Review: Barrayar

Barrayar (Vorkosigan Saga, #2)Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Someone said that this book was a lot better than Shards of Honor. I thought it was much worse. The first half of the book was pure political drama setting up for the action-packed last quarter of the book. Unfortunately, because of the way the author chose to name all of the lords and lordlings, things get very confusing.

My main beef with Barrayar was personality changes that both Vorkosigan and Cordelia went through. Cordelia in the first book was a strong-willed, clever woman who wasn’t hung up on gender roles. Cordelia in this book was a whiney, stubborn woman who’s only goal was to first have a son, and then later, to save this unborn son, even at the cost of her close friends, lots of death, and extended political turmoil.

Vorkosigan in this book turned into some no-direction, one-dimensional character that seemed to be hiding in the late emperor’s shadow. Maybe that’s what the author was trying to convey, but I rather liked him in Shards of Honor, and was just annoyed with him in this book.

To make up for my dislike of the two main characters, I found myself gravitating to the supporting cast this time. Koudelka and Drou’s attempt at flirting was entertaining and I was relieved when they finally found a way to resolve their relationship.

I’m still torn about the Bothari character. The author takes great pains to point that he’s mentally unstable. Funny how he always manages to find his stability to save the day in any situation that requires brawn. In fact, it’s annoying how Cordelia *always* succeeds. There’s just no tension at all because she always gets what she wants.

Perhaps I’m cold and I have no mothering instinct at all, but I was annoyed at Cordelia’s reaction to the whole baby situation. She was willing to cause more political strife to try and save one unborn life. It seemed incredibly selfish to me, and I was hoping Cordelia was beyond that. Because of my annoyance of the central plot, I was disengaged from the entire book. Not sure if I want to read the rest now. I guess I should at least give the actual Miles books a try.

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Review: Shards of Honour

Shards of Honour (Vorkosigan Saga, #1)Shards of Honour by Lois McMaster Bujold

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After reading through lots of recommendations, I chose Shards of Honour to introduce me to the Space Opera genre. Now that I’m done with the book, I feel confident to say that I’m a fan of the genre.

Shards of Honour has a lot of political drama, which I would normally find boring, but because the characters are so entwined and affected by the politics, I can deal with it.

Although the whole Vorkosigan saga takes place on distant planets and involves space ships and wormholes, it doesn’t feel like hard science fiction. I think part of it is because the author doesn’t get caught up with the technical details of space travel unless it’s integral to the plot.

The best thing about this novel, and this is what makes me want to read the rest of the series, is that the two main characters care about each other, but they’re not hormone-driven teenagers who make decisions through their genitals. Neither of them sacrifices their duty in the name of being together, which makes them both honorable in my eyes. The book has a fitting title.

Unfortunately, I have to knock this book down a star because of how it deals with rape. Sure, rape is inevitable in an all-out war when there are prisoners on both sides, but the author takes such a flippant attitude to it that I can’t help thinking the book is condoning it just because it’s something hard to prevent in a war. While it’s great to read a book with a strong female lead who doesn’t let her emotions towards some man get in the way of her job, the book took a huge step back in how little consequences there are regarding rape.

Overall, an enjoyable, quick read and I can tell there’s a lot of depth in the world-building and a lot of the politics side of the story is just set up for what’s to come. Writing was a bit clumsy in some parts, but I hear she gets better.

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