Have You Read the Vorkosigan Saga?

I was tagged awhile ago in the 7 books in 7 days thing on Facebook. I couldn’t decide between two favorites for my first book, so I’m counting a series as one book for the purposes of the Facebook challenge.

Also, I’m ignoring the no explanation part because I always want to know why someone loves a book or a series. That is what led to this blog post.

Young Miles and Cordelia’s Honor are both part of the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold. Dad introduced me to the series that he and my sister both read. I then introduced Jarrod to it and he tore through them while we were dating. The books range from sweeping space operas through futuristic Regency style romances and into backwoods mysteries.

Cover of Young Miles
Young Miles was the book I chose as the subject for my college entrance essay on an important book in my life. In retrospect, I’m impressed both that neither of my parents tried to get me to write about a more traditional “Important” tome, also that Dr. Colella didn’t say anything odd about an applicant to his brand new honors program writing about a genre space opera-style book. I wonder if the old computer I wrote it on still turns on or if there’s a copy in the old house anywhere. It was probably a super pompous essay, though I remember pouring my idealistic young heart into it. I also wonder where my copy went. I lost it years ago and assumed Dad had it, but I haven’t come across it in his books yet.

Cover of Cordelia's Honor

Cordelia’s Honor is home to some of my favorite quotes about challenges and life. One particular quote was important to me pre-cancer and helped me embrace the heart-wrench of seeing fosters move to new homes after I’d helped them. The quote has become only more dear as I’ve undergone treatments and side effects that can range from uncomfortable to tear-inducing (and as I’ve gotten more neighborly with my own mortality) is:

“Being dead is quite painless. Pain, like time, is going to come on regardless. Question is, what glorious moments can you win from life in addition to the pain?”

Glory can be holding my baby niece, hearing my nephew laugh, finishing a 5k to raise money to help others with cancer (plus myself), writing advocacy letters with friends, visiting lawmakers to advocate for young adult cancer patients, making someone I love smile, holding Jarrod’s hand, and even simply realizing what I’ve survived. Those are the glorious moments for which I’ll undergo pain, if not gladly or stoically, at least repeatedly and with hope.

Dangerously Divine Is Perfect for a Dangerous World

There’s an old saying attributed to G.K. Chesterton:

Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.

Although I love the saying, in my head I always amend “or better yet, befriended” to the end of it. Two authors are mainly responsible for that — Patricia Wrede and Deborah Blake. I highly recommend both if you like strong heroines and magic. Patricia Wrede I first read as a kid, but still enjoy as an adult. Deborah Blake I wouldn’t recommend for kids unless you have mature readers. Both authors are on my short list of books I read when I need a reminder of how to find courage.

Deborah Blake is not only an incredible author, but a genuinely amazing person and friend. She was kind enough to send me an ARC of her newest book, “Dangerously Divine” which is now out for purchase today! Go buy it, I’ll wait.

gray cat with Dangerously Divine ARC
Toby approves of Deborah Blake.

You want more than just an imperative command from me to entice you to purchase a book? Fine, I guess I can understand that. So, let me tell you a bit about the book, the fictional world it’s a part of, and why I love it so much.

Dangerously Divine is the second book in Deborah’s Broken Rider series that are a continuation of her Baba Yagas series. You don’t have to read her Baba Yaga series to thoroughly enjoy her Broken Rider series, although I love that series as much as the Broken Rider series. I absolutely love Deborah’s take on the Baba Yaga myth that is the backbone to the shared world. It fits into my (admittedly not massive) understanding of Russian fairy tales, while still being fiercely feminist stories of strong women. The women in both series are strong, though imperfect. Their flaws make them more inspiring heroines. The men are also a far cry from too-perfect-to-be-true male characters, and thus more believable. Despite the magic, Deborah makes her heroines and heroes seem like actual people who could inhabit our real world.

Dangerously Divine focuses on Gregori Sun who is trying to discover a new path in life now that his old life has been taken from him. He needs to find both spiritual healing and a way to save his life. Although the cure I need is unlikely to come through magic, I can identify with Gregori. Like Gregori, I thought that I had a calling and something outside my control took that calling away from me. Like Gregori, I struggle not only with a physical ailment but with figuring out my path.

Gregori’s search takes him to a Buddhist monastery¬†in Minneapolis that allows laypeople to live and study with the monks, so long as they follow certain rules. Unlike Gregori, I’m unlikely to try either Minnesota or any sort of monastery to figure out my path. While studying, Gregory meets Ciera, a librarian in Minneapolis who helps homeless and runaway teens for deeply personal reasons. Ciera is full of strength and courage that she has honed out of necessity and a desire to keep others from falling into the same traps that once caught her.

Reading about people overcoming unlikely odds and finding courage even when afraid, reminds me that such things are possible. Books like Dangerously Divine do more than entertain me or distract me from pain or frustration — they help me stay hopeful and continue to do all I can to fight my disease. I know that bad things exist, books like Deborah Blake’s remind me that bad things, no matter how big and bad, don’t have to win.