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Publisher's Summary

Political intrigue, culture clash and romance make a stirring mix in this award-winning follow-up novel to the acclaimed Shards of Honor.

In the wake of interplanetary war, former commander Cordelia Naismith has deserted her own planet to marry the leader of the defeated enemy, Aral Vorkosigan. On his home planet of Barrayar, two rival factions are eyeing the recently vacated throne, and Aral, recently appointed Regent of Barrayar by the Emperor on his deathbed, must stand between them.

Lord and Lady Vorkosigan, Aral and Cordelia struggle to establish stability in a fragile government thrown into confusion by the transition of power and the threat of civil war. When a palace coup endangers the government, their lives, and her unborn son, Cordelia takes action to secure the safety of her new family and new home.

Hi-fi sci-fi: listen to more in the Vorkosigan saga.
©1991 Lois McMaster Bujold; (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

  • 1992 Hugo Award, Best Novel

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  • Overall

Lois Bujold always delivers!

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!

28 of 28 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Finally! I've been waiting for this one for years!

As a longtime reader of Bujold's, I was delighted to discover Grover Gardner's terrific audio versions of all of her books- but where was Barrayar???

At last it is available and it is well worth the wait. Whether you are a first time listener to the Vorkosigan saga, or have been reading the adventures of Miles and his family, you will absolutely enjoy hearing this one read aloud. Gardner's characterizations are dead-on as always, and it was wonderful to hear Bothari, Cordelia, Aral, Drou and Kou and all these memorable characters brought so vividly to life.

Gardner does a great job of going 'back in time' with these characters. Other books in the series (other than 'Shards of Honor' the earliest written and probably the weakest of the entire group) take place later in time, so I really have to say how subtly and believably Gardner uses his voice to make all the characters younger, and different from their older incarnations in other books.

It doesn't matter if you are new to Bujold and the series or an old fan. Barrayar will suck you in and keep you listening. After hearing it, I immediately went back and listened to the whole series again.

17 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Pamela
  • Los Angeles, CA, United States
  • 12-19-09

Finally!!

Finally available at Audible! One of the best in the Vorkosigan saga, and Cordelia remains one of my all-time favorite fictional characters. The phrase
'going shopping' takes on an entirely different meaning by the end of the book.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

"Shards of Honor" continues

I've been waiting for a long time for Audible to offer this audiobook, which I think of as the second half of the book started in "Shards of Honor." "Barrayar" is everything that makes for good listening--a fascinating plot and great characters. In this book, Cordelia must protect both the child emperor and her unborn son while her husband, as the new Regent of Barrayar, struggles to end a Pretender's civil war to take control of the throne.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Ed
  • San Jose, CA, United States
  • 01-10-10

So happy these older Vorkosigan books are on audio

While these older books in the saga aren't necessary to understand the newer books which feature Miles, they do add a lot of depth. It's great to understand the background and motivations of the characters that take secondary roles in the later books.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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"Welcome to Barrayar, abode of cannibals"

"I am afraid," thinks Cordelia Vorkosigan nee Naismith. "Why did I ever come here to Barrayar? What have I done to myself, to my life?" Four months earlier she left her home on Beta Colony, a technologically, politically, and culturally advanced world where she was an astronomical survey captain slash jump ship navigator, to marry Admiral Aral Vorkosigan and live with him on Barrayar, a hidebound, martial, "primitive" world where soldiers are everywhere and capable women nowhere. On Barrayar, which has only been part of Galactic Civilization after a long age of Isolation, "people still burned vegetable matter [wood] just for the release of its chemically bound heat," get their protein from the carcasses of mammals, and tolerate the existence of impoverished slums.

And as Louise McMaster Bujold's novel Barrayar (1991) begins, the couple has had "Their lives . . . turned upside down," as Aral has been called out of retirement to serve as Regent for four-year-old Prince Gregor, making Cordelia the Regent-consort. Emperor Ezar is about to die, so Aral will rule for his grandson Prince Gregor till the boy turns twenty and takes over as a well-groomed, preferably sane Emperor (Gregor's corrupt father having been disposed of during a war). And the "faction-fractured political landscape" of Barrayar is rife with foes of the new Regent: conservative, progressive, or ambitious Vor lords; Barrayar's old enemy the Cetagandan Empire; Barrayar's conquered world Komarr; etc.

Soon Bujold is putting her compelling characters through psychological and physical wringers. Take Sergeant Bothari, the two meters tall, gargoyle-faced, former torturer’s tool. He has had some politically sensitive and personally nightmarish memories pharmaceutically suppressed, causing terrible bouts of migraines and nausea. He also happens to be sexually aroused by violence and to be fixated on Cordelia as her pet monster-dog. Aral wants to reform Barrayar to "Make the government more like the military at its best, with ability promoted regardless of background," without letting the government ministries become too corrupt or the nobles too weak. He wants to do his best for his empire and his future emperor, but is beset by enemies, friends, duties, impossible decisions, and paranoia. Aral's father Count Lord Piotr Vorkosigan is an aging war hero out of step with the changing times and his "radical" son. He seems to take a shine to Cordelia when she becomes pregnant with a boy, but what would happen if something were to happen to that gestative scion? Bujold writes a romantic comedy relief element into her novel, too, with the out of place bodyguard Ludmilla Droushnakovi and nerve-damaged Regent's aid Lieutenant Koudelka (though perhaps they are a little too naïve to be true).

