Sunday, 19 March 2017

Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold

Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold is chronologically the second book in the main Vorkosigan Saga timeline. It's a direct sequel to Shards of Honour, with which it is now mostly sold in an omnibus edition. This is my second read of Barrayar, and will be discussed like Shards of Honour was as part of the great Vorkosigan Saga Project in the near future. This review, including the blurb below, contains spoilers for Shards of Honour.

Cordelia Naismith was ready to settle down to a quiet life on her adopted planet of Barrayar. But bloody civil war was looming, and Cordelia little dreamed of the part she and her unborn son would play in it.

I mentioned this was a re-read for me. The main thing that stuck in my head was part of a climactic scene near the end (let's say related to the awesome cover art I managed to find). There was a lot of stuff I had forgotten, like an entire romantic subplot, which was fun to rediscover. I did find myself overly anticipating the climax, which coloured my reading a little.

Barrayar is a very intense read featuring Cordelia adjusting and being baffled by the more rigid Barrayaran society after giving up Betan life at the end of the previous book. She starts off hoping for a quiet life with Aral, but things don't go according to that plan at all. As well as major political events which force/allow Cordelia to kick some arse like she did in Shards of Honour, we are also privy to the relatively minor tribulations of fitting in with the much more conservative Barrayaran society. Cordelia trying to work out why certain taboos were taboos was pretty hilarious, especially since we, the readers, almost know the answers she's trying to work out.

Although my last read-through of this book was also immediately after Shards of Honour, I noticed a few new things this time around about the two books. Barrayar was written after Bujold had done additional worldbuilding through five (or six, depending on whether you count The Warrior's Apprentice) other books, and I noticed a few almost-plot-holes (worldbuilding gaps?) that Bujold was able to fill with Barrayar. Mostly involving Betan contraceptive practices and some of the events of the previous book. It was interesting to see that refinement in action, and how seamlessly it fit together.

Barrayar is an excellent read and a fitting and dramatic continuation of Cordelia's and Aral's story. I don't recommend reading it without having read Shards of Honour first, even if you've read later Miles books and know something about what happens. The two books really do form one story and very much belong in an omnibus together. I also suggest reading them at the start of the Vorkosigan Saga, although they (together) stand alone from the rest of the series reasonably well.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: Baen, 1991
Series: Yes. Vorkosigan Saga. Chronologically follows on directly from Shards of Honour and is sort of the chronological book 2.
Format read: ePub as part of Cordelia's Honour omnibus
Source: Purchased from Baen some time ago

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