The Vorkosigan Saga, the epic series of science fiction novels written by Lois McMaster Bujold, follows the life and adventures of Miles Naismith Vorkosigan.
Born on the planet Barrayer with profound physical disabilities, Miles spent much of his childhood unable to walk, in a brace, or undergoing surgeries. But that doesn’t stop him from eventually becoming an interstellar spy and a mercenary admiral.
Set 1000 years into the future, the Vorkosigan Saga blends elements of space opera, mystery, and even romance. There are a total of sixteen major works and six shorter novellas in the series, and many of them have won Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards. In fact, the author has claimed the coveted Hugo Award four times- a record only matched by the ‘dean of science fiction,’ Robert A. Heinlein.
The series has a huge following of loyal fans, and it’s easy to see why. Each book is packed with action and adventure, the characters are intricate and three-dimensional, there’s tons of humor and witty dialogue, and there’s plenty of twists, turns, and surprises.
Bujold began this legendary series back in 1986, with the first book, Shades of Honor, and it continues to this day, with the latest book, The Flowers of Vashnoi, published in 2018.
I recommend any fans of science fiction give the Vorkosigan Saga a try, but with so many titles, it can be hard to know where to begin.
But fear not; if you’re new to the series and you’re looking for the perfect reading order, you’ve come to the right place. Author Lois McMaster Bujold has given us a clear and defined reading order so we can get the most out of this incredible science fiction saga, and I’ll share it with you in this article.
But before we get started, let’s address a question many new readers want to know:
Table of Contents
Do the books in the Vorkosigan Saga work as a standalone read?
Lois McMaster Bujold says she always intended that each book could be read as a standalone title, even if the reader has no prior knowledge or context from the other books in the series. So simply put, the answer is yes. If you have a copy of any book in the Vorkosigan Saga and you don’t want to commit to the whole series, then you’ll still get plenty of enjoyment from reading any of them as a standalone title.
That being said, as the series progressed, the author wrote in sub arcs and interrelated plotlines that, in an ideal world, will be read as a whole, in the inter chronological order of the series.
The Best Vorkosigan Saga Reading Order
When most people start a new series, they begin reading in the order that the books were published. But when it comes to the Vorkosigan Saga, most fans of the series agree that it’s not the best approach.
Bujold didn’t write and publish her works in continuing chronological order, and she also didn’t number them, “partly because, in the early days, I thought the books were distinct enough; latterly because if I ever decided to drop in a prequel somewhere (which in fact I did most lately with Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance) it would up whack the numbering system.”
But the books do have internal chronological order, and luckily, Bujold has mapped it out for us.
So, without further ado, here is the perfect reading order of the entire Vorkosigan series, according to the author. This list includes all of the full-length novels, but it also includes the novellas and short stories, which are listed in italics with an * symbol.
You don’t necessarily need to read each of the novellas to enjoy the series, but they’ll add even more clarity, continuation, and context if you do.
- Falling Free
- Shards of Honor
- The Warrior’s Apprentice
- The Mountains of Mourning
- Weatherman – this novella is an outtake from the beginning of “The Vor Game,” so you can skip this if you’re starting that novel next.
- The Vor Game
- Ethan of Athos
- Borders of Infinity – Note: This is a full-length novel, comprised of a collection of novellas; The Mountains of Mourning (number 5 on this list) and the following two others:
- The Borders of Infinity (the novella)
These are all tied together with a frame story to do one complete work.
- Brothers in Arms
- Mirror Dance
- A Civil Campaign
- Winterfair Gifts
- Diplomatic Immunity
- Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance
- The Flowers of Vashi
- Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen
So there you have it, the basic reading order of the Vorkosigan Saga, as recommended by the author.
But before you begin the series, there are a few extra books and some caveats you should know about that will help you on your reading journey.
This is the epilogue to Shards of Honor and was actually the first publication in the entire Vorkosigan Saga. It’s not on the official reading order list, but it’s a good story to introduce you to the author and get a feel for the style of the series.
- Dreamweaver’s Dilemma
The author also doesn’t include the previously unpublished novelette, Dreamweaver’s Dilemma, in her official reading order either. However, it’s set before the saga officially begins, so if you’d like to give this short title a whirl, it should be the very first book you read before moving on to Falling Free.
- Falling Free
The first official book in the series takes place 200 years before the rest of the timeline in the saga. It’s set in a different place and features different characters, so while it’s a great intro into the general Vorkosigan world, it’s possible to pick this book up later if you want to skip ahead to the next book, Shards of Honor. Just make sure to read it before Diplomatic Immunity, which is listed as number 17 on the official reading list.
- For those who don’t want to commit
Not everyone has time to dedicate themselves to such an epic book series, so if you’re just looking for a little taster, author Lois McMaster Bujold recommends the novel “Borders of Infinity,” which is listed at number 10 on the official reading list.
These omnibus editions of the novels and novellas in the Vorkosigan Saga offer an ever-so-slightly tweaked reading order but help to consolidate some of the series into fewer books.
- Shards of Honor, Aftermaths, and Barrayar
These three books (numbers 2 and 3 in the official reading order), plus the unlisted novella Aftermaths, are published as a collection in the omnibus edition ‘Cordelia’s Honor.’
- The Warrior’s Apprentice, The Mountains of Mourning, and The Vor Game
These books (numbers 4, 5, and 7 in the official reading order) are published as a collection in the omnibus edition “Young Miles.”
- Cetaganda, Ethan of Athos, and Labyrinth
Cetaganda, Ethan of Athos (numbers 8 and 9 in the official reading order), as well as the novella Labyrinth, are published as a collection in the omnibus edition “Miles, Mystery, and Mayhem.”
- The Borders of Infinity, Brothers in Arms, and Mirror Dance
These books (numbers 10, 11, and 12 in the official reading order) are published as a collection in the omnibus edition “Miles Errant.“
- Komarr, A Civil Campaign, and Winterfair Gifts
These books (numbers 14, 15, and 16 in the official reading order) are published as a collection in the omnibus edition “Miles in Love.”
The Vorkosigan Saga in Order of Publication
So now you know the order in which they should be read, you might be interested in the order in which they were published. Here’s the complete list, which includes every novel, novella, and short story in the entire saga.
- Aftermath (In the Cordelia’s Honor Collection) (1986)
- Shards of Honor (1986)
- The Warrior’s Apprentice (1986)
- Ethan of Athos (1986)
- Falling Free (1987)
- Brothers in Arms (1989)
- The Mountains of Mourning (1989)
- Labyrinth (1989)
- Borders of Infinity (1989)
- Weatherman (1990)
- The Vor Game (1990)
- Barrayar (1991)
- Mirror Dance (1994)
- Cetaganda (1995)
- Dreamweaver’s Dilemma (1995)
- Memory (1996)
- Komarr (1998)
- A Civil Campaign (1999)
- Diplomatic Immunity (2002)
- Winterfair Gifts (2002)
- Cryoburn (2010)
- Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance (2012)
- Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen (2016)
- The Flowers of Vashnoi (2018)
The Vorkosigan Saga is any sci-fi fan’s dream, and if you also love space operas and elements of mystery and romance, then it’s the perfect series for you.
Even though the author has provided readers with a definitive reading list, there are still a few caveats, and there continues to be plenty of debate surrounding which titles to read in which order. And with the potential for more books in the future, the debate will undoubtedly rage on.
But what do you think? Do you have another reading order you’d like to recommend? Let me know in the comments below!