Lois McMaster Bujold
Some two years have passed since Miles Vorkosigan's exploits at the Hegen Hub. The times appear to be peaceful. Along with his cousin, "that idiot Ivan", Miles is sent to Eta Ceta IV, the heart of the Cetagandan Empire. Their mission is entirely harmless. The Cetagandan Empress has recently died of natural causes, and Miles and Ivan are the official Barrayan envoys to attend to the funeral festivities, and maybe polish a bit their diplomatic skills as officers and gentlemen.
Of course Miles manages to get them involved into trouble real quick. A misled docking maneuver is followed by a little commotion at their arrival and suddenly the two young Vor lordlings find themselves in the possession of a mysterious device. A little later, a spectacular suicide happens at the bier of the late Empress. Neglecting to report to his superiors, Miles starts an investigation of his own and gets drawn head over heels into the deadly affairs of Cetaganda's strange two-tiered aristocracy. Treason against the Emperor! And so it is up to Miles to save the Empire... The Cetagandan Empire, that is.
As customary for Bujold the story is fast-paced, the characters are engaging, Miles is his usual self, all chutzpah, good luck, and sheer genius, and he is again longing for an unreachable love, while his womanizing cousin is at the focus of much of the customary subtle humor. The Cetagandans, previously only the faceless enemies of Barrayar's past and present, are fleshed out and reveal a strange and intricately woven society. Judging by the standard set by the previous volumes of the series, the plot is a bit on the weak side. Regrettably we never learn what Simon Illyan had to say about this latest underauthorized adventure of Miles.
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