I started reading this series last month with Shards of Honor and Barrayar. What a beginning! If I have had any regrets about subsequent books, it is that Cordelia rarely appears in later books (until she is given a small but important role in A Civil Campaign, the last but one book published in this series).
Those who are new to the series should stop right here. Please, please, go back. At the very least, start with Mirror Dance. Better still, go back to Shards of Honor (the story of how Miles's parents met).
Nearly all the books in this series (beginning in terms of internal chronology with Falling Free) are about a brilliant young aristocrat turned mercenary admiral, Miles Vorkosigan/ Naismith. What is different about him, apart from his uncanny luck, is his physical disabilities. Miles Vorkosigan (the "Vor" is a nobiliary honorific on his home planet, Barrayar) was born badly crippled and stunted, thanks to a poison gas attack on his pregnant mother.
At the beginning of his career, Miles manages to pull triumph out of disaster, bluffing his way through major crises. [Read The Warrior's Apprentice and The Vor Game for details]. He later undergoes a life-changing experience after meeting his clone, who has been created by his father's enemies.
In KOMARR, Miles has shed his old career and his Naismith identity to become an Imperial Auditor (a high-ranking investigator of sorts). This book combines Miles-as-investigator with Miles-as-suitor. Except that the romantic interest Ekaterin Vorsoisson [nee Vorvayne] is already a wife, although she is married to an immensely selfish and irresponsible man Etienne (Tien) Vorsoisson. In the past, Miles has attempted to persuade at least two serious prospects to marry him and become Lady (and in the future, Countess) Vorkosigan. Both ladies have declined, wanting nothing to do with Barrayar. In KOMARR, Miles meets and falls in love with a real Vor lady, a lady of the middle to low aristocracy from his own planet. I am not sure what this means - is Miles actually deeply Vor inside (despite his youthful shenanigans), or is he reconciled to the fact that only a Vor lady would be happy on Barrayar? In short, is Miles attracted to Ekaterin because she is available (by the end of the book), or would he be attracted to her even if his old loves were willing and able to settle down to Vorish life with him?
I cannot answer that question, but I hope it will be addressed in later books. The story that unfolds in the meantime combines an investigation of an apparent accident, the political intrigues on Komarr (where Miles's family name is reviled for historic reasons), and a slow but growing love story. We also see a lot of the story from Ekaterin's point of view, as a Vor wife committed to her culture. Considering her upbringing and Barrayaran law (also followed for the Vor on Komarr), her choices or lack of choices are understandable. She is not a wimp, just a woman struggling with very limited choices. She begins to come into her own (very fortuitously!) at the end, showing us hints of what might have attracted Miles to her in the first place.
I have mixed feelings about this book. I don't object to the sad marriage between Ekaterin and Tien (Etienne, her first husband). Like others, while I appreciated the fact that much of this book was written from Ekaterin's point of view, I felt that the book created too much of a stock pseudo-villain in her husband (who we are meant to hate instantly). Adding a scene or two from his point of view might possibly have helped.
My problem, apart from Tien's one-sided portrayal, is that the pacing is rather slow in this book. The investigation and crime aspect seems underdone, and what the crime implies for Barrayar has been glossed over. Why must the whole episode be kept a secret? Without an understanding of Barrayaran politics and relations with Komarr (and even then), this veil of secrecy makes no sense.
The romance between Miles and Ekaterin itself, such as it is, is not badly done but I felt something lacking. Some of this might be inherent in the fact that Ekaterin is very much married for the first half of the book, and afterwards, it is impossible for several reasons for Miles to court her openly or secretly.
The Ekaterin of KOMARR is not yet the Ekaterin of A Civil Campaign (the next book). Here, in some ways, Ekaterin is more vulnerable and yet oddly likeable. She has been trapped here by the legal and social constraints upon her as a Barrayan wife and a Vor woman; in the next book, some of those constraints will continue to operate. In some ways, I liked the Ekaterin of Komarr far more than that of A Civil Campaign, perhaps because Miles himself (oddly muted in this book compared to his hyperactivity in the rest of the series) is far more vulnerable in this book. As such, he evokes a different response in her. It is certainly worth reading this book if only to read how other Barrayarans not well acquainted with the high Vor (aristocracy) view Miles Vorkosigan.
KOMARR was a pleasant read, but I really did not feel the pull, the compulsion to read and re-read, that I do with most of Bujold's books. A new reader to this series might be somewhat puzzled by some obscure references to Komarran-Barrayaran history, not to mention Miles's own personal history. I am not sure that this book stands alone very well. As such, I rate this book at 3.8 stars, although the series as a whole rates about 4.5 stars.