4.5 Stars Cordelia s Honor is a fascinating novel, or rather a fascinating omnibus, having been split down the middle Well not the precise middle but that middle we mortals all mean when we say middle The middle that s a little to the left However either way this novel was split into two novels, a sort of conjunctive novel, and as such I will discuss my reaction to the two different storiesShards of Honor4 Stars This novel flings its readers directly into the action, causing the two romantic interests of this space opera to be flung together quickly and decisively Aral Vorkosigan and Cordelia Naismith are two intriguing characters, however their romance proved to be unbelievable a little fast paced and rushed It was a bunch of teasing, flirting and then suddenly they were in love I didn t really buy it that much In fact the major problem that prevented me liking this book as much as I could was the pacing At times it was too quick, at times it was too slow I did like the plot which involved a war between two cultures in space and, of course the romantic elements, and some close calls where some very gruesome things almost happened to Cordelia But it was all okay because this is a fictional novel and nothing bad happens to characters in fiction right unless you re G.R.R Martin or Cormac McCarthy nothing but bad seems to happen to you thenBarrayar5 StarsIt was easy to see why Barrayar is the winner of a Hugo for best sci fi of the year As science fiction goes this was magnificent It had the science fictional gadgets, it had the characters, it had the setting, it had conflict and it had political intrigue The speed of the plot was far even and the character interactions and romantic angles levelled and believable As for the plot, well this novel focused on the culture shock experienced by Cordelia in a different world as well as a power vacuum created by the loss of a ruler As such a kind of game of thrones begins without so many character deaths as G.R.R Martin and Cordelia proves why she is one of the strong women of fiction The relationships between characters in this novel were perhaps the highlight for me I loved Kou and Drou, I found Aral and Cordelia to be one of the best relationships in fiction, not just science fiction, and I loved the complexity of Bothari as a character He s the insane character kept in check by meds and the strength of Cordelia s personality.Ultimately this is an omnibus that must be read by all sci fi fans I particularly encourage the first novel for space opera and romance lovers and I particularly encourage the second for anyone who just loves a good sci fi read It certainly is one of the best character driven sci fi novels I ve read and I will read of the Vorkosigan Saga. In Her First Trial By Fire, Cordelia Naismith Captained A Throwaway Ship Of The Betan Expeditionary Force On A Mission To Destroy An Enemy Armada Discovering Deception Within Deception, Treachery Within Treachery, She Was Forced Into A Separate Peace With Her Chief Opponent, Lord Aral Vorkosigan He Who Was Called The Butcher Of Komarr And Would Consequently Become An Outcast On Her Own Planet And The Lady Vorkosigan On His Sick Of Combat And Betrayal, She Was Ready To Settle Down To A Quiet Life, Interrupted Only By The Occasional Ceremonial Appearances Required Of The Lady Vorkosigan But When The Emperor Died, Aral Suddenly Became Guardian Of The Infant Heir To The Imperial Throne Of Barrayar And The Target Of High Tech Assassins In A Dynastic Civil War That Was Reminiscent Of Earth S Middle Ages, But Fought With Up To The Minute Biowar Technology Neither Aral Nor Cordelia Guessed The Part That Their Cell Damaged Unborn Son Would Play In Barrayar S Bloody Legacy This Edition Includes An Author S Afterword, And A Chronology Of The Events In The Vorkosigan Saga Series Cover Art By Gary Ruddell The precursor to her Vorkosigan saga, this is an omnibus of two books featuring Miles s mother, Cordelia It is amazingly well written and not only a wonderful sweeping Space Opera but quite romantic and sweet The first installment is essentially a survival story on an alien world with enemies forced to survive, and uncover treachery, together The second half is political as Cordelia, now an outcast from her own culture, enters Vor politics in her own fierce and indomitable way Cordelia is witty, snarky, and tough, with an innate sense of right and wrong and true grace under fire I m interested in her character than in the events leading up to Miles birth, as I ve never had the time or inclination to commit to the full seemingly endless Vorkosigan saga Please don t tell me how sad this makes you, or how I should rush out and buy now now now, it s my retirement plan The true beauty of this omnibus is that it stands alone, and gives great insight into Bujold s brilliance. I m not going to lie guys, I didn t like Shades of Honor which is the first book in this bind up I thought the story moved a little too fast to the point characters were lacking development The romance was bland and the plot is one I read in hundred of books in multiple genres I didn t understand why people like Lois Bujold so much Why do people say she s the Queen of Scifi if this is her best work The only thing keeping me from dnfing the series was a short story at the end called Aftermath A short story that made me cry so I kept going and I m glad I did because Barrayar is amazingYou should have fallen in love with a happy man, if you wanted happiness