Shards of Honour by Lois McMaster Bujold
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Actually, it's my third read. It was only a few years ago when I read it last and since then I've plowed through all the other novels in a row. It's so good that I have to do it all over again.
That being said, I think this novel is growing more and more on me. I loved it before and I love it even more now. Yes, yes, it's a romance on the battlefield and we have tons of action on a wild planet and in space with outright space battles, but it's the interactions between all these fantastic characters that makes this shine. Cordelia. Aral. Bathari.
Bujold doesn't hold back on anything. Do you want a loss of honor and the hope of regaining it? A political mess? How about respect at the deepest levels? How about disillusionment with our homes and putting all our cards down on a gamble for the rest of your life and happiness?
Truly, there's a lot more depth to this book than most people might credit it. And here's the best part: if you're already invested in the series and know all the locations and references dropped, it still makes a perfectly coherent whole in the world building. :) Everything was worked out to perfection. :) Even the characters we meet fleetingly here get much bigger roles later, and revisiting them, in the beginning, is so gratifying.
Some books only get better with time. This is one of them.
I thought the careful and considered match between Aral and Cordelia was charming. It was deeper, emotionally, than a lot of romances, sci-fi or otherwise. Much has been said about how strong a female lead Cordelia is, in both the stories and by the fans, and I have to admit they're correct. She's got a solid grip on reality, and despite the situation, she steadfastly judges her situation based on what is done and not what is said. That's always a great sign of sanity.
The adventure part had me going, but the disillusionment about her home and the open-eyed acceptance of the madhouse of Aral's home said more about Beta Colony than it said about Barrayar. All in all, delicious more for its accumulated weight of surrounding stories than for it, in itself, but it was definitely a charming space-operatic love story.
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