Review: Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold

Series: Vorkosigan Saga
Published by: Baen
ISBN: 1476781117
ISBN 13: 9781476781112
Published: 1991
Pages: 400
Format reviewed: Paperback Omnibus
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Related Reviews: Reading Challenge: Vorkosigan Saga Project

Reading in chronological rather than published order, going from Shards of Honor to Barrayar has barely a moment to breathe in between novels. Cordelia and Aral are deep into their new life, having been clawed out of retirement before they were even really in it, to be in charge of Barrayar until their young charge is old enough to do so himself. As one could expect, not everyone is happy with the decision. Cordelia is from another planet, and Aral is seen as power-hungry, so it’s no surprise that their lives are soon under threat. We see multiple attacks on their life until it all explodes into something much bigger.

What struck me in this novel is how accurate and articulate the fights are – those with words, in any case. Surprisingly, Aral’s father is almost one of the main antagonists in this story and it’s here that we see accurate family drama where things are said that aren’t necessarily meant, but egos are involved. In some books you see fights as if that’s it – the end – and they only talk again if someone admits they were wrong and then the novel is usually over – but in this, you see them put aside things when needs must – yet not forgotten.

Overall all characters have growth and you can easily see what drives them all – even if they themselves don’t always see it as clearly. Knowing that Miles is more of a main character than Cordelia quite soon does put something of a dampener on the majority of the action and adventure because we know that somehow it has to sort itself out somehow by the end. That doesn’t make it any less heroic or capturing though – and in fact it makes it all easier to read as we know somehow everything will be okay and you want to read on to see how on earth they manage to pull it off.

What I love especially in all this is how Aral and Cordelia do or say things the other doesn’t always like or agree with, but in the end they have respect and care for each other deeply – and this remains the most important thing to them, where in other fictional couples the ‘only’ resolution would seem to be have a massive fight and separate for a while. We finally have role models for a reasonable and healthy relationship where things don’t have to be perfect in order for a couple to be functional together.

All in all I can’t wait to get my hands on The Warrior’s Apprentice and meet Miles… but I also don’t think I want to leave Aral and Cordelia just yet – someone tell me there’s another novel of them still to go, please?

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