The first book in the Vorkosigan science fiction series. Part of Cordelia’s Honor omnibus.

Publication year: 1986
Publication year of Cordelia’s Honor: 1999
Page count for Cordelia’s Honor: 596, 253 for Shards of Honor

Cordelia Naismith is the captain of the astronomical survey ship Rene Magritte. She and her crew are exploring a newly found planet when a group of soldiers attack. The rest of the crew and the ship manage to escape but Cordelia and Ensign Dubauer are left behind. Cordelia is soon stunned but Dubauer is hit by disruptor fire and is essentially brain dead.

When Cordelia wakes up, she realizes that one of the enemy soldiers have been betrayed and left behind. Now, she will have to work with Captain Aral Vorkosigan, also known as the Butcher of Komarr, to get herself and her injured crewman to safety.

Cordelia and Aral are from different backgrounds and cultures but they have very similar value systems and goals. They both are middle-aged and single. Both are honorable almost to a fault and they both want peace for their planets. Cordelia is from Beta Colony which is pretty liberal and values individuals. Aral is from Barrayar which has just climbed out of their Middle Ages, is patriarchal, and values family and kinship more than individuals, especially women. Barrayarans have also brutal ways of dealing with people with permanent injuries and Cordelia has to defend her decision to bring Dubauer with them on the dangerous journey.

The story is mostly a mystery. Cordelia has to find out why Aral was betrayed and what is happening. Aral is in a hard place between his honor and his duty to the old and crafty Emperor of Barrayar. There is a romance aspect, too, but it doesn’t take over the rest of the story.

Bujold writes character driven novels and her first novel isn’t an exception. All of the characters feel like real people who have their own lives outside the pages of the book.

One of my favorite sf novels and I recommend starting the Vorkosigan saga with Cordelia’s Honor.