When the Cetagandan empress dies, Miles Vorkosigan and his cousin Ivan are sent to Cetaganda for her funeral as diplomatic representatives of Barrayar. Upon arrival, the two men are inexplicably attacked by a servant of the late empress. When the same servant turns up dead the next day, Miles and Ivan find themselves in the middle of a mystery.
Miles tries to play detective in a strange, complicated, and deceptively alien culture, while lascivious Ivan manages to get himself involved with several noble females at the same time, a diplomatic no-no of the first order. As the plot thickens, it becomes clear that it's up to Miles to save the empire.
With her usual skill, Bujold addresses timeless issues of human identity through the personal dramas of her characters.
"Set in a vividly realized world where Machiavellian intrigues are played out behind a facade of aristocratic discretion, this novel, like its predecessors, blends high adventure with wry commentary on the seemingly unbridgeable gulf between human ideals and political realities." (
"[Even] readers who normally eschew science fiction will delight in Bujold's intriguing plots, appealing characters, and wry humor." ( Library Journal)
"As witty and well-handled as is usual for Bujold....In the wake of Bujold's new Hugo, even greater swarms of readers will flock to this book and swell even more the number of her fans, which is only what she richly deserves." ( Booklist)
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