I bought this book a year or so ago when the Miles Vorkosigan series of books was first recommended to me. I was reluctant to pick it up because usually I'm not that fond of SF-books (strange really considering I'm a dedicated fan of B5, ST and SW...) but once I did I couldn't put this volume down.
"Cordelia's Honor" is the omnibus edition of the 2 parter "Shards of Honor" and "Barrayar" which describe how Miles' parents, Cordelia Naismith and Aral Vorkosigan, met, fell in love, married and finally had him. Both books are written from Cordelia's point of view which shows extremely well how her feelings towards her erstwhile captor Aral subtly change throughout "Shards of Honor" and how she tries to adapt to life on the warrior planet Barrayar with its backward attitude towards women and anything that's not perfect. Granted, there are moments, especially in "Barrayar", where she comes across as some sort of super-woman who just has to come, see and conquer any trouble she encounters but Bujold nevertheless manages to keep her human with every failure and virtue attached to the word. I especially loved the way the romance between Cordelia and Aral remained quite understated, there are no overt declarations of love but nonetheless you as the reader know and understand that the 2 characters share a deep affection, love and respect for each other and the cultures they each come from (which couldn't be more different). I think that's the way such deep feelings have to be handled. It doesn't always need words for the reader to grasp the author's intention as long as the meaning and the actions speak a clear language.
There are 2 scenes in the book I especially would like to mention. First, of course, the fate of Sergeant Bothari which is only hinted at in "The Warrior's Apprentice" which I read prior to this book only to reread it again when I finished "Cordelia's Honor"... As despicable as his actions during the failed invasion of Escobar are I do feel sympathy - not for what he did but for how much he was damaged by what he was forced/drugged to do.
And the second instance is of course the "failed" assassination attempt on Aral which caused Miles' handicap. Again it's not so much the words Aral says but the description of his expression, tone of voice and actions that tells of his pain. And I won't even begin about Cordelia's fight to have Miles transfered into the uterine replicator...
The only regret I have about this book is that I've already finished reading it - but since I'm in the habit of reading my books twice or 3 times at least that's but a half-regret. *And* I still have quite a couple of books left in the Vorkosigan-saga.
If you wish to start with this series of books, be sure to pick up this one first. It sets the ground, introduces some of the key players on Barrayar (one of the reasons I reread "Warrior's Apprentice" after finishing this one) and is, plain simple, a wonderful book full of interesting characters that are allowed to retain their humanity with all its failures, and a romance that's handled beautifully in its subtlety.
review originally written in 2004