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on August 5, 1999
CORDELIA'S HONOR is a compilation of two of Bujold's novels: SHARDS OF HONOR and BARRAYAR. The main character in both is Cordelia Naismith. These are wonderful books, although I thought BARRAYAR is the better written of the two.
I suspect, however, that the person who wrote the above "synopsis" did not read this book at all. Cordelia is not forced into marriage, he is not her arch-enemy, and her husband is made Regent for the young Emperor, who is 5 years old.
If you have not read Lois McMaster Bujold, and you enjoy well-written, thoughtful novels with good characterizations and well-thought-out plots the READ this book. I envy you the opportunity to read her books for the first time.
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on November 28, 2005
Series fiction has requirements very different from the single novel, or even multiple books forming one long story such as Tolkien's Ring Trilogy. The multi-book single storyline can be - probably is - so self-referential you have to read every book in the series, in order, to understand what's happening in later books. But the author of a true open-ended series like Lois McMaster Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan novels knows readers may start with any book in the series, and read them in utterly random order. Thus, while each book must build on, and ideally add to and enrich what's come before, it must also be self-contained and not require having read any other book in the series to enjoy. Bujold has always been aware of this, thus for new readers interested in her tales of Miles Vorkosigan, it's not really necessary to begin with Cordelia's Honor. On the other hand, if you are a brand-new reader to this series, why NOT start at the beginning?

The two novels contained in Cordelia's Honor (Shards of Honor and Barrayar) form the beginning of the Miles Vorkosigan series. (Bujold's novel Falling Free takes place within the same fictional universe but, being set approximately 200 years before Miles' birth, features none of the series' familiar characters. Eventually you'll want to read Falling Free, but it doesn't matter when; you can insert it into your Bujold reading experience anytime.) These two books have an interesting history. Shards of Honor is Bujold's first novel (not merely the first novel she ever sold, but the first she ever wrote, thus disproving the axiom, "All first novels are unsaleable trash"). She begins writing it in December 1982. In mid-'83, having worked through the Shards material and about a third into what would eventually become Barrayar, Bujold realizes her manuscript is becoming too long to submit as one book (the "wisdom" at the time being a thin manuscript is more likely to be picked off the slush pile than a thick one). Bujold finds a logical breaking point for her tale (Cordelia's arrival on Barrayar), puts it in final draft form, and mothballs the partially finished "rest of the story."

Bujold submits Shards and begins working on another book, The Warrior's Apprentice. She's about halfway through that when Shards comes back rejected with an editorial suggestion she tighten it up. She finishes Warrior's, then cuts about 80 pages out of Shards, giving her two good unpublished novels. In 1985, around the time she finishes her third novel, Ethan of Athos, Warrior's makes it over the transom at Baen, and suddenly she goes from unpublished wannabe to successful novelist with three books (Shards, Warrior's, Ethan) SOLD. Shards is published in 1986.

Fastforward to 1989. Bujold has written four more books, Falling Free, Brothers In Arms, Borders of Infinity (a short story collection), and The Vor Game. Then the program-book editor of Philcon, a long-established SF convention in Philadelphia, asks Bujold to do a short story or outtake to donate to their program book. Remembering the unfinished novel fragment of years before, she troops up into her attic, retrieves the pages, reads them and decides to complete it as a novel. After all, it's already a third finished, right? And in 1992, Barrayar won the Hugo Award for Best SF Novel of the Year.

These two books, written seven years apart, tell one continuous story arc. By being published together as Cordelia's Honor the story is finally presented (to quote Bujold) "very much as I originally envisaged its shape, if not its details."

Shards of Honor stars Captain Cordelia Naismith, commander of a survey team for the Betan Expeditionary Force, and Captain Aral Vorkosigan, victim of a mutiny on his Barrayaran warship. Both stranded on an unexplored alien planet, officers on opposite sides of the Betan-Barrayaran War, they reach an agreement of honor: they will trust and rely on each other for survival as they travel across a planet seemingly intent on throwing all its resources into killing them before they can reach Aral's ship. And then there's the little problem of overcoming the mutineers.... In the process of their adventures, Cordelia and Aral fall in love.

Both novels are told from Cordelia's viewpoint. Barrayar deals with her first experiences on that planet, leading up to the birth of her and Aral's son Miles (though there is an epilogue showing Miles at age five). Thereafter in this series Miles, with very few exceptions, takes center stage. Never again will Cordelia be the main character. But for these two books she emerges as one of the most well-realized, loving and vulnerable but still tough-as-nails female SF protagonists ever.

