  87. Gao AnTian
    May 03, 2014 @ 13:05:26

    The only author I’ve re-read more than LMB is Wen Spencer. Yes, her Ukiah Oregon books are, well, weird. But her characters are utterly fascinating in every book. And the Tinker trilogy has amazing world building and character depth and multiple perspectives. I’ve re-read the original Tinker at least 3 dozen times since it was published ten years ago. And ‘A Brother’s Price’ is a very short book, but so well done it stays with you for a very long time.

    If you love the thoughful, introspective side of LMB, the examination of ethics in a new world and what it means to be human then I highly recommened Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Diving series. Set in space, not very romancy, heavy on the mystery, but emotionally gripping.

    I also recommend anything by Elizabeth Moon. She is another incredible author who deals with deep and sometimes dark topics in a thought provoking and highly engaging way. Not quite on topic, but her book ‘The Speed of Dark’ from the perspective of an austic person was fascinating to me.

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