Barrayar – Lois McMaster Bujold

One of many award-winning Vorkosigan stories.

Stars: Four of five.

Review format: Brief review plus links.
Barrayar – Lois McMaster Bujold. Summary: In 1992, Barrayar won both the Hugo Award for Best Novel and the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.
Cordelia Naismith was resourceful and courageous, but what is Lady Vorkosigan like? When her life is shattered by a soltoxin grenade, the unfortunate Barrayarans who target her husband and hit her child find out. (goodreads)
Provenance: Purchased online via It is only published in an omnibus version called Cordelia’s Honor.

Barrayar was thoroughly enjoyable. After slogging through Shards of Honor left me wondering why Cordelia was such a favorite character with some bloggers, I found out with this book why Cordelia is awesome.  The pacing is snappy, the characterization is gripping and confident, major and minor characters are important and realistic, and interesting moral/ethical dilemmas are presented.

Why, then, did I give it only four out of five stars?  I almost never hand out five stars – so if you start from four-and-a-half… Half a star deducted for not having breathtakingly beautiful writing throughout.

I strongly recommend this book.

An excellent discussion of the book provided by the author as an afterword to Cordelia’s Honor.  Bujold points out themes and tells the evolution of the book’s story.

Ware Spoilers below

Other reviews of Barrayar  (added by me, not generated)

  • Fyrefly’s review – she’s a big fan.
  • Thumbs-UP at Dear Author (as part of Cordelia’s Honor)  “Cordelia and Aral are different. For starters, they’re Grown-Ups. They do not play dumb relationship games or pull stupid stunts that endanger themselves and others. They’re intelligent and competent. They respect each other. It’s all so refreshing!”
  • Janicu – interesting that she thought this started out slowly. I felt the opposite – Barrayar pulled me right in with momentum.

Bonus image – Look at this other cover!  I think it’s from a French (or Quebec) edition

And now, a more thorough summary, since I was so skimpy in the review above.  Beware, the following is FULL of spoilers.

As Barrayar begins, Aral and Cordelia Vorkosigan are expecting their first child. When the crafty old emperor dies, Aral takes over as regent. A plot to assassinate Aral with poison gas fails, but the antidote, while effective, is also a powerful teratogen that poses a grave threat to the bone development of his unborn son, Miles. In a desperate attempt to save the fetus, Cordelia has it transferred to a uterine replicator— to undergo an experimental recalcification treatment that may partially combat the otherwise-fatal bone damage.
When Count Vidal Vordarian attempts a coup, five-year-old Emperor Gregor is rescued by his loyal security chief, Captain Negri, and reunited with the Vorkosigans. Cordelia, Gregor, and various retainers escape into the hills and hide amongst the rural population while Aral and his father organize the resistance.
After Cordelia rejoins Aral, they learn that the replicator containing Miles has been captured. Without proper maintenance, the fetus will succumb within six days, but Aral refuses to attempt a rescue when there are far greater concerns. However, Cordelia convinces her personal bodyguard, Ludmilla Droushnakovi, and one of Aral’s officers,Clement Koudelka, to help her rescue Gregor’s mother, Princess Kareen, and the replicator containing Miles. Once in the palace, Cordelia and her party are caught. They overpower their captors, but Princess Kareen is killed by Vordarian’s bodyguards. They execute Vordarian and escape with the replicator, and the coup falls apart without its leader. Cordelia is put in charge of Prince Gregor’s early education, with far-reaching consequences for Barrayar.
Because of his exposure to the teratogen, Miles Naismith Vorkosigan is born with extremely fragile bones that break easily, and his growth is stunted. On Barrayar, babies with birth defects are common, due to the hostile environment and to lingering radiation from the war between Barrayar and Cetaganda. With life difficult and resources limited, such babies were traditionally killed, though this practice is illegal by the time of Miles’ birth. Still, so-called “muties” are reviled and shunned, and Miles, though genetically sound, must deal with prejudice throughout his life, starting with his own grandfather, Piotr. (this is the the wikipedia summary)


{oops, I actually read this in June or July or August and posted it retroactively… don’t want to break my links now.}

Did I overlook your review? Let me know in a comment, and I will add the link here.

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