As for Cordelia, the point of view character of the novel, she misses being alone with Aral and longs for her Betan home, being repulsed by "insane," barbaric Barrayaran traditions and stubborn male honor, prejudice against cripples and women, and imperial delusions. Being pregnant on such a world without being able to use a Betan uterine replicator is not comforting. Through Cordelia, Bujold writes plenty of culture shock contrasts between Beta and Barrayar: e.g., wood is as common as plastic on Barrayar; Barrayarans are into clothes, Betans into body art; and Barrayar has prostitutes, Beta Licensed Practiced Sexuality Therapists. All that said, Cordelia remembers that it's best to "Check your assumptions at the door," and that Beta Colony is no utopia. Indeed, Cordelia finds herself bound ever more tightly to Barrayar and its people. She is intelligent and perceptive, gifted with the ability to both read and advise people, so that she is often maternally counseling and soothing them. However, she is also capable of gross miscalculation (and is perhaps let off too easily by Bujold for it), as we see in the climax of the novel. Cordelia's personality is summed up neatly when someone tells her, "We thought you were a soldier," and she replies, "Never. But that doesn't mean I never fought."

As with her other books, Bujold writes many witty lines:
--"Oh--you all stopped looking like the enemy to me even before the war was over. Just assorted victims, variously blind."
--"He looked, she realized, exactly like a man who had thrown a bomb, had it go fizz instead of boom, and was now trying to stick his hand in and tap the firing mechanism to test it."
--"He's also a little boy. Emperor is the delusion you all have in your heads."
--"By this act I bring one death into the world."

Audiobook reader Grover Gardener is the only Voice of Vorkosigan Bujold I can imagine. I like that he lets the text do most of the heavy lifting, so that, for instance, he doesn't try to talk like a 4-year-old when Bujold writes, "His childlike voice drifted back, ‘Droushi, can I have a cream cake, and one for Steggie?’” However, I wonder if he couldn't hint a bit at accents. Cordelia has a Betan accent that makes her stand out on Barrayar (at one critical point she can't speak for fear of attracting attention), but Gardner never does any accents. (Though perhaps that's better than uncomfortably trying a Russian accent for Barrayaran characters and an American one for Cordelia!)

A word about the Vorkosigan Saga's reading order. If you (like me) were to read Barrayar after reading later books featuring Miles Vorkosigan, this novel would be full of poignant foreshadowings and backstoryings. But probably it would be best to read Shards of Honor (1986) first, this one second, Warrior's Apprentice (1986) third, and so on. I do think the early Vorkosigan books are superior to the later ones, having more of a dark bite. Anyway, Bujold's thoughtful, political, and cultural space opera is quite appealing. Barrayar ends with a great epilogue that brought tears to my eyes.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Actually Book Two in the Series

The first, “Shards of Honor,” introduced Cordelia and Aral Vorkosigan, Beta Colony and Barrayar. You wouldn’t have to read/listen to it prior to this one, though I strongly suggest you do. This book tells of their first year together on Barrayar. It’s a rough one. I loved the first book—great sic-fi romance. This one was even better, though less of a romance and more anthropological/socialogical sci-fi. Cordelia’s wry humor worked well with the political intrigue and the difficulties of learning to negotiate a different culture. The writing is finely done without overwhelming or slowing the story down. There’s enough action with the intrigue to keep the pace moving, but it’s the characters who make the story. The ending immensely satisfying, while still setting up for more books in the series (which I can’t wait to hear). Though most of the book is from Cordelia’s perspective, the (male) narrator on the audio book did a wonderful job capturing her “voice.”

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Terri
  • Colorado
  • 05-04-12

A Hero's Beginning & his Extraordinary Parents

It is amazing how many credits you can blow through when you find an incredible writer & series (or multiple series). I haven't found anything of LMB's that I haven't enjoyed.

This is book 2 about Miles' extraordinary parents and friends. I absolutely adore Cordelia. She is the type of woman that many of us wish to be, honest, strong in will, determined, and she has great taste in mates & friends. Aral Vorkosigan is a man looking for something and someone to live for and Cordelia is the one who helps guide him as well as love & understand him.

I love the back stories of other major characters in the series: Bothari, Illyan, Kuo, Drou, Gregor Vorbarra....

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Bryan
  • Lawrence, KS, United States
  • 03-09-12

I love this series

I had read (and listened to) the rest of the Vorkosigan series (starting with Warrior's Apprentice) twice when I finally got around to this book. I'm actually glad I read it in this order. I think this book would have been enjoyable if read in the proper sequence. But I thoroughly enjoyed learning where and how my favorite characters came to be. I love this series and this book certainly makes a great addition (or start)---I need to work back to Shards of Honor next.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A Good Intro to Vorkosigan series

I enjoyed this book. I was new to the author and the series. The characters and the background to the culture are developed as a byproduct of the story which I like. This allows action to be intertwined with narrative. Well narrated.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Rosemary Swords
  • 05-17-17

flawless

the narrator is great. incomparably good science fiction. McMaster is rightfully acknowledged​ as an SF great.

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  • Mr
  • 09-26-15

awesome

i have always loved this book series, this one fills in gaps in plot nicely