Not everyone would envy young Lord Miles Naismith Vorkosigan, even though he had formed his own mercenary fleet before attending the naval academy, and even though his mother was the beautiful Cordelia, the ship captain who has taught the Lords of Barrayar much about the perils of sexism. Even the fact that Miles is the third in line to the throne and personally owns a major chunk of his home planet would not tempt any normal person to change places with him.
When assassins came to rid the world of his father, his mother, pregnant with Miles, was in the line of fire, and Miles was but an egg for the omelet in an all too literal sense. Thanks to heroic medical intervention, Miles survived his near fatal brush with war gas - as a pain-filled dwarf with bones as weak and brittle as some malign composite of chalk and glass. Miles is often mistaken for a mutant by his mutant-loathing countrymen.
But there is one who does envy him, who wants to be him: his brother, his cloned stranger formed from tissue stolen from Miles when he was a child. For Mark Vorkosigan was created and raised up for only one purpose: to become Miles, to murder and replace him. In Brothers in Arms that conspiracy was routed and Mark made more or less compliant to his new Miles-less fate. But in the intervening years Mark has learned that without Miles he is . . . nothing. The new and better Mark doesn't really want to kill his brother, but still it may come to that: Mark to stay, Miles to go... (from Webscription)
It actually took me a while to read this. I started reading it back in March! And then I quit for a while because, eh, Mark. He’s VERY IRRITATING in the beginning of this book (and in the end of the previous one, Brothers in Arms). You can’t help but compare him unfavorably to Miles, and it doesn’t help that the characters in the story do the same thing! So basically, the first act of the book is Mark being annoying and Miles running after him– it’s a big of a slog, honestly. By the second act, though, things really pick up.
Not that the second act is necessarily full of action! No. Instead, it picks up character-wise. Mark gets the chance to figure out who he is separate from Miles, he gets to know his family, and he gets the chance to relax. By taking away the physical action stuff, we get to have lots of emotional/character-driven action instead! And it’s great!
By the end of the book I became a huge fan of Mark. The fact that he got to accomplish his own heroic things (in the third act) helped, as well as the fact that he stopped whining about not being Miles. He develops enough as a character that I started really liking him as a person, and as of right now I’ll happily read anything with Mark in it. Quite a turn-around compared to how I started, huh?
The last third of Mirror Dance, despite its great Mark development, was SO. HARD. to read. Many terrible things happen, emotions are flailing everywhere, people going through dark tunnels and popping up into the sunlight again, etc. It was emotionally stressful! But so satisfying, too. And now I really just want to hug everyone in this series because, seriously, you guys, there are some amazing people in these books.
And that’s really what I love best about the Vorkosigan saga. While there’s plenty of fighting/spaceships/battles and etc., it’s not overwhelmed with it. It’s balanced with character development, emotional thingies, friendship and family and romance and love! It’s basically the perfect series for everyone, both people who like the hardish scifi stuff as well as people who prefer more character-driven stories. Yay!
Read: March 7-July 12, 2013 (yes really)
Anyone else get a strong Mycroft vibe from Mark at the end of Mirror Dance? Technically he’s the younger brother, but…hm!