But no, you had to fall for the breathtaking beauty of pain.Barrayar takes place after the events of Shades of Honor and it follows a woman surviving in a society and world that s unfamiliar to her What I enjoyed about this book is Cordelia the woman protagonist of the two books about how strong she is without seeming unrealistic How she hates the society but finds benefits in it I loved her struggle because it s real She isn t some pity girl who wants to complain about the world she s sees real danger that anyone would be afraid to face and wants to run yet she stays not because she has to because she loves the people she meets and doesn t want to abandon them or the man she s come to love Don t even get me started on what these people do to her cause I would have hightailed out of thereHe s bisexual, you know He took a delicate sip of his wine Was bisexual, she corrected absently, looking fondly across the room Now he s monogamous Highly recommend As I finish up listening to this series I couldn t help but go back and start a reread of the first two omnibus editions both first read several years ago.Shards of Honor is still a book that does not do the series that follows justice It is disjointed, jumps in time without transition though at least it avoids tedious filler of unimportant events and lacks the mix of humor and serious later books have Bujolds ability to give characters real personality shines early though Barrayer though is a different animal The humor is there, the heartbreak is there What amazes me though is how seamlessly she ties in a sequel to her first book after the next few books set 20 years later have already been written It doesn t feel like a retcon as a reader joining the series much later I would have never know there was a gap between writing the first two books in the chronology. It is a good thing that these two books are joined in one volume The first book, Shards of Honor is by far the weaker book however, when taken with Barrayar, it works Honor sets the stage by introducing the reader to Aral and Cordelia These two would be lovers are from different, quasi warring, planets Barrayar a.k.a Sparta and Beta a.k.a Athens I found Honor to be the weaker novel The major problem I had was I just didn t by the fact that Aral and Cordelia were in love, deeply in love I just didn t buy it I brought the sense of the companionship they had while on planet I brought that they were alike I could even by Aral s first quick proposal because of the culture he comes from Cordelia s reaction and Aral s love I just couldn t buy It s true that Bujold drops hints shot, sentences that say Cordelia is attracted to Aral, and considering the situation it would hardly be surprising But love Love enough to leave your home and go some place completely different Didn t buy it The other problem is Cordelia who in a section of the book seems to be a completely different person She becomes stupid for several chapters in row, too stupid to be chalked up to simply, understandably, stress The best part of the book, for me, was the epilogue that featured none of the main characters and focused on the cost of war in a harsher degree than the rest of the book I felt for those characters, in particular Boni, then I did for Aral and Cordelia Barrayar is completely different From the first paragraph, it is quite easily to tell the writing is far polished Cordelia and Aral not only seem real here, but so does their relationship I couldn t buy them falling in love in the first book, but I brought them as an united married couple in the second As Bujold herself and several other reviewers have pointed out, the theme of motherhood runs throughout this second novel I found, however, the most touching and affecting part to be the conversation between Cordelia and Bothari Bothari s struggles and concern, his repentance even, were touching than his caring of the children Perhaps because at the end, he seems devoted to Miles than to Elena or perhaps because I don t have children myself With Bothari, Bujold gives the reader a different kind of victim She also fully addresses rape here than in Barrayar, both books combining quite well in looking at the ramifications Bujold does a good job using both Bothari and Kou to explore the mental and physical effects of war on members of a Spartan society.I have to say, though, I do wonder about books like Barrayar This isn t a comment just on Bujold but on other writers as well I always feel strange when reading a book or watching a movie where a woman leaves a place where she has power to go and live in a totally new society where she doesn t have very much Bujold does it with Cordelia, Marion Zimmer Bradley did it to a degree with her Darkover novels and no, I m not talking about the Free s I m talking about Magda While Bujold does show the reader Cordelia s anger or dislike of some of the rules and gives us Drou who is wasted or precieved as wasted in the society, I never feel that the examination of Cordelia s reaction goes as far as it could I have yet to read a book that really does so, and I have to wonder why such fiction appeals because it does But would I want to give up my right to vote, my right to wear what I want, my right to anything because of love I can only think of two books that tackle the idea of a role reverse in such a situation The Ruins of Isis and The Gate to Women s Country. Let s all agree on this right up front the covers of the Vorkosigan Saga books