Book Review: Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
I read this book on a friend’s recommendation (that is, she nagged until I relented). I will readily admit that I had never heard of this series of books (which, interestingly, has no official name, but most people call it the Vorkosigan Saga), nor its author (Lois McMaster Bujold) when she first told me to read it. Then, funnily enough, I started seeing it mentioned all over the internet, and came to the conclusion that it has a cult following. I think I can see why after reading the first book.
Yes, it’s science fiction. Yes, it has futuristic space settings, battles, and technology. But, like all really good science fiction, the charm of the book is in the characters. They’re characters whose story could still work if it was set in any place or time.*
This book introduces us to Captain Cordelia Naismith from the Beta Colony. She’s on a scientific study on an uninhabited (by humans) planet when all hell breaks loose, in the form of Commander Aral Vorkosigan and his soldiers from a planet called Barrayar attacking her ship and crew. Betans and Barrayarans have been sworn enemies for eons apparently, but in a typical fiction twist, Cordelia and Aral find themselves stranded on the volatile planet, alone, and have to work together to survive.
Cordelia is smart, sassy, and quite handy in a crisis.
Aral is not considered good looking by anyone on either colony. He’s known to be bloodthirsty and sadistic. Cordelia’s slow journey of learning none of this is true is so much fun.
Yes, the obvious ending is romance, and the obvious plot is conflict between our lead couple. But in between their series of Austen-like misunderstandings and learning to appreciate each other, I believe there is enough political intrigue, fight scenes, and creepy local fauna to keep most readers who dislike romance happy.
Bujold does UST very well. It practically crackles up from the page at times.
I enjoyed the way the supporting characters see our leads; their ages and looks especially. My favourite part of the book was when Cordelia returned to Beta Colony and how she coped (or doesn’t cope) with her fellow Betans’ opinion of Aral.
The ending of the book is not only satisfying, it’s also completely intriguing, and made me straight away purchase the next book to find out what would happen. This is how all books of series should be!
(Now, I have to add I’ve gone onto Barrayar, the seventh book published in the series, but the book set second chronologically. The reading order of this series is also a hotly debated subject too, it seems, with the author herself coming out and weighing in on the subject!)
Overall, I loved this book. Just proves my friend was right after all. 5/5