Cordelia’s Honor consists of Lois McMaster Bujold’s first book, Shards of Honor, and Barrayar, a Hugo Award winning novel.
In Shards of Honor, Captain Cordelia Naismith is surveying a new planet when her party is attacked and she is captured by Lord Aral Vorkosigan. Each of them is silently impressed and attracted to the other, after sharing that he is also stranded on the planet due to a shipboard mutiny, they join forces and take back his ship. While she is considering his offer of marriage, Cordelia’s crew infiltrate the ship to rescue her, in the middle of a resurgence in the mutiny.
Despite her personal feelings, Cordelia is honor bound to return to her ship, but she manages to save Aral’s life before she leaves. When they meet again, Cordelia is a prisoner of war and Vorkosigan is the enemy general. His loyalty to his emperor has lead him to do things he would not otherwise have done and he is slowly cracking under the pressure.
Barrayar opens just weeks after their marriage (at the end of Shards of Honor), Cordelia is having trouble adjusting to the feudal Barrayan culture, so different from the open and technologically advanced world she comes from. The dying emperor has selected Aral as the most trustworthy and capable man to be regent for his 5 year old grandson. Various attempts to seize power by assassination unsettle a pregnant Cordelia, growing worse when a poison gas attacks the fetus. Removed to an artificial womb, Cordelia fights (mentally, socially and then physically) for her unborn childs’ health and right to live.
Despite knowing that Aral and Cordelia marry and their son survives, (the son, Miles, is the hero of Bujolds major series) there was so much tension, I could not put this book down. (I read it in one day, not stopping for lunch until I had finished!)
The tension was not so much in what will happen (broadly speaking – I didn’t know the fate of any but the three major characters) but in how mentally damaged the characters will be, how/if they deal with it and are able to recover. Also, Bujold throws seemingly insurmountable obstacles at her characters: be captured by the guy who is called The Butcher of Komarr; fall in love with someone from a different culture and that your planet is at war with; become Regent when you wanted to retire from politics; bear a physically disabled child in a culture that regards this with horror. I had to keep reading to find out just how Cordelia and Aral overcome all these problems.
I cannot recommend Cordelia’s Honor highly enough. I have already lent this to a friend who also could not put it down, and I am looking forward to reading the rest of the Vorkosigan Saga, as soon as I can get my hands on the books!
Other books I have reviewed by Lois McMaster Bujold: The Sharing Knife: Beguilement