The Warrior's Apprentice

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The Warrior's Apprentice
Cover of the first edition
AuthorLois McMaster Bujold
Audio read byGrover Gardner
CountryUnited States
SeriesVorkosigan Saga
GenreScience fiction
PublisherBaen Books
Publication date
Preceded byShards of Honor 
Followed byEthan of Athos 

The Warrior's Apprentice is an English language science fiction novel by Lois McMaster Bujold, part of the Vorkosigan Saga.[1] It was the second book published in the series, and is the fifth story, including novellas, in the internal chronology of the series. The Warrior's Apprentice was first published by Baen Books in 1986, and was included in the 1997 omnibus Young Miles.

Plot summary[edit]

The Warrior's Apprentice features the first appearance by regular Bujold protagonist Miles Vorkosigan. He is disqualified from entering the Barrayaran Imperial Service Academy after breaking both legs during the initial physical entrance exams. Brittle bones, amongst many other physical limitations, are a legacy of a poison gas attack executed upon his parents as part of the Vordrarian Pretendership, a Barrayaran civil war, while Mile's mother was still pregnant with him. The attack left Miles with significant physical defects upon birth that required extensive medical procedures to mitigate, leaving him a strangely appearing nearly dwarfish young man. He stands approximately four feet nine inches, walks with a limp, and has a noticeably curved spine. The negative impacts fortunately do not impact Mile's genius-level intelligence, the primary vehicle that regularly gets him into and out of various crises.

With his bodyguard Bothari and Bothari's daughter Elena, he travels to Beta Colony, the ultra-progressive home planet of his mother, to visit his maternal grandmother. Bothari is a multi-layered non-commissioned officer in the Barrayaran military, and now Armsman of House Vorkosigan and faithful "dog" of Miles' mother due to events of incredible importance in the Bujold novel Shards of Honor, which we will not spoil here. Elena is an age-mate and life-long friend of Miles, and his secret deep-seated youthful infatuation. While on Beta, he spontaneously purchases (nefariously using worthless radioactive land inherited from his grandfather as collateral) an obsolete freighter to help its beleaguered pilot. This irrational acquisition also serves subconsciously, and perhaps consciously, to fill the void left by Miles's medical disqualification from the Barrayaran Imperial Service Academy, and likely even deeper fear of disappointing his larger-than-life yet perfectly loving father. In order to meet the significant financial commitment he has just made, Miles and his small entourage undertake to smuggle weapons through a blockade, maintained by the Oseran Mercenaries, to the losing side of an interplanetary war.

By a combination of incredible intelligence, psychological profiling, galaxy-class deception, and luck, Miles captures a blockading mercenary ship, convinces the crew that he is the leader of the secretive (and entirely fictitious) Dendarii Mercenaries, and successfully recruits them. He proceeds under the name of 'Naismith', his mother's maiden name, to capture first, a valuable mining facility, and second, a more powerful warship to expand his fleet. Eventually, he undermines the relationship between the Oseran Mercenaries and their employers by following and intercepting the precious mercenary funding. He ultimately emerges triumphant as 'Admiral Naismith' of all mercenary ships and personnel in the system, effectively making the Dendarii Mercenaries a reality. Despite all of this, he remains unfulfilled as his name is not 'Naismith'.

Meanwhile, political machinations have been proceeding at a rapid pace on Barrayar based on the incomplete and rumored escapades of one Miles Vorkosigan, son of Count Aral Vorkosigan, the powerful and centrist voice of reason, as well as politically despised enemy of the power-hungry and ultra-conservative political coalition. Miles in fact stands in violation of an obscure yet sacred Barrayaran Imperial edict that prohibits any imperial vassal from raising a military force exceeding a limited and fixed number of personal armsmen. His father's enemies have taken advantage of the situation, sown suspicion with the young and inexperienced Barrayaran Emperor, and officially charged Miles in the ruling political council on Barrayar. After Miles' rapid ascendance to Admiral of the Denarii Fleet, his cousin Ivan tracks him down, despite the fact that Ivan was intended to perish as part of the ill-conceived plot, and provides enough painfully extracted information for Miles to deduce the political and life-threatening reality. Miles then leaves Elena and Baz Jesek, a former Barrayaran deserter turned faithful sworn armsman, as commanders of the Dendarii and returns to Barrayar to foil his Father's enemies' plans.

Miles comes full circle and is ultimately admitted into the Imperial Service Academy to 'keep him out of trouble', which is where the remainder of the brilliant Miles Vorkosigan saga unfolds.


Jo Walton, writing for, described The Warrior's Apprentice as having "about ninety percent more depth than you’d expect it to have", but also notes that "the series does get a lot deeper and more complex as it goes on from here."[2]


  1. ^ Bujold, Lois McMaster (1986), The Warrior's Apprentice, Baen Books
  2. ^ Walton, Jo (April 1, 2009),, "Forward Momentum: Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Warrior’s Apprentice", retrieved November 1, 2012