The next book in the series you'll want to read is The Warrior's Apprentice, which picks up Miles' life at age 17.
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on September 6, 2001
I read this book before I even knew of Bujold or the Miles Universe. Despite the cheesy old cover, I pressed on and discovered a treasure of an epic space saga. Cordelia's Honor is actually two books: Shards of Honor and Barrayar. This is a novel for the space opera fan and those who appreciate skillful writing. Bujold's talent leans more on the character driven side rather than the scientific side (a la Star Wars). You will be introduced to galaxy spanning human colonies, namely: Beta and Barrayar. These two worlds collide via the Betan captain - Cordelia - a liberated, headstrong female captain of an expeditionary science ship and Aral - the so called Butcher and warlord from the monarchical Barrayar. Forced to surive together in a remote world, they discover each other's humanity after bridging the gap between their worlds that seemed so violently different because of xenophobia and ignorance. Bujold's intelligent characterization evoke pity and terror in a remarkable tightly woven tale - and its her first published book!
In Barrayar, Aral marries Cordelia despite his world's disapproval and she learns to deal with the patriarchal society despite her liberated upbringing on Beta Colony. This is where it most reminds of me of Star Wars: monarchies, corrupt leaders, and political intrigue. The action sequences are smart and suspenseful. In both books there's a whole slew of supporting characters and none of them are two dimensional. At the end is a spinoff to the Miles Universe and you will learn how he was born with his deformity and will get a whole 8 (?) more novels that are just as good as this one.
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on January 30, 2000
"Cordelia's Honor" contains two earlier published books, "Shards of Honor," and "Barrayar," which are the second and third stories in Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga. Together, they tell the story of Cordelia Naismith, a survey officer from civilized, polite Beta. In "Shards of Honor," her crew was killed, and she was taken prisoner by Aral Vorkosigan, "The Butcher of Komarr." When she was released, and then recaptured in a later conflict, Vorkosigan rescued her and proposed to her, and she married him.
The second half of "Cordelia's Honor," "Barrayar" (which won the Hugo Award), is the story of the incredible effect Cordelia had on Vorkosigan's warrior planet, Barrayar, and how she stopped the civil war that threatened to slag down the planet. The heir she bore Vorkosigan was twisted and deformed from an assassination attempt during pregnancy. This son, Miles, Lord Vorkosigan, is the hero of the following nine books (so far) of the Vorkosigan Saga. I am very fond of David Drake's and S. M. Stirling's SF realistic war stories. Lois McMaster Bujold's "Barrayar" and the Vorkosigan Saga stories are Drake's and Stirling's equal. Very highly recommended.
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on May 1, 2003
A fan of the Seafort Saga, I saw the Vorkosigan saga recommended instead of Feintuch's books in several of the reviews for the Seafort saga. I figured I love scifi, especially military scifi, so I should give this series a shot.
It is absolutely fantastic. I started off with Cordelia's Honor because I wanted to get the background before I plunge into the Miles' part of the saga. This book is a combination of Shards of Honor and Barrayar (Barrayar won the Hugo award), and it tells the story of how Cordelia met Aral, got married, and wound up having Miles. Sounds like a romance? It isn't. It's full of twists and turns that'll keep you on the edge of your seat. Although I don't think Shards of Honor wasn't as exciting as Barrayar, it still is a wonderful book.
Cordelia, of the planet Beta, becomes Aral "Butcher of Komarr" Vorkosigan's prisoner while she's doing a Survey mission. Vorkosigan has this "thing" about prisoners and refuses to do harm to them. Well, being his prisoner spins off into her first adventure where she gets a taste of Barrayaran society (where Vorkosigan is from). Beta and Barrayar are sort of like the technologically advanced hippies vs. Conservative Spartan societies. Barrayar prides itself on its military capacities, but it's politics are a mess. The technology is primitive since Barrayar only came out of isolation less than a century before Cordelia arrives. The current emperor trying to straighten everything out, the class structure is incredibly rigid, and civil wars seem to be the norm. On Beta, they're sexually liberated, there is no poor, and they have the best technology of the galaxy.
The two of them wind up in a few more adventures together, and then they are happily married on Barrayar - where Cordelia is an outsider and Vorkosigan is a war-hero. When the emperor names Vorkosigan the regent to the emperor's heir - 4 year old Gregor - Cordelia finds herself swept up in politics, conspiracies, and treason. The book is a non-stop thrill ride.
