“Winterfair Gifts” is a novella by Lois McMaster Bujold in the Vorkosigan Saga. It follows on from “A Civil Campaign“, and is followed by “Diplomatic Immunity”. I bought it on my Kindle, and it can also be acquired in the compilation volume “Miles in Love”.
In short, this is a story about Miles’ wedding, after the courtship in “A Civil Campaign” was successfully concluded (in a suitably dramatic fashion for Miles). Oddly enough, the first Miles Vorkosigan book I read was “Diplomatic Immunity“. I then proceeded to the first book in the saga, and then read all the way. Therefore this book, to me, had some quality of completing a journey. Like in those films (or books) where the majority of the film is showing how the actions in the first scene came to be.
The tale is told from the point of view of Armsan Roic, one of Miles Vorkosigan’s liegemen. This provides a rather interesting glimpse from the “downstairs” on the aristocratic Vorkosigans – albeit strictly from a bodyguard’s perspective rather than a servant.
The essential plot of the story – without giving too much away – is that one of Miles’ various enemies tries to use Miles’ wedding as an opportunity for revenge, and how this effort is thwarted. On one level, that is all this tale is about. However, Bujold has the uncanny knack for turning space opera (which the Vorkosigan Saga definitely is) and throwing in a few curveballs in there making her tales more than just routine fare.
In particular this tale is about various Rites of Passage. Marriage is one of the great Rites of Passage – but there are smaller ones. Having the courage to step outside the cozy confines of one’s own culture, or stepping up and defiantly accepting the risks of an elevated position. can all equally be Rites of Passage.
The other reflection I have on this tale is how Bujold demonstrates how the grand events of the Very Important People of the world are often just the back-drop to equally life-altering events in those “below stairs”.
In short, I thoroughly enjoyed this novella, and would very much recommend it. However, while I think it may be a reasonable stand-alone, the more of the Vorkosigan Saga one has read the more I think one will get out of it. In particular the three novels “Memory“, “Komarr“, and “A Civil Campaign” set the scene for this little tale.