Shards of Honor
- Lois McMaster Bujold
Cordelia Naismith is enjoying a baptism of fire. Her first mission is to captain a throwaway warship of the Betan Expeditionary Force on a mission to destroy an entire enemy armada. Discovering deception within deception, treachery within treachery, she is forced into an uneasy peace with her nemesis: Lord Aral Vorkosigan. Discovering that astrocartography is not the soundest training for a military leader, Cordelia rapidly finds herself the prisoner of the Barrayaran Captain Aral Vorkosigan, also known as 'The Butcher of Komarr'. But the notorious captain is not quite the beast Cordelia was expecting and a grudging respect develops between the two of them. As captor and prisoner on an abandoned outpost planet, the honourable captain and the resolute scientist must rely on each others' trust to survive a trek across dangerous terrain, thus sparking a relationship that shares the struggles of culture and politics between their worlds...
I have an apology to make. Mel asked me where my birthday winner book review was, and I realized that after reading it, ummm, over a month ago (oopsy!) I had written my review in my head, but not, ahem, on paper. Blame old age! Or vast alcohol consumption! Whichever you prefer. So, apologies, and here are my (belated) thoughts…
I picked Shards of Honor because I was after a sci-fi book that wasn’t too much, well, science-y, and winner Tanja had offered me a book with romance, action and not too many characters/sub plots (which I find far too often in sci-fi books). Did it deliver in reality? Yes, it most certainly did.
The first in the Vorkosigan Saga series, Shards of Honor is primarily setting the history for later novels. Cordelia Naismith, a high-ranking survey specialist from Beta Colony, is exploring a planet with her crew when they are attacked, and almost to a man slaughtered, by renegade military personnel from another human colony. Usurped from leadership because of his refusal to follow the renegade’s plans, middle-aged commander Aral Vorkosigan pairs up with Cordelia, and together they seek to rectify the errant soldier’s plans. It soon becomes apparent, however, that deeper political and military shenanigans are at play, and Cordelia and Aral must utilise every inch of their considerable knowledge and expertise to stave off disaster, set against a backdrop of their growing feelings for each other.
It was refreshing to read a more middle-aged romance for once, with none of the heady giddiness of the teenage fiction I usually peruse. There is also some fantastic psychological investigation when Cordelia briefly returns home, which had me squirming in my seat and wanting to hit someone. Cordelia is nicely feisty and mature, whilst Aral has so many layers you could almost imagine him as a human-shaped onion! I do have to admit, though, that was a bit too much politics in it for me to be entirely happy. I don’t like having to re-read pages, just trying to get my head around who’s doing what, and why, although I know Mel loves a good governmental double-deal! It is also fairly apparent that it is a prequel, in essence, to the other Vorkosigan novels (which feature Cordelia and Aral’s son).
Overall, I did enjoy it, and was pleased to have discovered the series, which I will definitely continue with. One for sci-fi newbies, or those who’ve been scared off the genre before! 7.5 out of 10.