Although Barrayar is strictly classed as the seventh in the Vorkosigan Saga series, it’s the second chronologically and follows directly on from Shards of Honor, which I recently read and loved.
This time around our leads, Cordelia and Aral, have married and are living peacefully at Aral’s home on the planet Barrayar. The peace is soon shattered, however.
Again, like in Shards, Bujold builds the tension in the plot beautifully. I’ll try not to spoil, but let me just say there are cliffhangers galore, meaning you will sit up late at night to desperately find out the outcome.
The action scenes are well written and believable, but it’s Bujold’s characters that lift the book to another level. They are all very human, despite the scifi tag, and their struggles could be compared to any number of real historical, and current, conflicts.
The supporting characters’ plots are all just as engaging as the main one. Writing really flawed characters that are neither completely good or bad is a real skill. I enjoyed the Count’s scenes especially. Despite his constant butting heads with our heroine, I felt he would have died for her if need be, and found his entire sub-plot fascinating, and I wouldn’t say no to reading a book just about his character. Likewise, the romantic in me adored Drou and Koudelka. I was cheering them on from their first scene together. I’ll probably be unpopular by saying I’m not a huge fan of Bothari, and could have done with less of his character, however.
Cordelia was just as good in this book as in the first. As a mother, and someone who had a miscarriage as well, I related to her maternal instinct. I laughed at her humourous take on the ridiculous nature of classism. I held my breath when she was forced to take up arms to defend her loved ones. My heart beat fast when she had sweet moments with Aral.
Again, though, she is not perfect. Her constant whining about Barrayar and its peoples and her subsequent yearning for her homeworld of Beta was quite contrary, considering the ending of the last book and how things worked out on her own planet. I laughed merrily when her husband, Aral, reminded her of this fact at one stage late in the book.
I felt Cordelia’s complaints were there for a reason, however. They make the love she has for Aral even more poignant. The sacrifices she’s made to ensure she spends her life with him are not to be taken lightly.
I know a lot of reviews centre upon Cordelia, but I find Aral’s behaviour throughout the book almost perfect. His sense of duty and honour are again in the forefront. He is quite often being pulled in every direction in this installment, but still somehow ends up doing the right thing by everyone. Sometimes all he does is make one offhand comment, and it warms me to my soul. The way he acts when he and Cordelia are reunited (which happens a couple of times in the book) is also perfect.
I probably should just wax lyrical about Aral in an entire separate blog. (You’ll all be sick of hearing about his attributes then!)
Meanwhile, I think I’m going to re-read Shards and Barrayar one more time before I move on to the first Miles book.
5/5 = now addicted to this series.