This is the second part of the omnibus novelization of her books Shards of Honor and Barryar (since released in one title as the book "Cordelia's Honor") and if you haven't read Shards of Honor yet, you have to start there. Cordelia (and in later books her son Miles) are some of the best protagonists in all of fiction, not just sci-fi. Science fiction as a whole is notoriously littered with books that have really nifty aliens and spaceships.... and really wooden characters spouting ridiculous dialogue. This is one of those rare gems that gets every part of the writing RIGHT. Yes, there's space travel and fascinating outer-space-worlds-of-the-future to explore here, and the world-building is top notch: but this would be an outstanding book in ANY genre; on depth of characterization alone. Cordelia is blazingly smart, warm-hearted, loyal, and very witty (by the second chapter you'll feel like you've always known her, because Bujold's just that darn good), and she has one adventure and/or crisis to handle after another in this great book: and every beat of the story plays out as absolutely REAL; every character is fully fleshed out and multi-dimensional, the fallout from every decision is realistically portrayed. It's a mash-up of the best possible space opera, the best possible soap opera, and the best possible character studies out there - just hurry and download this thing; you can thank me later!
Very "Feast For Crows" in style - awesome compared to the other fantasy out there, but just so-so compared to the other books in this series. Again the story meanders through character threads and locations you don't have much interest in, at the expense of characters and storylines you DID want to hear about; but manages to be mostly fascinating just the same. A note about the narration: I was so excited to have Roy Dotrice back, after losing him for "Feast" - but boy has he changed! Since when is Dany an elderly Scottish woman? It's jarring!
Great series, great writer - but this is the weakest link in the chain so far. And the switch from the excellent narration of Roy Dotrice to the adequate but completely different tone of the new narrator is jarring. Also, some favorite characters from the series as a whole do not appear in this installment: which leaves WAY too much space for the author to meander around in circles with secondary characters in subplots that don't advance the storyline much.
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