I liked both of these quite a lot, although "Vor Game" was in danger of getting a little too sprawling in some places. Let's go in order, though, and talking about "Mountains" first. I was glad to see a story in the very different setting of the Barrayar backcountry; I like the look at a society dealing with rapid changes, and the reminder that not everyone is going to accept a new order right away. Clever, that Aral sent Miles to the village as much to be an example as for anything he might learn from the experience -- and that Miles becomes aware of this almost right away. Miles's intelligence is one of my favorite things about him: intelligence, not wisdom. Very realistic for a bright young man, a child of privilege who has to rely on his brain rather than his body.
I also really liked the theme of Miles having to come to terms with his grandfather that ran through the story: the scene at Piotr's grave, the resolution of the mystery, the personal interest that he took in avenging the baby's death.
Now, The Vor Game was just fun. With much serious business, of course, but I enjoyed the adventure of it, and the twists and turns, and getting to know Gregor as a character. He was great; seemed very real for a young man with a lot weighing on him, but also starting to come into his own as a leader. I hope we get more with him.
I figured the Dendarii Mercenaries wouldn't stay gone from the story for long, and I was right. You don't create characters as interesting as Tung, Auson, and Bel Thorne just to toss them away after one book. Miles is a performer; he seems to be in his element when he's playing a role, and the role of Admiral Naismith suits him very well. Is anyone really surprised that he has difficulty taking orders as an ensign given that he was one in charge of a small fleet of ships? Even if he really was just bluffing most of the time. It'll be interesting to see him grow more fully into the position in future books.
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