are horrible Just plain awful The cover art for anything published by Baen is pretty bad, enough to make even the proud nerds of today cringe and place the book face down whenever possible to avoid being snickered at But these covers in particular, with their dramatic poses and odd retro fonts, seem to house a strange breed of quasi historical space pulp that embodies everything that serious readers should avoid And that s a damned shame, because Bujold writes fantastic, accessible science fiction Were I to browse this by cover instead of trying out a no frills ebook version, I may well have never discovered it.I ll try to stick to well known details, but there are a few mild spoilers here if you want to fly completely blind Cordelia s Honor is an omnibus, comprising two separately published novels Shards of Honor and Barrayar These two books represent the first chronological stories in the sprawling Vorkosigan Saga, and begin a generation before the introduction of that saga s hero, Miles Shards of Honor begins with Betan explorer Captain Cordelia Naismith, attempting to chart a new, unclaimed world Her party is surprised and attacked by a squad of the warlike Barryarans, and she barely escapes with her life She finds herself lost on an unfamiliar planet, and thanks to a mutiny within the Barryaran ranks, she is forced to rely on a gruff Barrayaran outcast named Aral Vorkosigan, better known to her people as the Butcher of Komarr She comes to know him better than she would ever have guessed during their ordeal in the wild, and their understanding of one another becomes crucial when they meet again, once the reason for the Barrayarans presence on the untouched world becomes clear and their respective peoples stand on the brink of a brutal war The second book, Barrayar, picks up on the titular planet Having forsaken her homeworld of Beta Colony after her unpleasant homecoming, Cordelia attempts to build a peaceful life with her new husband and the eventual birth of their son However, after the Barrayaran emperor dies, Aral Vorkosigan finds himself manipulated into being the regent for the child heir, and thus a prime target for those lusting after the child heir s power An attempted assassination has dire consequences for Cordelia s unborn child, and before she and Aral can gain their balance, a Barrayaran noble launches an insurrection and attempts to seize control of the empire through force Cordelia, loath to accept the responsibilities placed on her by political momentum, must decide how far she is willing to go to rescue her fledgling family, and how much she should compromise her personal ethics in order to do so.This is the second collected omnibus of sequential novels that I ve read in the past year third if you count graphic novels , and I m starting to notice a distinct feeling that the novels contained within such volumes work a lot better together than they do apart I can t decide whether that s a psychosomatic thing that s brought on by there being so many pages left after getting through one book I finished Shards of Honor feeling like should have happened, and glad that I had a second half to move on to In retrospect, I think that has everything to do with Bujold s writing style, and I m pretty sure I would have liked each book on its own, had I approached them that way These books are referred to as a saga, and that s an appropriate label This is the first entry in a space opera that spans great distances, unravels intricate political intrigues, and narrates epic battles, but it s immediately clear that the books are first and foremost about the characters The saga follows the rise and fall of its players, and the landmark events in the plot provide the catalyst and backdrop for the landmark changes in the character arcs This is what makes these books transcend pulp sci fi and confirms them as a great choice for anyone who wants to read a good story.There are a couple of snags, though The characters are pitch perfect, but their dialogue can get a little awkward from time to time The narration is also a little odd, as well, especially in Shards of Honor Bujold tends to get a little informal with the narrative voice, occasionally letting Cordelia s sardonic humor bleed into the exposition and narration Compounding this problem is the lack of italics or any other device to differentiate character thoughts in the first book, making the whole story feel a little slapdash There was apparently a fair amount of time between the publication of the first book of this story arc and the second, and it definitely shows Barrayar is much tightly plotted, better paced, and efficiently narrated than Shards of Honor, displaying Bujold s evolution as an author between the two stories Standing as a testament to her talent, however, the joining of the actual story is seamless and natural.I am to understand that the Vorkosigan books don t really get going until we get into the exploits of Miles Vorkosigan, but as a newcomer to the series, I found this book to be a wonderful introduction to this particular world s and set of characters It gives insight into the politics and technology of two distinct planets without seeming either contrived or confusing, leaving plenty of room to get to know wonderfully nuanced characters like Cordelia, Aral, Droushnakovi, and my favorite, Bothari This gets a solid recommendation to any science fiction reader that puts a premium on good characters. This is an omnibus edition