Sunday, 26 February 2017

Shards of Honour by Lois McMaster Bujold

Shards of Honour by Lois McMaster Bujold is one of the first books in the Vorkosigan saga, an epic military science fiction saga spanning many books, worlds and generations. I say one of the first because there is some lively debate as to reading order, but it is chronologically first (except for Falling Free which is set 200 years earlier) and was published first (by two months) but I seem to recall reading that it was written second, after The Warrior's Apprentice, but I can't find a link for that right now. In any case, it is an excellent place to start reading the Vorkosigan saga.

When Cordelia Naismith and her survey crew are attacked by a renegade group from Barrayar, she is taken prisoner by Aral Vorkosigan, commander of the Barrayan ship that has been taken over by an ambitious and ruthless crew member. Aral and Cordelia survive countless mishaps while their mutual admiration and even stronger feelings emerge.

This was a re-read for me, motivated largely by the Vokosigan Saga Project I'm undertaking with Katharine, and one I want to review because — as with most of the Vokosigan books — I read it before I started blogging. I'm also mindful of the possibility of repeating myself. I'll obviously try not to, but as of this writing Katharine and I haven't done our discussion post so it's hard to predict which direction that might go.

Preamble aside, I definitely enjoyed this book more on a second read than on the first. The main reason for that is the first time I read it was after a lot of Miles books and was largely sad that I had run out of Miles books. I was also used to seeing Cordelia and Aral primarily as Miles's parents and not through their own eyes. When I picked it up this time, it was after a sizeable gap since any other Bujold/Vorkosigan books (I read Gentleman Jole just over a year ago) and I felt like I was coming to the series fresh. I really enjoyed reading Cordelia and Aral's story of their first few meetings. I also really enjoyed the setting of Sergyar and noticed a lot of things I didn't remember from the first read-through, like the fauna, which I noticed more in Gentleman Jole than in my first read of Shards of Honour.

I also found myself paying more attention to certain other aspects of the narrative, like the plot Aral was involved with in the second half of the book (spoilers omitted) and the ordeal Cordelia went through when she went home to Beta Colony after the war. Of course I remembered the part about Cordelia not fitting in, but it was more chilling this time around, having spent the past five years reading about feminism and gas-lighting. It makes for a thought-provoking read that made me feel very uncomfortable on Cordelia's behalf. As did what Aral was up to at the time.

Shards of Honour was an excellent read and I highly recommend it to fans of science fiction, feminism and military SF. As far as the Vorkosigan Saga is concerned, Shards of Honour is an excellent place to start reading. I very much wished I could start reading the next book (Barrayar, also featuring Cordelia and Aral) straight away but alas the blogging project means I have to wait a little bit.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: 1986, Baen
Series: Vokosigan Saga. A good starting point but actual numbering is complicated.
Format read: ePub as part of the Cordelia's Honour omnibus
Source: Purchased from Baen

3 comments:

  1. Yes, a wonderful series! And strange to think that Sergyar, where Aral and Cordelia spend the later novels, is the very planet where they met.

    Still haven't read Gentleman Jole. I'm a couple of books behind.

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    1. Oh, definitely get onto Gentleman Jole. It explores Sergyar environmentally the most out of all the books. And Cordelia is a main character, which is of course a win. (And seeing Miles only in the background after everything else that's happened to him in the books was an interesting change.)

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  2. Wonderful review. I love the Vorkosigan Saga. This is the only love story, also, where the heroine chooses her country first then goes back to her lover after things are resolved!

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