Title: Cordelia's Honor
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
Published: 1996, Baen
Category: Science Fiction
I rarely read science fiction, but I picked up this book because of a comment posted by jmc on a Bookseller Chick post about Booktherapy (what I think of as comfort reading). Jmc listed her favorites as Austen's Persuasion, Jennifer Crusie's Welcome to Temptation, M.M. Kaye's The Far Pavilions, L.M. Montgomery's The Blue Castle and this book. If I was asked to list my comfort reads, I think I'd list those first four too. jmc is obviously a kindred spirit. So my foray into sci fi.
Cordelia's Honor is actually two books in one--Shards of Honor and Barrayar. The first book introduces Cordelia Naismith, who is some sort of interplanetary scientist on a mission to the planet Escobar. Her team is ambushed by a group of soldiers from another planet, Barrayar, and are forced to flee, leaving Cordelia in the clutches of Aral Vorkosigan, the leader of the Barrayaran forces. He is her enemy, or is he? While Cordelia is being held prisoner, her home planet of Beta Colony becomes involved in a war against the Barrayarans. Cordelia and Aral have fallen in love, but they are unable to help each other without also betraying their planets.
Barrayar is the story of Cordelia as Lady Vorkosigan (yes, of course they end up married!). The emperor of Barrayar dies and appoints Aral as the regent for his four-year-old grandson. They are plunged into civil war when another nobleman attempts a coup, endangering all their lives, including Cordelia and Aral's unborn child.
This is a huge reduction of the plot, because a lot happens in this book. It is fast-paced and exciting. And I liked Cordelia. She's a really strong character, lots of girl-power here.
It's full of interesting themes: The clash of two cultures--the rational, open-minded, scientific Beta Colonians vs. the more old-fashioned Barrayarans who are militaristic and Spartan in their intolerance for weakness. Physical and mental disabilities. Motherhood. Class conflict--Barrayar is ruled by the "Vor" caste, whose names all begin with "Vor" like our hero Vorkosigan (though this naming system is a little confusing for readers).
And while I know nothing about science fiction, I really liked the setting. Not so far out there that it was distracting from the story. No characters with tentacles or anything. Like they were normal humans but with cool futuristic gadgets.
So, while I don't think this will make my list of absolute favorite books, it was really good. I will definitely read more Bujold.