This is a comedy of terrors...A rich Komarran merchant fleet has been impounded at Graf Station, in distant Quaddiespace, after a bloody incident on the station docks involving a security officer from the convoy's Barrayaran military escort. Lord Miles Vorkosigan of Barrayar and his wife, Lady Ekaterin, have other things on their minds, such as getting home in time to attend the long-awaited births of their first children. But when duty calls in the voice of Barrayar's Emperor Gregor, Miles, Gregor's youngest Imperial Auditor (a special high-level troubleshooter) has no choice but to answer. Waiting on Graf Station are diplomatic snarls, tangled loyalties, old friends, new enemies, racial tensions, lies and deceptions, mysterious disappearances, and a lethal secret with wider consequences than even Miles anticipates: a race with time for life against death in horrifying new forms. The downside of being a troubleshooter comes when trouble starts shooting back.
Fans won't find this surprising in the least, but Miles Vorkosigan--the plucky, short-statured hero of Lois McMaster Bujold's beloved series--is uniquely incapable of having an uneventful honeymoon. Between a racially fueled diplomatic dispute, the appearance of a hermaphroditic old flame, and a bizarre Cetagandan genetic conspiracy, Miles just can't seem to get a minute of peace with his new wife, the lovely and resourceful Ekaterin (whom Miles courted in A Civil Campaign). Miles had hoped to give "hands-on op games" a rest once and for all, but when the Emperor urgently calls on him to resolve a "legal entanglement" in Quaddiespace, diplomacy alone might prove inadequate. (Quaddies, you'll remember, are the no-legged, four-armed free-fallers introduced in Falling Free.) Our newly minted Imperial Auditor almost immediately forgets all about "Baby's First Cell Division" (after the assignment comes in, Ekaterin quickly observes "You know, you keep claiming your job is boring, Miles, but your eyes have gone all bright"), but even Miles feels the heat after his diplomatic attempts devolve into a series of flattering assassination attempts. Vorkosigan (and family now!) is as winning as ever, with Bujold offering up her usual fun mix of space-opera action and droll social commentary in a character-centered plot. And here's a bonus for Milesophiles and Vorkosiga novices alike: a book-by-book timeline detailing what trouble Miles got into and when. --Paul Hughes