Shards of Honor (Vorkosigan Saga #2), by Lois McMaster Bujold
@@@@ (4 out of 5)
Commander Cordelia Naismith of Beta Colony is leading a scientific study team on an unnamed planet when she and a colleague become separated from the rest of the team. They witness their planetary shuttle taking off in the distance, only to discover that their base camp has been utterly destroyed in an attack and one of their colleagues killed.
The shuttle clearly was escaping the attackers, who are nowhere to be found. In communicating with the shuttle crew, Naismith learns that the attack came from a patrol sent by the militaristic society of Barrayar. Then Naismith and her colleague are surprised in the wilderness—her colleague is wounded but, strangely, not killed—by a Barrayaran officer. His name, she learns, is Aral Vorkosigan. He’s a man with a fearsome reputation, formerly the youngest admiral in the Barrayaran fleet. Now he bears a lower rank. Vorkosigan commands a single Imperial war cruiser—the source of the contingent that attacked Naismith’s men. However, Vorkosigan himself has been attacked by his men and left to die. As he explains, “My best friends and my deadliest enemies all wear the same uniform.”
Naismith soon learns that Vorkosigan is not the man of Betan myth. The two find themselves fighting for survival together in a 200-kilometer trek across the planet’s surface to an emergency cache he has built. Along the way, Naismith and Vorkosigan become close. It seems they may be falling in love with each other.
Shards of Honor tells the tale of their developing relationship in the midst of a complex and brutal factional struggle on Barrayar. Though Vorkosigan is close to the Emperor, he has been outmaneuvered by forces that share control of the empire. As the story rushes forward, he and Naismith together find themselves in a fight to the death against the Emperor’s enemies. This is a suspenseful and exciting tale about an interplanetary war pitting Barrayar against Beta Colony and its formidable ally, Escobar. Some might call this a space opera. I call it science fiction.
Shards of Honor is the second novel in the ongoing Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold. Yet it was the first book the author wrote, and it follows by 200 years the title she places first in “internal chronological order,” Falling Free. (My review of the book is here.) As Bujold puts it in an author’s note at the conclusion of Shards of Honor, “My publishing history has been complex.” The chronological order of the series does not follow the sequence in which she wrote the books.