Review: Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold

honorvs1Series: Vorkosigan Saga
Published by: Baen
ISBN: 1476781109
ISBN 13: 9781476781105
Published: 1986
Pages: 250
Format reviewed: Paperback Omnibus
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Favourites and Recommended
Related Reviews: Reading Challenge: Vorkosigan Saga Project | Reading Challenge: Women of Speculative Fiction

I’ve been meaning to read this series for so very long. Many friends in reading circles adore it and so that, plus the fact there’s 17 or so in the series meant it felt a little overwhelming to start. I wanted to adore it, I wanted to do it justice, and over the last few years between either judging vast amounts of books for Children’s Book Council of Australia, or Aurealis Awards, or the Sara Douglass Book Series Award, meant I didn’t have as much time as usual for my own books of choice.
Then it was finally 2017, and the lovely Tsana and I decided to have a reading challenge together, and here I am.

While I don’t like that one of my favourite aspects of the book is given away on the blurb (and fair enough, as it happens so quickly), I was quickly lost in the book – to the point where I read it slowly as I didn’t want it to be over. I love the term ‘heart-hunger’ – I find it such a perfect term for something I’ve understood for so long but never known what to call it (though I assume German or Japanese has a perfect word for it).

What immediately struck me about this book is how real the struggle is. I hate reading how someone gets shot but bravely struggles on to save the day. In this we see a leg wound and that it turns septic and how debilitating it really is. Realism! Finally!

The book also doesn’t entirely follow a blow by blow account of our main characters. We don’t meet our characters until they have quite a depth of experience behind them (how rare it is to meet characters who are in their 30s/40s when we first meet them), and initially we only see scenes where they run into each other – leaving gaps of a few months between what we know of them.

What I love in this book is how excellent Bujold’s turns of phrase are. ‘About eight ration packs later’ is also an excellent way to mark the passage of time, which would be pretty damn impossible without a sun or timepiece to keep track otherwise. And the following quote, from the very back of the book (in a part that was once a short story but was later added here), said by a woman who retrieves corpses from the battlefield.

‘Think of all the work he represents on somebody’s part. Nine months of pregnancy, childbirth, two years of diapering, and that’s just the beginning. Tens of thousands of meals, thousands of bedtime stories, years of school. Dozens of teachers. And all that military training, too. A lot of people went into making him.’

Overall I’m both glad and annoyed I waited this long to read this. Glad, because I feel I appreciate them more after knowing a bit more of the field and seeing how clever Bujold was and is, and also how you can see her influence in more recent work… and annoyed I could have had these awesome characters in my mind so long ago.

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