I was introduced to Lois McMaster Bujold's work through her fantasy novels "The Curse of Chalion" and "Paladin Of Souls", both of which deserve ten stars at least. Having devoured those books (not literally) I decided to read some other stuff by her - this time in the Science Fiction genre. My library kindly offered up "Shards of Honour" and what a brilliant read it was. Most fortuitously, I now discover I happened upon the initial instalment of what has become a whole series of books (16 to date) in the Miles Vorkosigan series (I've bought the rest and am working my way through them. I liked this first one that much!) But don't worry that this book is incomplete on its own - it isn't. Although it's the scene-setter for a lot of other books it works on its own as a story of politics, war, human nature, personality and love. Cordelia Naismith is the captain of a Survey ship that is checking out a new planet. She's off in the undergrowth with her botanist when her base camp is attacked and her colleagues flee in the shuttle. When going back to investigate Cordelia and her companion are attacked and she loses consciousness. When she wakes up, there is a soldier guarding her. And from this point the story diverges from a basic "heroine rescues herself from tricky situation" type story. Cordelia and her 'captor', who says he is Captain Aral Vorkosigan, have to make a journey 200kms across this unknown and, as it turns out, rather dangerous planet in order to find a cache of stores and a way for Vorkosigan to communicate with his ship. It appears that there has been a mutiny in his command and he was knocked out and left on the surface of the planet. Cordelia has to accept his help in making their way to the cache and also with her botanist who was badly injured in the attack by Vorkosigan's colleagues, the Barrayarans. The Barrayarans are known as a warlike and rather uncivilised planet compared to Cordelia's Betans and she knows that Vorkosigan has the nickname "The Butcher of Komarr" from the story that he killed all the prisoners of another planet, Komarr, after they surrendered. But nothing is as it seems - for Cordelia, and especially not in Barrayaran politics. In their six day journey they come to understand something of each other, and the fact that they both have a sense of honour that, although different, is complementary. Cordelia is eventually rescued from her prisoner status on Vorkosigan's ship by some of her Betan colleagues, but the dividing line of "goodies" and "baddies" is no longer clear. Especially after Vorkosigan proposes marriage to her. The story continues with them meeting again - in the middle of a war - and Cordelia's brush with the evil side of Barrayaran culture. Once again she is returned to Beta Colony, but now she no longer fits there, and in fact discovers the bad side of her planet that cannot understand the Barrayarans and cannot allow them redeeming features. Cordelia has to escape her own people to be reunited with Vorkosigan. The enemy has become her home. What's so powerful about this book is that although the writing is light and the story moves on with pace, there is great depth to the characters. You feel like you really get to know them, understand them, understand what they see in each other, and understand why neither of them is at home with their planet because they are intelligent enough to see beyond the obvious to the disadvantages of both of their ways of life. The love affair side is understated but very well done at that, and the politics is explained in such a way that it works well in the story and is actually interesting. No mean feat! Some of the characters in this story appear in the others, particularly Cordelia and Vorkosigan, and the book "Barrayar" is the direct sequel to this and deals further with Cordelia, Aral Vorkosigan and their son Miles (the rest of the books are mostly set 20-30 years after the events in this book). It's a great start to an excellent series, and yet worth reading in its own right - over and over again.