of Shards of Honor and Barrayar Shards of Honor is the first novel in what has since become an extensive series of which I ve read a great many It s always odd to go back and read an early book featuring characters who were later fleshed out a great deal To be frank, this book does not fully live up to many of the later entries into the saga but then, how could it, really The world, and the people in it, have grown in the three decades since this book was written.None of this is to say this isn t a good book It is Non combatant Betan scientist Captain Cordelia Naismith and her exploration team are ambushed and attacked by a group of militaristic Barrayaran soldiers Next thing she knows, her spaceship must flee, leaving her behind Also marooned on the planet is the Barrayaran commander Aral Vorkosigan, betrayed by his own men Cooperation may be the only way that either of them can stay alive and the only way that Cordelia can keep a severely injured member of her crew alive, as well Forced into proximity, the two of them may learn that although they come from wildly disparate cultures, as individuals they may have in common than they would have guessed.That s just the beginning of the story, and it progresses with plenty of action, but also with a very realistic, human focus on emotions, values, and decision making.At the end of the book, Aftermaths, a separate short story which was actually written and published before the rest of the book, goes even farther with that theme It gives us a look at an aspect of space battles that action packed stories of glory usually skip the civil servants employed to collect the corpses floating in space, working an unpleasant but necessary job It s a powerful and heartwrenching tale.The chronological sequel to Shards of Honor, Barrayar follows Cordelia Naismith as she defects from Beta, in order to make her way to Barrayar and find her former captor Aral Vorkosigan a man she has come to love and respect.It s not incomprehensible that her Betan psychologists assume that she must be suffering from something like Stockholm syndrome, or some insidious mental conditioning The suspicion cast on her means that even though the war between Beta and Barrayar is technically over, Cordelia must leave the familiar comforts of home behind and give herself fully to her new life on primitive, violent, militaristic Barrayar Nearly immediately she finds herself plunged into the dizzying complexity of the upper levels of Barrayaran politics, as Aral discovers that the peaceful retirement he d been planning is not in the cards for him And that s not the only sudden change Cordelia is pregnant.If you ve read later books in this series, a great deal of this book is a lot of tension waiting for certain events that you ve already read about, to happen It s intentional on the author s part this book involves her backtracking and filling in details about events that have already been referred to in other books I think it would be an equally enjoyable, although different, experience to read it without already having been introduced to Miles and knowing the difficulties and circumstances surrounding his birth. Actual rating 4.5 starsThis is a combined volume, consisting of numbers 1 7 of the Vorkosigan saga, Shards of Honor and Barrayar It is hard for me to believe, but although they are two halves of the same story, there was about 10 years between their original publication dates I am really glad to have read them together.I really enjoyed Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan as a main character She was practical, capable, smart, and sensible And despite all of that, she fell in love with a guy on the wrong side of a war This was kind of an anti fairy tale romance Cordelia and Aral are mature people, not impulsive 20 somethings They talk about the things that are bothering them and they count on one another for support In short, they have a real relationship.Cordelia is from a rather Gene Roddenberry esque culture, that of the Beta Colony Decisions are made rationally, government is democratic, knowledge is valued, sexual preferences are publically acknowledged, and frank discussions are seen as normal Sure, a scientific expedition of Betans is rather like herding cats everyone thinks they get a vote but the aim is reasonably pure I adored Bujold s idea of uterine replicators to take the nasty part out of pregnancy and all their medical procedures are first rate.Contrast that with Aral s society on Barrayar A military hierarchy, a royal family, inequality of men and women, hidebound by tradition, a bit primitive in medical technology As Cordelia struggles to figure out all of the nuances of this society, there are bound to be misunderstandings Add to that political intrigue, and you ve got a recipe for a good story.I also appreciated that there s no pretense that people have forgotten Earth and its history They discuss Medieval history and one character in particular has become a devotee of the Marquis de Sade I ve always thought it would be a bit weird to have a society forget its roots while still having enormous databases full of information.Favourite bits The Betan psychiatrist and the fish tank Cordelia s use of a shopping bag at the end of Barrayar This is my first venture into Ms Bujold s writing, but I think I can safely say that I love her style and will happily work my way through this whole series.Books 211 and 212 of my science fiction and fantasy reading project.