Bujold has a fantastic writing style, mixing adventure, theology, philosophy, romance, politics (but not over your head type politics), and suspense. The characters are all believable , and you can't help connecting with at least a couple of them. All the characters are multi-dimensional and with a great variety. For example, there's Cordelia, the theologian who does not understand war, killing, and senseless masochist honor. There's Aral, a 'progressive' Barrayaran who tries to reconcile his ancestral-culture with everything that's being brought in, not ever quite knowing what the ring thing to do is. Bothari, a "monster" in appearances and insane in mind, who reflects whatever is expected of him... the list just goes on and on.
Wonderful tale, but the only drawback was I started it the week before exam finals. Bad choice on my part: I couldn't put the book down. I'd tell myself "one more chapter," but that was just impossible and 100 pages later I'd still be trying to pry myself away from the book. And now I'm in agony that I don't own Young Miles
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on February 7, 2002
Lois McMaster Bujold has long been my favorite Science Fiction author. She earned that status with her wit, believable characters, and beautiful prose. Cordelia's Honor, a combination of her two books _Shards of Honor_ and _Barrayar_, is one of her best. It has it all: romance, drama, action, adventure. Yet it is not mere melodrama.
The story is about Captain Cordelia Naismith of the Betan Expeditionary Force and her love, Admiral Aral Vorkosigan, known throughout the galaxy as the infamous "Butcher of Komarr." They fall deeply in love despite being on opposite sides of a war, and yet they are both still determined to do their duty.
Bujold has written many styles of book, from space opera to mystery to romantic comedy. Cordelia's Honor is high drama, a love story set against the backdrop of both interstellar and civil war. The main characters are not your standard heroic twenty-somethings; they are mature people, who nonetheless learn to grow together. Neither is perfect, but both try to be the best they can be, both apart and together. But there is still plenty of action, everything from space battles to assasinations to inflitration of the enemy capital.
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on August 18, 2000
A friend of mine loaned me separate copies of Shards of Honor and Barrayar, then ended up buying me the two-in-one edition because I was so reluctant to give them back. Since then I have re-read it until it is falling apart. There's no higher praise I can give a book than that. Cordelia's Honor is one of those books that alters your worldview, changes your life, and sits on your top shelf forevermore. It's a love story but it's a lot more than that. It's the story of how two determined people from very different backgrounds meet, fall in love and go on to change their worlds for the better. Cordelia and Aral become like real people you actually know--better still, they become your friends. If you haven't read this story, you don't know what you're missing--it is INCREDIBLE.
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on May 31, 2003
Captain Cordelia Naismith is a strong female hero, and the second part of this two-novel repackaging is particularly noteworthy in giving us a science fiction adventure with a pregnant hero. I first read this book when I didn't realize I was pregnant, and it was the perfect way to start into that great 9-month adventure.
The first novel in the volume, Shards of Honor, is a space-adventure-romance which might be described as military science fiction as it might have been written by Jane Austen: two mature, intelligent, and principled characters overcoming differences (rooted in complex social situations) to find a way to be together without compromising their sense of honor.
In the second novel, Barrayar, the pregnant Cordelia must use all her courage and ingenuity to bring her baby, the future Lord Miles Vorkosigan, through a planetary civil war alive. She concludes that the only thing to do is to change the world to make it fit for her child -- and all children. I recommend this book (and Cordelia's conclusion) to fans of romantic science fiction & female action heroes. Especially if they happen to be pregnant!
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on September 29, 2006
Somehow Bujold has contrived to write a Space Opera that isn't about battles, a Political Intrigue novel that isn't bogged down in machinations, and (most improbably), a Star-Crossed Lovers romance that doesn't include any of the standard clichés.

The woman isn't an ingénue, needing rescue by the world-weary warrior. The warrior doesn't fumble over his declarations of love. Neither of them is searching for someone to make them whole. This kind of parity isn't seen often enough in life, let alone in romantic fiction.

Oh, one more little thing: The story happens to be wonderfully written, with a subtle command of the language that makes the book fast-paced without being rushed.
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VINE VOICEon October 15, 2000
This is the book that got me hooked on Lois McMaster Bujold. It is an absolutely delightful adventure. The heroine is Miles Vorkosigan's mother, and Miles' birth occurs herein. While LMB's books can be read and greatly enjoyed in any order, this is the best choice to read first.

This novel originally appeared as two novels, Shards of Honor and Barrayar, which are, respectively, the first and second halves of this book.
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