Shards of Honor
Cover of the first edition
|Author||Lois McMaster Bujold|
|Followed by||The Warrior's Apprentice|
Shards of Honor is an English language science fiction novel by Lois McMaster Bujold, first published in June 1986. It is a part of the Vorkosigan Saga, and is the first full-length novel in publication order. Shards of Honor is paired with Bujold's 1991 Barrayar in the omnibus Cordelia's Honor (1996).
Cordelia Naismith, Captain of an Astronomical Survey ship from Beta Colony, is exploring a newly discovered planet when her base camp is attacked. While investigating, she is surprised by a soldier, hits her head on a rock, and awakens to find that, while most of her crew has escaped, she is marooned with an injured Betan crewman and Captain Lord Aral Vorkosigan of Barrayar, notorious as the "Butcher of Komarr", who has been left for dead by a treacherous rival. During their five-day hike to a secret Barrayaran base, she finds Vorkosigan not at all the monster his reputation suggests, and she is strongly attracted to him. When the trio reaches the base camp, Vorkosigan regains command of his crew, and he returns to his ship with Cordelia and her crewman as his prisoners. Once aboard the ship, Vorkosigan informs Cordelia that upon their arrival on Barryar, she will be free to return to Beta Colony; however, he expresses a wish that she marry him and remain on Barryar as Lady Vorkosigan. Before she has a chance to answer Vorkosigan's request, the crew of her ship, which has returned against her orders, joins forces with Vorkosigan's rivals. Cordelia helps defeat the resulting mutiny before being "rescued" by her crew, and she returns to Beta Colony.
It turns out that Barrayar is planning an invasion of the planet Escobar, to be led by Crown Prince Serg Vorbarra, the vicious son and heir of Emperor Ezar. Cordelia goes to Escobar in command of a decoy ship and successfully distracts the Barrayaran ships on picket duty at the wormhole exit so the transport ships following her can deliver a devastating new Betan weapon to the Escobaran defenders. She is captured, briefly tortured by the sadistic Admiral Vorrutyer, then unexpectedly rescued by Vorrutyer's mentally unstable batman, Sergeant Bothari, who kills his master. Vorkosigan, who is present on the same ship, hides the pair in his cabin. He is in disgrace, it seems, and has been assigned a minor role in the invasion under the watchful eye (and cybernetic perfect memory) of Lieutenant Simon Illyan.
The new weapons give the Escobarans an overwhelming advantage and the Barrayarans are driven back with heavy losses. Crown Prince Serg, his flagship, and all hands aboard are lost. As Vorkosigan takes charge and organizes his fleet's retreat, Cordelia overhears one critical fact and deduces a political secret that would plunge Barrayar into civil war if it ever got out, namely that the entire invasion was a pretense by the Emperor, intended only to orchestrate the death of the brutal and unstable Prince. When Vorkosigan no longer needs to hide her in his cabin, she is placed in the ship's brig. The ship is attacked and Cordelia is injured badly.
Cordelia recovers in a prison camp on the same planet where she first met Vorkosigan, and discovers that it was used as a staging ground for the surprise invasion. The camp inmates, mostly women, have been subjected to torture and in some cases rape by their captors, until Vorkosigan arrives and summarily executes the officer in charge. Cordelia inherits command of the camp by virtue of her rank and spends much of her time dealing directly with Vorkosigan. He proposes to her again, and she again rejects him because she sees what Barrayaran society does to people. Vorkosigan negotiates an exchange of prisoners, one of whom is Cordelia, and deals with a delivery of uterine replicators - artificial wombs, each containing a fetus from a woman raped by a Barrayaran soldier, one of which is Bothari's.
On her way back to Beta Colony after the prisoner exchange, the Betan psychiatrist assigned to Cordelia becomes convinced that her injuries are the result of being tortured by Vorkosigan, and the fact that she denies it means that she has been psychologically tampered with as well. She is assumed to be suffering from a form of Stockholm Syndrome. Desperate to keep the secret of the Barrayaran plot, Cordelia refuses to let herself sleep, developing insomnia, a stutter, and a nervous tic, which further leads the authorities to conclude that she has been brainwashed and may even be a spy. Fending off attempts to "cure" her, she disables one of her minders and flees to Barrayar, where she finds and marries Vorkosigan. She also encounters Bothari, now in Vorkosigan's personal guard and much saner, thanks to good medical care. He has accepted his child as his own and called her Elena. She is being raised by a local woman.
The dying Emperor Ezar Vorbarra appoints Aral as Regent-Elect for his grandson and heir, the four-year-old Prince Gregor Vorbarra. Aral, who is next in line of succession, at first refuses, but Cordelia convinces him to take the job.
Writing for SF Reviews in 2004, Thomas M. Wagner took issue with the plausibility of some elements of the novel, but concluded by saying that "Shards of Honor is, in the end, a fine debut for Bujold (and) a fine space opera".
In 2009 Jo Walton wrote that Shards of Honor "couldn’t be less like a standard first novel in a series" in that it takes place before the main character of the saga is even born. Praising the "emotional depth" and "genuine ethical dilemmas" Bujold weaves into the narrative, Walton calls the protagonist Cordelia "what totally grabbed me about [the novel] on first reading and on every subsequent read."
Shards of Honor as originally published was a truncated version of a much longer work (Mirrors was the original working title). The rest eventually appeared as the short story Aftermaths and the Hugo-winning Barrayar. The three were later re-published together as Cordelia's Honor.
In Barrayar, Bothari emerges as a much more important character, as does Ensign (later Captain) Koudelka who has a brief appearance in Shards of Honor before being seriously injured, an injury which defines him for the rest of his life. Simon Illyan also becomes a major character, while the baby Elena becomes a hostage, with the as yet unborn Miles Vorkosigan, in the hands of Vorkosigan's enemies.
In Bujold's next published novel, The Warrior's Apprentice Miles and Elena both appear as teenagers 17 years after the events in Barrayar.
- Walton, Jo (March 31, 2009). "Weeping for her enemies: Lois McMaster Bujold’s Shards of Honor". Tor.com. Retrieved September 9, 2014.
- Walton, Jo (April 20, 2009). "Interview with Lois McMaster Bujold about writing the Vorkosigan Saga". Tor.com. Retrieved September 8, 2014.
- Wagner, Thomas (2004). "Shards of Honor". SFReviews.net. Retrieved December 25, 2013.
- Bujold, Lois McMaster (1986). Shards of Honor. Baen Books. ISBN 0-671-72087-2.
- Bujold, Lois McMaster (1986). "Aftermaths". Far Frontiers V (Spring).
- Bujold, Lois McMaster (1991). "Barrayar". Analog Science Fiction and Fact (July - October, 4 issues).
- Bujold, Lois McMaster (1996). Cordelia's Honor. Baen Books. ISBN 0-671-87749-6.
- Bernardi, Michael (24 June 2012). "The Bujold Nexus - Full English Bibliography". The Bujold Nexus. Retrieved 24 December 2012.