Story summary: I don't really want to explain this plot in too much detail. Suffice it to say, it concerns Mark, who was introduced in Brothers in Arms. Thus, there is more twisty identity stuff, and lots of character development.
See the others in this series: Shards of Honor, Barrayar, The Warrior's Apprentice, The Vor Game, Cetaganda, and Brothers in Arms.
As always with these books, it's the characters that have my heart and soul. And because much of this takes place on Barrayar, we get to see a lot of Cordelia and Aral again, as well as Gregor. And Ivan is around as always. The fascinating thing about this book was being able to see everyone from the outside, from Mark's point of view. Ivan's scenes, for instance, were amazing. I've always loved Ivan, and each book I love him more.This was definitely the best one for him yet. (I loved Cordelia's little comment about his intelligence.) And of course, we got to see Miles himself from the outside. Although I found what was most interesting was seeing the effect of Miles from the outside, as opposed to Miles himself. Here's a short paragraph concerning Miles a.k.a. Naismith (thought by Mark):
"He could always tell, instantly, when someone he met thought they were facing "Naismith." They all had that same stupid hyper-alert glow in their faces. They weren't all worshipful; he'd met some of Naismith's enemies once, but worshipful or homicidal, they reacted. As if they suddenly switched on, and became ten times more alive than ever before. How the hell did he do it? Make people light up like that? Granted, Naismith was a goddamn hyperactive, but how did he make it so freaking contagious?" (from page 315 of the Miles Errant omnibus)
Miles is one of those charismatic fictional people that reminds me a little bit of Eugenides, from Megan Whalen Turner's "Queen's Thief" series. They are "kings", in some sense of the word; they have a certain innate power over people (should they choose to exercise it). Strange, mad, brilliant people they are, and I love them. As his own mother says of him, "I grant you he's a genius, but don't you dare try to tell me he's sane." (pg. 473)
This definitely deserves its 5 star rating, for me. It encompasses the best of the character development of the series so far, which is saying something since character development is always superb in these books. And there are so many awesome little poignant scenes. For me, these are always the ones that stand out. Every once in a while I will like a book solely for its excellence overall, but it's almost always the presence of a few spectacular scenes (not really mattering what the rest of the book is like) that does it for me.
It makes me sad. Every book I finish in this series means one less book I have left to read. I also keep thinking, "Surely it must have peaked by now. The rest of the series after this book won't be as good--they can't continue being So. Darn. Good." But they do.
Note: all page numbers come from the Miles Errant omnibus.
Grade: 5 stars