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Shards of Honor Hardcover – July 1, 2000
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Cordelia Naismith, Betan Survey Captain, was expecting the unexpected: hexapods, floating creatures, odd parasites... She was not, however, expecting to find hostile humans on an uninhabited planet. And she wasn't really expecting to fall in love with a 40-plus barbarian known to cosmopolitan galactics as the Butcher of Komarr. Will Mother ever understand? And can such an odd beast as love survive an interplanetary war? --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
''[Bujold] gives [her] characters enough emotional depth, and enough sense, to raise their story beyond cliché.'' --Locus
''Bujold has a nice hand with the complications . . . All in all, Shards is a worthy effort, and worth reading for any fan of SF romance.'' --Analog --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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The shuttle clearly was escaping the attackers, who are nowhere to be found. In communicating with the shuttle crew, Naismith learns that the attack came from a patrol sent by the militaristic society of Barrayar. Then Naismith and her colleague are surprised in the wilderness—her colleague is wounded but, strangely, not killed—by a Barrayaran officer. His name, she learns, is Aral Vorkosigan. He’s a man with a fearsome reputation, formerly the youngest admiral in the Barrayaran fleet. Now he bears a lower rank. Vorkosigan commands a single Imperial war cruiser—the source of the contingent that attacked Naismith’s men. However, Vorkosigan himself has been attacked by his men and left to die. As he explains, “My best friends and my deadliest enemies all wear the same uniform.”
Naismith soon learns that Vorkosigan is not the man of Betan myth. The two find themselves fighting for survival together in a 200-kilometer trek across the planet’s surface to an emergency cache he has built. Along the way, Naismith and Vorkosigan become close. It seems they may be falling in love with each other.
Shards of Honor tells the tale of their developing relationship in the midst of a complex and brutal factional struggle on Barrayar. Though Vorkosigan is close to the Emperor, he has been outmaneuvered by forces that share control of the empire. As the story rushes forward, he and Naismith together find themselves in a fight to the death against the Emperor’s enemies. This is a suspenseful and exciting tale about an interplanetary war pitting Barrayar against Beta Colony and its formidable ally, Escobar. Some might call this a space opera. I call it science fiction.
Shards of Honor is the second novel in the ongoing Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold. Yet it was the first book the author wrote, and it follows by 200 years the title she places first in “internal chronological order,” Falling Free. (My review of the book is here. on Amazon.) As Bujold puts it in an author’s note at the conclusion of Shards of Honor, “My publishing history has been complex.” The chronological order of the series does not follow the sequence in which she wrote the books.
This was my first encounter with the Vorkosigan Saga and I didn't feel lost at all by starting with Shards of Honor. It seems like a great jumping off point for the series.
This was a relatively short book by today's standards, clocking in at only 272 pages. I wouldn't have minded if it ran a little longer and gave us a little more space with the characters. The strength of the novel is really in the characters which is something that works for me.
While this is definitely a sci-fi novel, it doesn't dwell tremendously on the "what ifs" of science, though it does have some thought provoking/conversation starting technology which I value in a sci-fi novel. Although both main characters serve in their respective military (or the closest equivalent), the novel doesn't really dwell on the military action going on too much so I wouldn't necessarily call it military sci-fi. I'd tend to put it in the space opera category. There is a huge romance subplot, but it's very contained/subdued, suiting the nature of the characters. There is nothing explicit about the romance at all.
Our main characters are Cordelia Naismith, a Commander of a Survey ship for Beta Colony (generally peaceful, life valuing, non-militarily minded from a fairly hostile-environment planet) and Captain Aral Vorkosigan (aristocratic, honor-bound, from a very hierarchical, military, but beautiful planet). Shortly after the book starts, Cordelia's survey team is attacked by soldiers under Aral's command and Cordelia is taken prisoner. Through some twists and turns, Aral and Cordelia set out together on foot across a planet that hasn't been explored/surveyed yet and get to know each other over the journey. The world building for that planet was pretty solid, but we don't end up spending that much more time there!
Without getting into spoiler territory, Aral and Cordelia are back in space shortly thereafter and from there on there's a lot of political maneuvering, some sabotage, adventures, some creepy villains (though they were introduced so late it almost seemed like an afterthought), crazy psychologists, and love notes gone astray. Aral and Cordelia manage to cover a lot of ground (or space?) in less than 300 pages!
I enjoyed the read and hope to continue on with the series, time allowing! I have a ton of started series that I'm excited about continuing, but the lure of authors I haven't read yet is also strong!
I highly recommend this book, as well as all the rest of the books in this series. Almost as entertaining as Miles' antics is watching the desperate attempts of his friends and family to save him from himself, while simultaneously trying to stay outside his blast radius.