I’m about to start on the final book of the Miles Vorkosigan saga and I’ve been recommending them left and right to friends. When I’m done with this one, I’ll write up a post of my thoughts on the series as a whole, but today’s post is the answer to the question “What order should I read them in?”
There are two elements to Bujold’s Vorkosigan novels that make it hard to figure out a reading order. First, there are actually two Vorkosigan sagas. Almost all the books are about Miles, but there are two books about his mother Cordelia. Sometimes they’re called the Cordelia Naismith novels (Naismith being her maiden name).
Second, Bujold would occasionally backtrack in the series as she wrote. After Mirror Dance, which has Miles in his very late 20s or early 30s, she wrote Cetaganda which has Miles in his early 20s. So do you read them in the order in which they were written or in an order which fits the chronology of that universe? Some series numbering puts them in the ‘verse’s chronological order, but I really don’t think that’s the best way to read them.
The list below is of the books in the order in which I read them, after some consideration for where I should insert Cordelia’s books. I did it this way because I remembered my mother reading them as they came out and I wanted to experience them the same way. It was a wonderful reading experience.
One doesn’t miss any plot or references because the chronologically subsequent books had been written before the later insertions. And I’m not sure the reverse is true…it’s possible that one would miss elements in, say, Cetaganda if one hadn’t read the books that come after it chronologically but were written before it was written. Not big things, but cultural elements.
This is my suggested reading order with notes on where to find certain stories in omnibuses. It’s mostly the order in which they were written, but I think Shards of Honor should go after the short stories and not directly before or after the first Miles book. I think the series works better if we meet Miles first. I actually put down Shards after Apprentice and picked it up again after reading the short stories. But one needs to read it before Brothers in Arms.
Suggested Reading Order for Miles and Cordelia Vorkosigan Saga
- Warrior’s Apprentice
- Borders of Infinity (Series of short stories “Mountains of Morning,” “Labyrinth, and “Borders of Infinity.” Collected in Vorkosigan’s Game omnibus, which fit into different times in Miles’s life, but read really well as a set at this point in the series)
- Shards of Honor (in Cordelia’s Honor omnibus)
- Brothers in Arms
- The Vor Game (in Vorkosigan’s Game omnibus)
- Barrayar (in Cordelia’s Honor omnibus)
- Mirror Dance
- A Civil Campaign
- Diplomatic Immunity
- Winterfair Gifts (in Miles in Love omnibus)
(All the books in omnibuses are available outside of omnibuses as well, and I know there are other omnibuses. I noted these ones because I either inherited the omnibus and not the book or I could only find the omnibus in our library.)
I highly-recommend the audiobook versions. Even though I inherited the series from my mother (except Cryoburn, which came out after she died), I found that my library had audiobook recordings available through OverDrive and I really enjoyed listening to everything from Mirror Dance onward. Very good reader (though for some reason Mirror Dance didn’t have proper editing in a few spots, so you heard him slip up and reread a sentence). The only book I’d recommend not listening to as an audiobook is A Civil Campaign. It’s much longer than the rest and I found myself getting very nervous. Switching to the physical book made it more fun to finish.
Bujold has written a few other novels set in this ‘verse which I haven’t yet read but am looking forward to. They’re not about Vorkosigans, but they’re about other interesting people or places. The first is Falling Free, sometimes referred to as Vorkosigan Series #0 (which I think is a mistake) and which is about the Quaddies, bio-engineered humanoids with 4 arms instead of 2 arms and 2 legs. The second is Ethan of Athos, about uterine replicators and Elli Quinn (Miles’s longtime companion in arms and bed).