I wanted to address a bit of an elephant in the room : the fact that, in this creation, Mike isn’t as ‘tough’ as in the previous books.
There’s a few reasons for that.
Most obviously, while Richard and I did our best to write in John’s style, and we think we did pretty well, we aren’t John. We approach writing differently, and we write differently. Hell, Richard and I write totally different styles; you can imagine how fun it was to make that work!
We weren’t writing a ‘we’re going to kill off all of these [fill in the hostile-of-the-book]’ stories. Yes, there are Bad Guys; it wouldn’t be much of a Paladin of Shadows book without them, would it? But that’s not the central point of the story. The focus of this book is, What is Mike going to do about Katrina? That’s why the first few chapters are focused on that aspect; the deal with the Chechens is a complication, not a focus.
In my opinion, (and this is coming from someone who has NOT read the books that came after A Deeper Blue, mostly on the recommendation of my friends) Mike was already changing, mellowing. Remember, he more or less got dragged into ADB; he was having second thoughts about the bedding ceremony in Unto the Breach. I think this marks a continuing trend. Also consider, when we first meet him, way back in Ghost, he’s trying to assimilate back into Life. Well, who’s to say that he didn’t still want to do that? He just had to find The Right Place.
I would also contend that, as the series progresses and time marches on, the Keldara are going to get tougher. That’s not saying Mike gets soft, but I suspect that at some point he stops leading from point and starts learning how to lead from behind the point (remember that Neilsen gets on his case about that after the action in Kildar?). This, being 18 months after ADB, is the continued evolution.