Shards of Honor (Vorkosigan Saga, #1) - Lois McMaster Bujold image
Following the resounding success of my Locus Quest, I faced a dilemma: which reading list to follow it up with? Variety is the spice of life, so I’ve decided to diversify and pursue six different lists simultaneously. This book falls into my FINISHING THE SERIES! list.

I loves me a good series! But I'm terrible for starting a new series before finishing my last - so this reading list is all about trying to close out those series I've got on the go.

Somehow, Shards of Honor didn’t hit the sweet spot in the same way as every other Vorkosigan Saga novel that I’ve read. It’s good – this is a very comfortable three stars, about a 3.3 – but I still ended up a little disappointed because she’s since set the bar so high.

I’ve been reading the series in a totally higgledy-piggledy order, but this was the first, and like with some of my favourite long running series, it feels strange to go back to the beginning. The Colour of Magic doesn’t read anywhere near as smoothly as something like Night Watch. Likewise, Storm Front lacks the confidence of Changes. So it's no surprise that Shards of Honor takes far fewer risks than Mirror Dance.

Please don’t take this to suggest in any way that this is a bad book – it’s not – please, read it, love it, join me in wearing a little Vorkosigan liveried cheerleaders outfit! It’s a fantastic series. For a debut, it sure ain’t bad. But they get better from here on in, that’s all.

This is the story of how Aral and Cordelia, Miles’ parents, met and fell in love, back in the midst of Barrayar’s failed invasion of Escobar. From a space-opera point of view, there’s some great scenes here, in particular I’m thinking of: the vampire balloons and predatory crabs (hostile creatures on an alien planet), the action scenes as Cordelia saves Aral’s ship from a mutiny and escapes back to her own in one fell swoop, the political intricacies of the invasion, and the whole chain of events around Elena’s conception (simultaneously disturbing and pathetic). The contrast between Barrayar and Beta is played out very well, and there are some great cameos from established players – we get to see Kou and Illyan when they were young and there’s even a scene with Mayhew (the pilot from The Warrior’s Apprentice). This is all good, fun, eminently readable stuff and definitely essential reading for anyone (like me) who came in further down the tracks.

But it suffered (for me) from a lack of real tension. Miles is always fighting this massive uphill battle, he always takes on challenges way, way out of his league – and wins! That’s why we love him. In Barrayar, Cordelia is stuck on a new planet, trying to understand, adapt, and flourish amid a revolution – again, huge challenge. While the odds here may be stacked against Aral and Cordelia’s relationship, these are two hugely competent adults, both fighting for the same thing – the situation is complex, but it never felt beyond them – I was never surprised by their achievements. And while Cordelia definitely has some great moments of wry humour, she spent a lot of this book with her head in a spin, and doesn’t deliver as many insightful/analytical zingers as in Barrayar, or her appearances in latter books. My final complaint is the rape/torture aspect of the plot – it just felt a little cheap, a sort of ‘perfect way to demonstrate evilness in the baddie’, rather than an integral part of Cordelia’s own journey. Just my two-cents.

Shards of Honor is a bit cheesey, a touch patchy, but still a lot of fun and well worth the read. I picked up my copy second hand for less than the price of a sandwich – b-b-b-bargain!

After this I read: Drood