I liked Shards of Honour more than I did the first time I read it, even though I’m sticking with my original three star rating. It’s fun, and this time I did get more wrapped up in it, in following the politics and in following Cordelia and Aral as they get to know each other. I still don’t quite get the enthusiasm over the whole series, but I’ve heard at least a dozen times that I’ll get along better with the Miles books.
Still, I got along pretty well with this one. The concept of honour is a thing that will usually get to me with a character — honour and loyalty in general. Juubei in GetBackers; Simon Tam in Firefly; Joscelin Verreuil in Kushiel’s Dart; Steve Rogers in Captain America — and if they can be tortured, make mistakes, and still be people you root for, that’s all the better. I know a lot of people love the mischievious tricksters with a heart that might just be gold after all, but I prefer the straight-forward ones, like Steve Rogers. And Aral is definitely one of those. Realising that helped me warm to him, even when he starts off not terribly sympathetic — and you realise that he did kind of have a point, too: he suggests to Cordelia that they should end the suffering of a man who will never walk or possibly even think coherently ever again. Now, it sounds barbaric to her in the moment, but it occurs to her later (and to me almost immediately), that maybe the guy wouldn’t have wanted to stay alive in the dependent existence that was his only chance. Certainly, I wouldn’t — and I’ve taken some pains to make sure my loved ones know it.
So I think the characterisation was more subtle here than I remembered, and I have grown sympathetic to Aral — and to Cordelia, and what she goes through to get back to him. I remember liking Barrayar much less than this, but we’ll see. And even if I still don’t like it, I’ll go on to read the Miles books, because I trust my partner’s judgement there!