Overall Satisfaction: ★★★★
Intellectual Satisfaction: ★★★★
Emotional Satisfaction: ★★★★
Read this for: The characters
Don't read this for: The world-building? The prose? I don't know, nothing stands out as exceptional but nothing stands out as awful either.
Bechdel Test: Pass
Johnson Test: Fail
Books I was reminded of: The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Will I read more by this author? I will be buying Bujold's books until she dies.
The Vorkosigan Saga is one of my favorite series of books of all time. I've read them more times than I can count, and I frequently am reminded of lines or moments from them in both my own writing and in my day-to-day life. But recent Vorkosigan novels have been kind of. . . lightweight, and I got the impression that this one was going to continue that trend, which is why I am only reading it now, over a year after its release.
And it is lightweight. It's the "Ivan has some adventures not caused by Miles and finally settles down" book. Science fiction romances don't have to be lightweight --Komarr wasn't, just to give another Vorkosigan Saga example -- but this one definitely is, because while there's plenty of plot happening there are very few consequences to the plot for Ivan, very little risk. (This was my major issue with Cryoburn as well.) There are consequences for Tej, the other major viewpoint character and Ivan's love interest, but they're never really sold as urgent and potentially catastrophic, and because she's new to the series we aren't grounded in her POV by previous books.
The whole book just feels. . . loose. . .