Bujold Week: Cordelia’s Honor reading notes, part1

I’m bringing back an old feature I did a few times–reading notes! I tend to use these when I’m re-reading a book and having Thoughts that aren’t quite a review. In this case, I’m taking a look at the first two books in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga, handily collected into an omnibus and titled Cordelia’s Honor. Spoilers for the first two books should be expected.

Today: Shards of Honor

It is quite strange to re-read these earliest of books; the Barrayar that is shown in the beginning of Shards of Honor is so manifestly not the Barrayar that we see later on. Of course, we are very much in Cordelia’s point-of-view, and yet there are also things like the Ministry of Political Education which I don’t remember seeing in any other book. On the other hand, there are tantalizing glimpses of things like the importance of spoken oaths in Barrayaran culture (which later translates into Miles’ authority as the Imperial Auditor).

I think what I continue to admire and value in both Aral and Cordelia (and their subsequent offspring) is the sense of duty and trying one’s best. It’s not as simple as patriotism, and especially not the unthinking and uncritical variety. But it’s the duty of care to those around the characters which drives them forward, and which is often rewarded.

Ugh, Vorrutyer is so awful. How is By related to him? (By is awful in his own way, but it is decidedly NOT this Vorrutyer’s.)

I think partly, dovetailing off of this and also Prince Serg, I’m so used to the fearsome and sometimes questionable but also sympathetic grouping of The Gregor, Miles, Aral, and Simon that I forget what a dark period Barrayar had just passed through. Serg and Vorrutyer are the last hurrah of the old bad times, in a way.

ILLYAN!! It’s so fun meeting the people who become important later on, this time knowing who they are, or rather who they will be. Also, Simon with a bland puppy face is almost unimaginable. But for that matter, Simon spying on, instead of for, Aral is almost unimaginable.

Part of what’s interesting to me is Cordelia’s journey from seeing Barrayar as completely evil, to understanding it a bit better, to going home and seeing the flaws in her own society. Although she’s quite a bit older than a teen, it has a kind of YA coming-of-age feel to it.

“We’re going to have a family. I’ll not risk them in those gladiator politics.” Oh, ow.

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6 Comments

Filed under bookish posts, reading notes, reviews

6 responses to “Bujold Week: Cordelia’s Honor reading notes, part1

  1. Mary Berh

    Oh, wow, I love this. So fun to see your thoughts as you read–you’re one of my favorite columnists from TOR.com, and Bujold is one of my very favorite authors, so I look forward to the continuation of this series.

    I find it interesting how very much the Barrayar of Shards of Honor reflects (Western impressions of) the Soviet Union at the time; I always wonder what it would have been like for an American reader in the late 80s to read about Cordelia’s defection. And I know Bujold’s Russian fandom is quite large; how are their impressions different than mine?

    I believe By and Dono discuss the horribleness of the family at some point but can’t recall if they mention Ges at all or if he was before their time.

    • Mary Berh

      And I now apologize unreservedly for confusing you with another blogger. That’s what I get for clicking through on my RSS feed after midnight without bothering to double-check… Regardless, I enjoy both this post and your actual blog very much. Apologies again!

      • Maureen Eichner

        No problem! My first reaction was actually a sinking, “Oh dear, how do I break it to her?” feeling. Glad to see I don’t have to. 🙂 And thanks!

        Been a wee young thing, I just barely remember the breaking up of the Soviet Union–which is to say, it doesn’t have the same cultural weight for me that it would for other readers. But I can definitely see what you’re saying, and it’s an interesting aspect to the book. I’d love to hear responses to both of your questions!

        Ges would probably have been just before By and Dono, since they’re roughly contemporaries of Miles and Ivan, but surely would have cast a long shadow in the Vorrutyer family.

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