Bujold has a type. The type here being “adult physically broken but very clever reluctant hero, who meddles with aristocracy without being a ruler himself”. It’s not like they are the same person: there are differences between Miles Vorkosigan and Cazaril. Caz had a much worse life and less privileges, and is also less (over-)confident. But the parallels are very much there.
I liked most of the story: Political intrigue from the side lines is fun, the world building was solid, and as always, the side characters were three-dimensional and came truly alive. The plot wasn’t wildly unpredictable, but that’s not what we love Bujold for, and I didn’t really mind.
Two things that stopped this from being a four-star book for me: There was a deus-ex-machina forced marriage that works out well to make things non-icky, which is just not particularly good. Maybe reading this book so soon after the Door Into books has raised my expectation to an unreasonable degree. The other part was that the main romance, between the protagonist and his interest, is age-gapped (late 30s protagonist to a 19 year old woman) and is between teacher and student. I’m not interested in judging this objectively, but it made me repeatedly very uncomfortable while reading.
All this is to say, I’m going to stick with the Vorkosigan books when I need some Bujold, and won’t continue to read her fantasy books.