I was so afraid for you, I forgot to be afraid for your enemies.
― Lois McMaster Bujold, Barrayar
These three novels were my entry into the Vorkosigan books by Lois McMaster Bujold. There are a few different entry points, but these three provided the right amount of backstory at the right time. I’ve read that you can begin with The Warrior’s Apprentice, however you would miss out on some wonderful characters that are only referenced within the two earlier books.
Shards of Honor is Bujold’s first novel. It is told from the point of view of Cordelia Naismith, a scientist and a soldier, who is forced to cross a hostile landscape on foot with her captor and with her injured compatriot.
Cordelia is shrewd, cunning, and a fantastic protagonist. She is confident in her abilities while remaining aware of her shortcomings. She does not pull her punches but she has the wisdom to keep her ego in check in order to achieve her goals. After being captured by a Barrayaran soldier, Captain Aral Vorkosigan, the two of them are forced to work together until they can understand why her Betan landing party was attacked and why the captain was targeted by his own platoon and left for dead.
Cordelia is stubborn and flawed but she is one of the most self-aware characters I have read in quite a while. I don’t see many multi-layered female protagonists in SciFi so, when I do get them, I automatically give the book the benefit of the doubt. In terms of which book is the best, I enjoyed Shards of Honor the most, followed closely by The Warrior’s Apprentice. Barrayar is another Cordelia-centric story, but it was so focused on the government of Barrayar and political infighting that I found myself skipping ahead to the action sequences.
Bujold is a master storyteller and I tore through these books in a couple of weeks. However, I interspersed my reading with some lighter, trashier fare when I wasn’t in the mood to remember which count or military advisor turned traitor during one of the various wars mentioned throughout the course of the series.
These books were far less dense than other beloved SciFi series. However, I found myself as frustrated as Cordelia when trying to understand and endure the patriarchal laws and customs of Barrayar.
A couple of things to note…
- I loved Shards of Honor but keep in mind there is a HUGE BLINKING TRIGGER WARNING for a few chapters in the latter half of this book.
- This is the original cover art for The Warrior’s Apprentice. According to wikipedia “The novel’s cover art had originally been intended for a Keith Laumer novel, “(b)ut [Laumer] didn’t want it. So they painted Miles into the command chair and put some clothes on the woman.”
Adding these as CBR15 Passport for “recommended by a friend.”