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 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 reminscent 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 would play in Barrayari’s bloody legacy. (from Goodreads)
I’m going to review these two books together because a) they’re both in the same omnibus version I have (called Cordelia’s Honor) and b) it’s just easier? So: Shards of Honor is the first book in the omnibus, and it stars Cordelia Naismith, scientist-soldier and all-around amazing lady. She’s got red hair and she can use a (stunner)gun, but she’s not Action Woman. She’s not fiesty– okay, no, that’s wrong. She IS fiesty, but not in that superficial way that modern female characters are expected to be fiesty. And she CAN kick butt when she needs to but she mostly doesn’t like it. I really liked Cordelia because she’s got all the good stuff I enjoy reading about in a character1 and she’s got real depth of human emotions. That right there? Is because of how wonderful the writing is.
The “romance” genre is up there because Cordelia’s Honor totally IS romance, but it’s not gooey fall-into-my-arms romance. The HEA doesn’t happen until book two. The hero (Aral Vorkosigan) is an alpha male but not in a rapist kind of way– he’s more like, idk, Mr. Darcy but less offensive? Like when Mr. Darcy is all gooey towards Elizabeth at the end of Pride & Prejudice. He’s like that! But unlike Mr. Darcy, he is a SOLDIER and he kills people a lot and has fits about his honor (see: the title) and so on.
Uh. The plot! The plot, yes. Mostly in the first books it’s them (Cordelia and Aral) wandering around a planet getting to know one another better and there’s lots of action and sci-fi stuff and people die and there is ROMANCE omg, I loved the romance, and at the end they leave each other and I nearly cried. Then came book two, Barrayar!
I probably should have mentioned that this series takes place way into the future? Cordelia and Aral live on two extreme planets: Cordelia’s is very “let us help you AGAINST YOUR WILL with MIND MESSER-UPPERS” (but with good stuff as well2) and Aral’s is basically what would have happened if you moved a bunch of 19th century European soldiers to their own planet and left them alone for a couple hundred years. Very classist, very war-like, very PRUSSIAN.3 And his planet is called Barrayar! And thus, the title.
Sooooooo, in Barrayar, Cordelia has a tiny mental breakdown and FLEES her home planet to Barrayar, where Aral is, and then YAY! The HEA happens only not really. Because of DRAMA. Drama outside the relationship of Cordelia/Aral! They’re fine, they’re set for life, only now they’ve gotta beat all these other people up and defend their fetus and what have you from assassins. The sci-fi in this book is more perpendicular to the main story than it was in Shards of Honor; Barrayar reminds me more than anything of those classic books where people duked it out for the succession of some kingdom and there’s a lot of conspiracies and spies and stuff. And fighting! So if you like more action than romance, you’re set. (But the romance is SO NICE! Yes.)
Barrayar is also where Miles, the hero for (almost) all the other Vorkosigan books, is born. Huzzah! I mean, boo, because I wanna read more about Cordelia and Aral, but YAY because Miles seems pretty neat.
So: there is romance, there is fighting, there are political conspiracies and assassination attempts. There is family drama, and government drama, and woe-to-my-honor drama. There is interesting sci-fi things! There’s space travel, and alien planets– but no actual aliens. There’s stuff about courage, and about how being able to fight physically isn’t the be-all and end-all, and about being a mother on a planet that eats its inhabitants4 through war. And there’s some really awesome characters and writing and etc.!
IN CONCLUSION, I really like these books, I’m in love with this series, and I hope I don’t get through it TOO quickly. I suppose, if I do, I can just reread it. Yay!
Read: Dec. 31, 2012-Jan. 2, 2012
A favorite quote:
It made her furious. All Kareen’s courage of endurance had bought her nothing, Lady Vorpatril’s brave and bloody birth-giving was taken for granted, but whack off some idiot’s head and you were really somebody, by God—! (Page 567)
The cover! Holy crap, that cover. D:
- independence, agency especially re:getting stuff done, doesn’t let male hero talk shit to her but also isn’t ridiculously LOOK AT HOW CLEVER I AM let’s make out now, etc. ↩
- like free education for everyone and good health services and so on. Also manufactured hermaphrodites apparently? This was written pre-gender neutral stuff I suppose. Do I mean gender neutral? Um. Like in Dust with that one character who was neither male or female. Yes? ↩
- Though not all white, I think? Which is nice. ↩
- not literally, this isn’t Doctor Who. ↩