Mirror Dance

by Lois McMaster Bujold

Cover image

Series: Vorkosigan #8
Publisher: Baen
Copyright: 1989
Printing: September 2002
ISBN: 0-7434-3558-3
Format: Trade paperback
Pages: 411

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I read this book as part of the Miles Errant omnibus, which is what the sidebar information is for. Mirror Dance is a direct sequel to Brothers in Arms; you don't want to read it before reading the previous book.

I'm really impressed by how well Bujold is maintaining the quality of this series. It's unusual to see a long series stay as enjoyable past the fourth or fifth book, but Bujold is not only becoming a better writer but also finding ways to vary the plot and find new variations on her standard space adventure theme. This is the best book of the series so far.

Mirror Dance is primarily Mark's story, and as one might expect from the title, there is a lot of confusion of identity happening. The beginning is rather painful; Mark starts off pulling a hair-brained stunt that the reader just knows is going to fail horribly, and he spends a lot of time feeling sorry for himself in the progress. The first hundred pages or so of the book are hard to read.

After that, though, the story really picks up. It seems like each time Bujold returns the action to Barrayar, she does a better job writing Miles's family and the feudal politics of his world. Cordelia is, once again, an excellent supporting character; in fact, I liked and admired her more here than in any of the other Vorkosigan books. Bujold also does a great job with Mark's character development and slowly changing feelings about Barrayar, handling that in a way that's a lot of fun for the reader.

The ending, once Miles gets involved again, is predictably wild and chaotic. Bujold does the action sequences well and always has. What she's had trouble with before is putting enough character development and depth behind them, and this is the best job so far. The characters are still a touch simplistic and obvious, not so much one-sided as drawn with a broad brush and a bit larger than life, but that fits the adventure story feel of the Vorkosigan series. She also avoids the trap of too-quick, too-pat resolutions of character conflicts and problems, some of which having persisted for several books.

There are some good ideas in this entry as well. Not as good as Cetaganda, the best idea book in the series, but Jackson's Whole is a great setting and I enjoyed the Durona Group quite a bit. I think there's still room for Bujold to get better (and I wish her story setups would be a bit less of frustrating, slow-motion train wrecks), but this is an impressive job for the eighth book of a series. I'm still not impressed by the Cordelia books, but the Miles books are recommended.

Followed in series chronological order by Memory.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Reviewed: 2005-10-25

Last modified and spun 2014-12-21