Book reviews / Science Fiction

Book review: Shards of Honour

I was quite looking forward to this book. Some of the later books in the Vorkosigan Saga showed up the list of Goodreads feminist science fiction books.

So the plot of this book is basically: Two ‘enemies’ meet (Captain Cordelia Naismith and Aral Vorkosigan), find out that they have more in common, fall in love, a war ensues, war ends, they live sort of happily (sort of). There’s a bit more complexity than that but almost the entire time I was thinking this was basically a romance novel wrapped in the packaging of a sci-fi novel.

But it was still super fun and I think it passed my test as well.

Does it have at least 2 female characters:
It does but the only one that matters is the main character.
Is one of them a main character:
Yes! She’s the protagonist!
Do they have an interesting profession/level of skill with male characters
Yes! She’s a Commodore, then a Captain and the other main character thinks very highly of her (more highly than his own male soldiers)
Bonus point: They talk about gender equality (eg, The Dispossessed)
Yes! A little bit.
Bonus point: The ratio of female to male characters is 50/50
Not even close. There are hardly any other female characters other than the title character.

So not bad. There are some problematic elements (eg, almost a rape scence with the main character, indications of rape and torture in case of another woman).

The other thing is that it’s essentially a love story. Although geez, not so much romance has some pretty hilarious dialogue.

She found herself disquietly aware of his body, muscular compact, wholly masculine, stirring thoughts she thought she had surpressed…

A lot of moon eyes and stuff like that. Okay, not a lot but it was jarring. And it happens so fast.

BUT IT WAS SO ADORABLE. As much as I want to protest against it, I stayed up to 3am finishing the damn book. I thought the reason she leaves her world for his was somewhat contrived. Her government thinks she’s been brainwashed essentially to be a spy and they want to find out out. However, she knows if she tells them what she knows, there will be a civil war on his planet. So she has to escape.

While I was reading it though, I kept on thinking on the Damsel in Distress trope and whether it applied (in a non-videogame sense anyway). I don’t think it did. In most cases, where Captain Naismith gets caught, she’s resourceful or can escape. There is only one point where someone else does the hard bit (in the aforementioned potential rape scene, someone else kills the guy before he can do anything to her). In some cases, she helps rescue Vorkosigan. She relies both being able to kick ass but also figure out mentally what’s up and reason her way to the right answer.

I think it also does a good job of showing the male characters problems as well: he’s flawed and has a lot of issues and it isn’t shied away from.

It was brilliant.

Anyway. It’s cheesy as fuck. But I give it 4/5 stars for feminism but minus one for the rape-y bits.

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