Friday, July 7, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Barrayar (Vorkosigan Saga) by Lois McMaster Bujold

Barrayar is the direct sequel to Shards of Honor, the first (by publication and second by chronological order) book in Lois McMaster Bujold's long running Vorkosigan Saga. Oddly, the book wasn't written till years later (6 books later), but despite that this book basically starts off right where Shards left off.  Note that in theory, you could read this book as a stand alone, but I REALLY wouldn't advise it - not only is Shards of Honor a particularly good book on its own, but this book relies largely on the setup for three of its most important characters (in Cordelia, Aral, and Bothari) as well as this world in itself.

Long Review (Minor Spoilers for Shards of Honor) after the Jump:

---------------------------------Plot Summary----------------------------
Aral Vorkosigan has now been named Regent for the young underage emperor Gregor Vorbara and the new Lady Vorkosigan, aka former Betan Survey Captain Cordelia Naismith, is trying desperately to handle the new situation.  Oh and she's trying to give birth to her son naturally, which is not something she ever expected back on Beta Colony.  And if her own life isn't challenging enough, she feels the need to help those around her and Aral, namely Lieutenant Kudelka, her new bodyguard Droushnakovi, and of course Sergeant Bothari.  And that's not even mentioning the assassination attempts, the last one of which endangers her own child.

Oh and then there's the Coup started by a Barrayaran Count who is against the very idea of progress. In all of this mess, can Cordelia find a way to keep herself, Aral, her unborn son, and well everyone she loves safe?  If anyone can do's Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan, and she'll prove she's got the stuff to match any male Barrayaran soldier in the process.

Again, like Shards of Honor, Barrayar is terrific for the characters involved.  Besides Cordelia and Aral, characters like Bothari, Koudelka, and new character Droushnakovi take large roles and are hard not to root for (except when Bothari is.....Bothari).  Bujold is amazing at dialogue, and the result is a mixture of serious and hilarious scenes to combine to make a really fun book.  This is not a comedy, but it put a smile on my face while I was listening to it in the car quite often.  

The expanded cast is one reason this book is an improvement from Shards of Honor, but the plot is also improved, with Cordelia taking a more active role this time, actually advancing the plot instead of being carried by it.  If I had one complaint maybe, it's that Droushnakovi is introduced at first as a potential strong woman soldier and then most of her plotline involves her being in love with Koudelka...but well, their relationship is just too good to complain about so it all works out really well.  

Like Shards of Honor however, the book is very much a book in two halves: the First Half dealing with Cordelia getting used to Barrayar, while also fretting over assassination attempts and relations with the other characters and the Second Half, dealing with the Coup attempt.  I'm going to admit, the first half is definitely slower than the second, and if not for the great humor in the dialogue and interesting characters we mostly already enjoy, this could be a problem.  That said, after the Coup, the action picks up, and it becomes hard to find a problem with this book.

Really enjoying listening to this series in my car.  

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