Monday, 23 October 2017

Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold

Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold is the latest instalment in my chronological read-through of the Vorkosigan Saga. It follows on chronologically from Brothers in Arms, dealing with the ramifications of some of the events in that earlier book. As a result, this review contains major spoilers for Brothers in Arms (and so does the blurb). You have been warned.

Mark Vorkosigan is the cloned "twin" of Lord Miles Vorkosigan, born six years after Miles and raised by a psychopathic madman for nefarious political purposes. That's old news, however, conveyed in the prequel Brothers in Arms. Now, in Mirror Dance, Mark still has no identity of his own and no place to call home. One thing he does know: He must free the young clones from the sinister "orphanage" he left behind years ago, on Jackson's Whole. Pretending to be his twin, Admiral of the Dendarii Mercenaries, he just might be able to pull it off. But at what cost? And is Miles his brother's keeper?

I remembered this wasn't a very cheerful book, which at least helped me manage my expectations, even if I didn't entirely remember the order of certain events. The book tells part of the story in alternating chapters from Mark's and Miles's points of view, at times focussing in on the brother with the most pertinent/pressing storyline. We get to know Mark a lot better as he gets to know himself. Finally free of his creators and captors, no longer forced to imitate Miles, he spends some time working out what's important to him, and then working it out again and again as things go awry.

Unlike many of its prequels and sequels, Mirror Dance isn't very cheerful or funny. There were maybe two finny scenes in the whole book, and the first one came a significant portion of the way in. Do not pick this up looking for a light and fun read. This book has some horrible bits, with serious torture, much worse than anything we saw in earlier books, although partly along the lines of what was hinted at earlier with regards to Jackson's Whole and especially House Bharaputra. That's not to say that it's not a good book — it absolutely is — but it's cerebral and deals with psychological issues and, well, Mark isn't as much of a quipper as Miles is.

I definitely recommend this book to fans of the Vorkosigan Saga and Bujold generally, just be warned that it's darker and less humorous than many of the earlier books. I wouldn't choose it as a book to cheer up with. That said, it delves into some really interesting issues and is definitely worth a read. Mirror Dance is also a terrible place to start reading the Vorkosigan books and I strongly recommend reading Brothers in Arms (at least!) first.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: Baen, 1994
Series: Vorkosigan Saga, chronologically after Brothers in Arms and before Memory
Format read: ePub as part of the Miles Errant omnibus
Source: Purchased from Baen several years ago

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