In this Vorkosigan short story (which takes place chronologically after “Labyrinth”), Miles infiltrates a Cetegandan prison camp in order to save a relative of his, a cousin of his mother. The problem is, the old man is dying, leaving Miles stuck in a prison of over ten thousand soldiers with plans gone awry. So what does our favorite minature hero do? Uses Dendarii Mercenary resources to save them all, executing a brilliant plan to establish order in the prison, thus making them ready for orderly removal. The escape goes off with no major, effort-stopping problems, but there are too many loses to endure for Miles.
Another great short story by Bujold; she could almost make me revise my opinion on short stories as a whole. One of the things that makes this installment so great is that we get to see the cost of some of the Dendarii operations. I know that previously there was Elli Quinn, whose face was destroyed, but in this story, the loses seem more… poignant. More touching. You can see the effort he put into gaining Beatrice’s trust, and you can see that her death will affect him for a long time.
The entire story is gripping, in that way Bujold has of grabbing the attention in her literary fist and shaking it until the end. If you’re reading the Vorkosigan books, don’t skip this story, as it contributes elements to later stories. This story is good as a standalone science-fiction short story, although if it’s read as such, you should expect not to understand all of the nuances of character and plot, as it builds upon older books.
There isn’t a whole lot of character development here, either of Miles or the supporting characters, although there is just enough development of the supporting characters that they are not flat. But the story is pivotal in the series, so the effects of the plot upon Miles are not fully revealed until Brothers in Arms.