Shards of Honor

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Shards of Honor
Shards of honor cover.jpg
US first edition
Author Lois McMaster Bujold
Country United States
Language English
Series Vorkosigan Saga
Genre Science fiction
Publisher Baen Books
Publication date
Pages 320
ISBN 978-0-671-72087-2
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).[1]

Bujold had written Shards of Honor, its sequel The Warrior's Apprentice and the standalone Ethan of Athos before all three were sold and published in 1986.[2]

Plot summary[edit]

Cordelia Naismith, the captain of a Betan Astronomical Survey ship, 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 cache, 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 Barrayar, she will be free to return to Beta Colony; however, he asks her to marry him and remain on Barrayar as Lady Vorkosigan. Before she can consider his request, the crew of her ship, who have returned against her orders, join forces with Vorkosigan's rivals to rescue her. Cordelia helps defeat the resulting mutiny before returning with her crew 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 the Escobar star system in command of a decoy ship and distracts the Barrayaran ships on picket duty at the wormhole exit so that transport ships can deliver a devastating new Betan weapon to the Escobaran defenders. She is captured by the sadistic Admiral Vorrutyer, who orders the mentally unstable Sergeant Bothari to rape her, then decides to do the job himself. He turns his back on Bothari, unaware that the man has met Cordelia before. As she fills a profound psychological need of his, Bothari kills his master. Vorkosigan, aboard the same ship, hides the pair in his cabin. In disgrace, he has been assigned a minor role in the invasion under the watchful eye (and cybernetic perfect memory) of Lieutenant Simon Illyan.

The new weapons enable the Escobarans to drive the Barrayarans back with heavy losses. Crown Prince Serg and his flagship are lost, as are all officers senior to Vorkosigan, leaving him in charge. He orders his fleet's retreat. Cordelia overhears one critical fact and deduces a deep political secret: the entire invasion was orchestrated by the dying Emperor with the goal of removing his unstable son and discrediting the war party in order to avoid a civil war after his death. 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.

Cordelia recovers in a prison camp on the same planet where she first met Vorkosigan. 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 POWs by virtue of her rank and spends much of her time dealing directly with Vorkosigan. She again rejects his marriage proposal because she sees what Barrayaran society does to people. With the war ended, prisoners are to be exchanged, including Cordelia. Before she leaves, Vorkosigan has to deal 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, Cordelia is unable to convince a Betan psychiatrist that her injuries are not the result of being tortured by Vorkosigan, and her fervent denials only make it seem she has been psychologically tampered with as well. She is assumed to be an unwitting Barrayaran mole. Faced with an attempt to have her committed to an institution to "cure" her, she escapes to Barrayar, where she marries Vorkosigan. She also encounters Bothari, now in Vorkosigan's father's personal guard and somewhat saner, thanks to good medical care. He has arranged for his daughter, Elena, to be cared for 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".[3]

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.[1] 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."[1]

Sequel and related works[edit]

Shards of Honor as originally published[4] was a truncated version of a much longer work (Mirrors was the original working title). The rest eventually appeared as the short story Aftermaths[5] and the Hugo-winning Barrayar.[6] The three were later re-published together as Cordelia's Honor.[7][8]

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.


  1. ^ a b c Walton, Jo (March 31, 2009). "Weeping for her enemies: Lois McMaster Bujold's Shards of Honor". Retrieved September 9, 2014. 
  2. ^ Walton, Jo (April 20, 2009). "Interview with Lois McMaster Bujold about writing the Vorkosigan Saga". Retrieved September 8, 2014. 
  3. ^ Wagner, Thomas (2004). "Shards of Honor". Retrieved December 25, 2013. 
  4. ^ Bujold, Lois McMaster (1986). Shards of Honor. Baen Books. ISBN 0-671-72087-2. 
  5. ^ Bujold, Lois McMaster (1986). "Aftermaths". Far Frontiers. V (Spring). 
  6. ^ Bujold, Lois McMaster (1991). "Barrayar". Analog Science Fiction and Fact (July - October, 4 issues). 
  7. ^ Bujold, Lois McMaster (1996). Cordelia's Honor. Baen Books. ISBN 0-671-87749-6. 
  8. ^ Bernardi, Michael (24 June 2012). "The Bujold Nexus - Full English Bibliography". The Bujold Nexus. Retrieved 24 December 2012.