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.
On to Barrayar!
Again with Simon described as puppyish. No, my brain just refuses to give me that image.
Ah, of course–Aral is dismantling the Ministry of Political Education, ergo it doesn’t appear in the later books. It is interesting, though, how completely it disappears even as a bogey-man. (Imp Sec serves that function.)
Little Gregor! With a robot stegosaurus. Awwww. And charming his mother out of cream cakes–I love that little glimpse, but given what’s about to happen, what he’s about to lose, it makes me so sad at the same time.
The few years between the writing of Shards and Barrayar actually show up pretty clearly. Re-reading with the grace of hindsight, you can see how LMB wove in the thread of Barrayar’s reaction to physical and mental difference, from Koudelka and his sword-stick to Aral and Cordelia’s conversation about him and Bothari and Barrayaran customs. That is, her ability to set up the plot has improved. This shows up later too, when a key point of the plot hinges on that moment–forgotten except by Bothari–when Aral gives Cordelia the authority of his voice.
I didn’t expect the emotional blow of seeing what Miles’ name should have been, because of course at this point he’s just Miles and has never been anything else. But ‘Piotr Miles’–ow, ow, ow. And then continued blows in a one-two of Padma Xav Vorpatril (gives Tej’s Ivan Xav a different shade of meaning) and Cordelia’s imagining of herds of little Vorkosigans. This book is turning out to be much more traumatic than I expected.
The awful part is, I like Kareen. She comes through a marriage to someone awful in a remarkably sane way (even with Ezar’s help) and is then thrown into this probably sometimes uncomfortable relationship with Aral and Cordelia and deals with it with a lot of grace.
When I read this the first time, my sympathies after the soltoxin attack were entirely with Cordelia. And they still are, but I also see the conflict for Aral–wife, or father. Actually, it’s not a conflict exactly; he always chooses wife, but it’s hard to do so. It’s breaking his heart in two. (Or perhaps three, when you consider how quickly he’s forced to use his position as Regent in a personal matter.)
“The chill of the Dendarii night.” Oh. Well, there’s echoes for you. (Gives a new shade of meaning to Miles’ choice of names–rebellion, homage, ?)
I suspect the thread that ties this story together is Cordelia’s moving from a passive ‘just a wife and mother’ model (which of course, no one ever is) to, well, herself. The Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan that we know and love, where being a wife and mother is part of who she is, but not the sum of it. It starts becoming apparent when she and Gregor are hiding out in the mountains.