The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold
Synopsis from GoodReads:
Hugo Award Winner! Miles Vorkosigan graduates from the Academy, joins a mutiny, is placed under house arrest, goes on a secret mission, reconnects with his loyal Dendarii Mercenaries, rescues his Emperor, and thwarts an interstellar war. Situation normal, if you’re Miles.
Wow that official summary is practically nonexistent. So, a bit more background: Miles, having just graduated from Barrayar’s training school for their navy officers (forget the official name, can’t be bothered to look it up, sorry), is told that he’s got a bit of a subordination problem so he’s being sent out to no-man’s land for a bit to prove he can keep his head down and get ordinary people to follow his orders as a newly minted ensign, never mind that he’s being sent to an infantry base. The promised reward for all of this is a coveted position on an actual spaceship. Of course, Miles being Miles, he fails at keeping his head down, fails at being a good little subordinate, and ends up neck deep in trouble – which leads to him being transferred to Intelligence, let out into the galaxy – and straight into capital-T-Trouble.
Miles really seems to have a knack for getting into trouble. Moreso even than a lot of other protagonists I can name. Of course, he’s very good at talking himself out of a lot of it, but his luck sucks even for a designated Main Character. On top of that, he’s quite good at talking himself INTO trouble.
While he’s grown up a bit in the years since we last saw him, Miles still has a temper, a lot of pride, and an inability to work with people he can’t charm (Metzov, Oser, Ungari, to name a few), which leads to leaving no small amount of enemies in his wake.
On the other hand, of course, he’s still as loyal as circumstances allow him to be towards the people he considers his, he’s still determined to pay as many of his debts as he can, and his word is still his bond.
Unfortunately, I felt that Miles was the only character I could really connect to in this novel. I love the changes time has wrought in Elena, but we don’t see very much of her. Same for Tung, Bel Thorne, and Baz Jesek. To say nothing of Cordelia. I would have loved to see more of all of these characters. I will grant that we got to see quite a bit of development for Gregor, however much of it happened off stage, which I certainly appreciated.
Like The Warrior’s Apprentice, this novel picks you up and doesn’t let you off the ride until the last page. That’s not to say it’s a stay-up-all-night book, but it’s definitely fast-paced and engaging throughout most of the read, helped along by cliffhangers at the end of basically every chapter.
3.5 out of 5 stars, and here’s hoping for more of some favorites in the next installment.