Monday, June 14, 2021

37. Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold

Not the volume I have
I understand now why Shards of Honor and Barrayar were put together into a single book called Cordelia's Honor.  The two books follow each other linearly with not even a day between them.  However, structurally and thematically, Barrayar is much more of a satisfying narrative and a complete book.  So I will count it as a separate book.  :)  Cordelia and Aral Vorkosigan are now married and their period of marital solace on the family estate on Barrayar ends quickly as Vorkosigan is tapped to become the regent while the 5-year old emperor Gregor grows up.

I found the initial introduction of the characters on Vorkosigan to be a bit confusing.  All the nobility, who are called Vor, have names that start with Vor so it is hard to distinguish them.  Barrayar is a patriarchal, militaristic society that only recently joined galactic space, so also technologically and socially backwards compared to Beta colony where Cordelia, who is the primary protagonist comes from originally.  Much of the book is about her tying to understand the culture and compare it to her own.  The big storyline is how violent and fighty Barrayar is, anchored by a near-civil war as a more traditional count tries to take over the regency for himself.

There is a lot to like here.  I got much more connected to the characters and the action was a ton of fun.  I love political intrigue and Bujold writes it well.  I wish I had a bit more grounding into Barrayar politics and society before the shit hit the fan so I could have appreciated it more, but as the book went on, you get more and more hints and details of how things work in this world and by the end it is filled out in a fairly satisfactory way.  Cordelia is a great character, really tough and aggressive without a lot of internal hand-wringing.  I feel like Bujold crafted a competent female character from an equal society in a way that seemed relatively realistic and not bound to our current (or rather mid-80s when it was written) sexual mores.  That is quite rare and hard to do.

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