[book report] Shards of Honor

 The other book I reread for Yuletide was Lois McMaster Bujold's Shards of Honor (first half of the omnibus Cordelia's Honor, which also includes Barrayar). Shards of Honor is the first book of the long-running Vorkosigan Saga. It opens from the viewpoint of Cordelia Naismith, an expeditionary commander from Beta Colony. Unfortunately, her people run afoul of soldiers from militaristic Barrayar while exploring a planet. She ends up in an unwilling truce with one of the Barrayarns, Aral Vorkosigan, who was betrayed by his own crew.

Shards of Honor is pretty unabashedly romance. It's not as polished as Bujold's later works, unsurprisingly, but it has a lot of charm. In particular, in later installments, Cordelia tends to come off as an Authorial Mouthpiece of What Is Correct and that saddens me, because it makes an otherwise likable character rather irritating. Here in Shards of Honor (and also Barrayar), Cordelia doesn't come off that way at all.

Also, the first two books have a lot more of Aral Vorkosigan, who is one of my favorite characters. Starting with The Warrior's Apprentice, focus in the main series (there are also some side books about other characters) shifts over to Aral and Cordelia's son Miles Vorkosigan. I liked Miles well enough when I was younger, and he is certainly convincing as an improvisational manic genius, but now that I am middle-aged, he terrifies the ever-living hell out of me. I'm pretty sure I don't want to be anywhere in the same galaxy as Miles!

One of the things I like about the Vorkosigan Saga is how varied all the different entries are. I haven't liked all of them equally--for example, I can hardly remember what even happened in Diplomatic Immunity, and gave up on Captain Vorpatril's Alliance after two tries--but it has everything from romance (Shards of Honor) to heavy-duty politics and revolution (Barrayar) to straight-up romantic comedy (A Civil Campaign) to tense drama and mystery (Memory, arguably the best one; unfortunately it will make no sense without the previous entries for context). There are a lot of interesting characters. If the cast has a weakness, it's this sense I get, particularly in the later volumes, that people in the Right family are always Right. Earlier books were better about avoiding this (I will avoid getting more specific in case anyone here hasn't read these books yet and doesn't want spoilers).

I have a particular fondness for Shards of Honor because it was one of the books in a care package that a friend, F., sent to me my freshman year of college. I have long since fallen out of touch with F. (her email address stopped working years and years ago), but I still remember that box of books. It included Michelle Sagara's Books of the Sundered as well, which I also read and enjoyed.

What are your nostalgia reads?