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.