Cordelia’s Honor (Part 1: Shards of Honor) by Lois McMaster Bujold

I’d never read any of Lois McMaster Bujold’s work before but was told that this is a science fiction author I’d probably like. Cordelia’s Honor is an omnibus with Shards of Honor and Barrayar in it. They were published in the late 80′s and are the prequels to Bujold’s longer Miles Vorkosigan series.

The Premise: Cordelia Naismith is on a survey mission on a previously unexplored planet when suddenly she and her companion realize that their base camp is on fire. They rush back to see their survey ship flying off without them and one of the other members of their team dead. Cordelia realizes they’ve been ambushed by the Barrayarans, but not all of the enemy race is in accordance. She’s stumbled into a mutiny in the ranks and soon is a well-treated hostage in the hands of Captain Aral Vorkosigan who has a stash of supplies hidden some distance away.

My Thoughts: I hadn’t realized that Bujold’s work had romantic elements although I was familiar with her name. This book reminded me a little of Linnea Sinclair’s Finder’s Keepers, because the two books feature a hero and heroine meet while stranded on a planet together and work as a team to survive. I like that situation — throwing two different people together and seeing what happens :) . In this book, Naismith quickly realizes who Vorkosigan is — also known as The Butcher of Komarr, who is reviled amongst the galaxy, and her academically-inclined world of Beta Colony, so of course, her initial reaction is not favorable, but as they warm to each other she finds out the real story behind his name and a romance soon blossoms. But their time alone together is interrupted by military skirmishes between their two planets as the Barrayarans make a bid for another planet’s resources.

What I liked about this book was that the couple was a little bit older and neither Cordelia or Vorkosigan expected to find someone at that point in their lives. They had both been burned in some way by past relationships and had become accustomed to the idea of being alone for the rest of their lives when they happened to stumble on each other. I thought that their experiences and age meant the protagonists had a dignified air in their declarations and they were both aware of who they were and what others would think of their union. Cordelia is particularly practical about it, but at the same time, the depth of their feelings is not small and I really wanted them to have a happy ending.

I liked Cordelia’s character. She has a calmness in the face of calamity that I enjoyed reading. It’s Vorkosigan who first points it in the book, and afterwards I had to agree. Sometimes she surprised me with her quick thinking, and there is plenty of action going on in this book where she has to use it. Vorkosigan is likeable too but is less a focus. My impression is of an honorable military leader and member of the ruling class who is good at what he does and isn’t always popular with the politicians in his homeland.

There was plenty of quiet moments between the hero and heroine, but then there are also military skirmishes, space flights, chases and escapes. It is full of action and moves forward without me feeling either bored or too flooded by action; there was an excellent balance which made the plot engrossing.  There is also some interesting ideas about politics and war and some grey areas like how perception may be skewed by expectations and prior beliefs, then compounded by limited knowledge of the truth. The science fiction aspects are also there in terms of medical advances, transportation, weapons and transportation, but it doesn’t either overwhelm the reader. It’s part of the setting and used in daily life, and as in our lives, some places are more technologically advanced than others.

Overall: Recommended for SFR fans. If all Bujold’s books are like this, I think I’ve found another SFR author to glom onto. There’s a perfect balance between action and character development that I like, and I plan to make my way through the rest of this omnibus and then onto the Miles Vorkosigan saga.

Buy: Amazon | Powells

Other reviews:
Jo Walton @ Tor.com (positive. She has a series of posts on this saga)
Guest review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (B)
Guest review at Dear Author (A)

Links:
Interview with Lois McMaster Bujold about writing the Vorkosigan Saga @ Tor.com
Danger Gal Friday: Captain Cordelia Naismith @ Lisa Paitz Spindler’s blog
First sale story at Dear Author

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8 thoughts on “Cordelia’s Honor (Part 1: Shards of Honor) by Lois McMaster Bujold

  1. Great review! This has made me decide to get her books. :D

    I’ve been hearing good things about Lois McMaster Bujold, but I’ve resisted so far because I’m struggling to keep up with my TBR pile lol. But hey, what’s one more to add to the list. ;)

  2. Okay, I have no excuse for not reading this one yet. It was recommended to me ages ago by a friend with excellent taste and I’ve heard nothing but awesome about it since. I read her Sharing Knife books and loved the first one so much. The rest not as much, but the first is gold. Anyway, will definitely be starting the Miles books stat.

    Great review!

    • Ohh, you should read it. I enjoyed SHARDS OF HONOR a lot. And Cordelia’s reactions to things going on — so calm and quick, but you also know she’s still a bit freaked. I love it. BARRAYAR is harder for me to get into though, I have started reading it but I think I hit a patch of non-action which has me putting it down..

  3. YOU’VE READ BUJOLD! Okay, sorry for the caps lock. It’s just that I haven’t found a lot of book bloggers who’ve read her books. I’ve only read Young Miles, which is an omnibus of the first two Miles Vorkosigan books but I have the rest and I just need to find time to read them. Reading that book made me intensely curious about Miles’ parents so Cordelia’s Honor will probably be next on my list.

    • Really! When I said I read this book, I got a lot of comments on the livejournal entry from people saying “Oh I wish I was starting this series for the first time!” – I liked the first part of CORDELIA’S HONOR (which was SHARDS OF HONOR) quite a bit. I really like Cordelia’s character. She’s rather composed under fire (well she reacts well I think). I must pick up BARRAYAR again…

      • Actually, a lot of people on LJ know about these books. That’s where I got the recommendation (from my LJ communities) but I haven’t seen book blogger friends review any of Bujold’s books. I really want to read these books but I have such a huge TBR. So many books, so little time!

  4. Pingback: Shards of Honor – Lois McMaster Bujold « Bibliophage's Buffet

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