meilufay’s #CBR4 review #38 Barryar (Vorkosigan #2) by Lois McMaster Bujold
Barryar is chronologically the second Vorkosigan novel. I love Lois McMaster Bujold’s Chalion books and I’ve been hearing about how great the Vorkosigan novels are. They follow the adventures of main character Miles Vorkosigan, who is an unconventional hero in a futuristic world. Supposedly, you can read the Vorkosigan novels out of sequence, but I read one and felt I was missing references. So I ordered Shards of Honor through my local library. Not only is Shards of Honor the first Vorkosigan book, it was also Bujold’s first book ever and it showed in the writing. I wasn’t in love with the main character (Cordelia – Miles’ mother) or the storyline, so I chose not to continue with the series at that time.
However, since abandoning the series, I’ve read more great reviews of other novels in the series so I thought I’d give the series another try. Even though I didn’t particularly like Barrayer all that much, I’m glad I read it because finally, finally Miles has been introduced and he is undoubtedly an interesting character.
The events of Barrayar take place immediately after the events of Shards of Honor and if you don’t read the first book before reading this one, I don’t see how you can avoid being hopelessly lost. In the first book, Miles’ parents Aral and Cordelia meet, fall in love and get married. And, oh yeah, they’re on opposite sides of a war, Aral has a reputation as a war criminal and that love story plays out amongst a complicated story of politics and war. Barrayer assumes you’ve read and remembered Shards of Honor and since I didn’t, I was a little lost remembering all the characters and what had happened to them in the first book. I’m sure this confusion contributed to my tepid feelings towards Barrayar. On top of my confusion, I found the first half of this book boring. It’s all about the politics of the titular planet. The planet is ruled by an emperor, the emperor has died, Cordelia’s husband is going to be regent for the new five year old emperor, blah blah blah. I’m sure knowing all this detail will be useful for any future reading I do in the series but it took me a long time to invest in the political structure of this fictional planet. Finally, some rebel aristocrats try to seize power and then the story finally gets interesting about midway through. Once the action ramps up, the book becomes much more entertaining and of course all that exposition finally pays off. It’s just that I hadn’t come into the book with the emotional investment in the characters or world that a fan of the first book might have. I have to say, even when the action kicked in, I wasn’t particularly emotionally invested in the outcome of the story. I didn’t hate or even dislike this book – I found it mildly entertaining. Because I loved the Chalion series and I liked what I read about Miles when he finally shows up, I’m definitely going to give the third book in this series a try but I’m not exactly enthusiastic about the series or the world.