Review – Shards of Honor

Shards of Honor (Vorkosigan Saga, #1)Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
Synopsis from GoodReads:
Cordelia Naismith and her survey crew are attacked by Barrayars, mutineers against ship commander Aral Vorkosigan. Aral and Cordelia learn what honor means to the other, admire cultural differences, escape dangers.

What’s this, you say?  Michelle, you’re an SFF/Spec-Fic fan who has never read LMB?  Well, let me tell you, there are a lot of classic/well-known SFF authors whose work I haven’t read.  But that’s because a) until recently I tended to stay much more firmly in the fantasy segments and b) there’s a lot of good authors out there in SFF.

Yes, I know Sturgeon’s Law.  But when there’s a lot of output, that 10% of not-crap is pretty large.  (And for all you genre-haters, remember the Corollary to the Law: 90% of anything is crap)

So.  LMB’s first entry into the Vorkosogian Saga.  It’s pretty enjoyable.  Most of it is character development, surprisingly enough, but there’s a decent dose of action, all of it told through Cordelia’s third person narrative.  And wow, what a main character!  Cordelia’s great, and her development through the course of Shards of Honor is pretty interesting.

Most of her development, on the other hand, can be linked to Aral Vorkosigan, the male main character and Cordelia’s love interest.  However, she doesn’t change FOR him, she changes because of her interactions WITH him.  A very important distinction, since it is her base personality and her sense of honor – what she refers to as the grace of God, being a relatively religious person – that propels the changes in her world view.  After all, when faced with the truth of Aral, she cannot see him the way the rest of the people from the Beta Colony and its allies do.

Because Cordelia is our viewpoint character, we see the Barrayarrans fairly unsympathetically at first, although that changes fairly rapidly thanks to her interactions with Aral.  We also don’t see a lot of ‘space opera’, that is, military operations, because Cordelia isn’t a military person.  Aral, of course, is, but, again, this is Cordelia’s story.

My main complaint about Shards of Honor is that Aral and Cordelia’s interactions can certainly come across as insta-love.  The one saving grace, as far as I’m concerned, is that it’s not based on looks.  Their attraction to each other is, as far as the narrative is concerned, based solely on personality, competence, and the like.  Aral goes so far as to say that it is Cordelia’s composure, competence, and the way she exudes honor (he puts it a lot more poetically) that attracted him from the beginning, that very first day that they met.

If you’re looking for some interesting Sci-Fi that deals strongly with honor, ruthlessness, duty, and what looks like even more themes in upcoming novels, you might want to consider LMB’s Shards of Honor.

4 out of 5 stars.

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