Mercenaries is drastically different compared to its predecessor, Soldiers. It is like assembling a beautiful craft (Soldiers), watching it shatter into pieces upon an unexpected impact (first half of Mercenaries Part 1) and gluing it back together (second half of Mercenaries Part 1). In the end, will you end up with something just as beautiful as the original? Worse? Or just different? That will depend on the reader. But there is something to keep in mind: Mercenaries is DIFFERENT from Soldiers, and keeping that mindset may make for a more pleasant read (as I was hoping for something similar).
While Soldiers dealt with Vadim and Dan in their isolated world of Afghanistan (and surrounding regions) during the Cold War, Mercenaries expands this boundary. Addition of new characters stretches the POVs into many more minds than just Vadim and Dan. This can be a good thing, or a bad thing, depending on if you LIKE these additional characters and their relationship with our MCs. I personally did not like it, as I felt it distracted from Vadim and Dan. I liked it when it was just the two; I also did not like even ONE of the new characters (yikes!).
Asides from more characters and POVs, there is also the drastic changes in character dynamic. Soldiers takes place in the isolation of the Afghan mountains (more or less), where it was just Vadim and Dan. In Mercenaries, we lose the mountains, and with it, two men we knew so well, and are now different. The relationship between Dan and Vadim becomes..."non-exclusive." So yes, prepare for these additional characters to impact what was once JUST Dan and Vadim. So if you are one to not be bothered by M/M/M and the non-exclusive nature of relationships, this should not be an issue. However, I did not enjoy this aspect as it seemed farfetched from what I felt Dan and Vadim were capable of in Soldiers (can you see a pattern here, LOL? I love Dan and Vadim and want it to just be them).
There is less adventure/thrill associated with the predecessor. After all, we are not in the Afghan mountains anymore. There are definitely some very intense scenes that were exciting to read, but for the most part, Mercenaries seems to focus on the building of relationships between Dan, Vadim and everyone else and less on the action.
There is also a lot - and I mean a LOT - of sexual encounters during the second half of this book (and most of them not between Dan and Vadim). I think others have described it as reading a constant "orgy" and I got to the point of skipping all the sex scenes as they seemed too redundant and distract from what I wanted (which was more meaningful Dan x Vadim time).
So my personal feelings? I was dissapointed. I wanted the isolation of mountains and the majesty of the starry night skies. I wanted intimacy between two broken ex-soldiers that fought against the ebb of reality to find and cultivate love. I wanted the tears that came from a deep pain I didn't know I had. Yes, there were heart-wrenching scenes in Mercenaries Part 1, and tears did flow. Dan and Vadim continued to fight for each other. There was tenderness and treasure underneath the sand when the turbulent tides receded. But it felt different, less explosive, and most of my tears was to see how the characters I fell in love with in Soldiers were completely different in this book. However, most of these issues was probably from my expectation that this installment would be similar to its predecessor. I feel that if I knew how different things would be, I would not have set myself up for high expectations and the resulting disappointment.
Despite all this, I would STILL recommend those who started Soldiers to continue on this winding and difficult path. After all, Special Forces is a war in itself, and one will only come out stronger/hardened in the end like soldiers on the battlefield.