Jared Millet's Reviews > Cordelia's Honor

Cordelia's Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
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Apr 25, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: space-opera, science-fiction, romance, inner-worlds-book-club
Read from May 16 to June 19, 2012

Shards of Honor

The first of the Vorkosigan books surprised me by being more of a romance novel than I was expecting, but I don't begrudge it. It was actually refreshing to read a romance plot that didn't fall into the overused "Pride and Prejudice" formula. Bujold doesn't waste any time trying to make us think her heroine despises the hero, and he doesn't waste the whole novel bending heaven and earth to impress her. They both have their own lives and their own problems - namely that they're military officers from enemy planets. And yet the novel doesn't fall into the Romeo & Juliet formula either. Instead, you get two characters who are attracted to each other, know it, and want to be together, but duty to their respective cultures keep them apart until both of the homeworlds they cherish turn against them in one way or another.

It probably sounds like I'm spoiling the book, but I'm really not. The problem was that almost nothing in the novel came as a surprise aside from a few shocking coincidences and points of political intrigue. But the characters were so engaging (and Bujold so successful in making me care about them) that a predictable storyline can be forgiven.


Now this one I'm on the fence about, which is odd since it won the Hugo. (I just checked the slate for that year and WTF - it beat Stations of the Tide? Uh, no - I don't think so.)

As a novel it works better than Shards: the plot is more coherent, the characters are better drawn, their motivations are more consistent. I think my problem was that it wasn't science-fictional enough. Shards had space battles, a futuristic society, and settings on two non-earthlike planets. The world of Barrayar, on the other hand, is just 18th century Prussia with ray guns and flying cars. Furthermore, the political intrigue this time around just wasn't intriguing. In Shards, the Barrayaran emperor's final plot was wonderfully Byzantine and Machiavellian. Barrayar, on the other hand, has nothing but a run-of-the-mill attempted coup with antagonists who are neither complex nor particularly competent.

Two things save it: 1) Cordelia's main concern isn't for winning the war, but for protecting her unborn son. To her, the war is only secondary. 2) Piotr Vorkosigan, Cordelia's father-in-law, the only character with shades of gray. Everyone in the book is clearly on one side of the conflict or the other, but Piotr - while loyal to the "good guys" - is also a danger to Cordelia.

Anyhow, the books are both well-written and I'm told that if I enjoyed these even a little I should love the Miles Vorkosigan books that come after.
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