Cordelia Naismith, Betan Survey Captain, was expecting the unexpected: hexapods, floating creatures, odd parasites... She was not, however, expecting to find hostile humans on an uninhabited planet. And she wasn't really expecting to fall in love with a 40-plus barbarian known to cosmopolitan... read more
Cordelia Naismith, captain of an Astronomical Survey ship from the liberal and technologically advanced Beta Colony, is exploring a newly-discovered planet when her base camp is attacked. While investigating, she is surprised by a soldier, falls, hits her head on a rock, and awakens to find... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
Cordelia Naismith, captain of an Astronomical Survey ship from the liberal and technologically advanced Beta Colony, is exploring a newly-discovered planet when her base camp is attacked. While investigating, she is surprised by a soldier, falls, hits her head on a rock, and awakens to find that, while most of her crew has escaped, she is marooned with an injured crewman and a prisoner of Captain Lord Aral Vorkosigan of Barrayar, notorious throughout human space as the "Butcher of Komarr". He had been left for dead by a treacherous rival. During their five-day hike to a secret Barrayaran base, she finds Vorkosigan not at all the monster his reputation suggested, and is strongly attracted to him. She helps him defeat a mutiny, despite some well-intentioned interference from her crew. She is "rescued" and returns to Beta Colony.
It turns out that the secret base was a staging point for an invasion of Beta Colony's ally Escobar, to be led by Crown Prince Serg, the demented son and heir of Emperor Ezar. Cordelia goes to Escobar in command of a decoy ship and successfully distracts the Barrayaran ships on picket duty at the wormhole exit so the transport ships following her can deliver a devastating new Betan weapon to the Escobaran defenders.
She is captured, prepped to be tortured by the sadistic Admiral Vorrutyer, unexpectedly rescued by Vorrutyer's mentally unstable henchman, Sergeant Bothari, who kills his master. Afterwards, Commodore Vorkosigan hides the pair in his cabin. The new weapons give the Escobarans an overwhelming advantage and the Barrayaran invasion is driven back with heavy losses. Crown Prince Serg, his flagship, and all hands aboard are lost. As Vorkosigan takes charge and organizes his fleet's retreat, Cordelia overhears one critical fact and deduces, step by step, a political secret that would plunge Barrayar into civil war if it ever got out. When Vorkosigan can no longer hide her in his cabin and she is safe from execution, she is placed in the ship's brig. The ship is attacked and loses power temporarily, including the internal gravity, and Cordelia is injured. The Barrayaran retreat is successful, in part due to a suicide mission that blocks the wormhole.
On her way back to Beta Colony after a prisoner exchange, she is assigned a cabin mate who turns out to be a Betan psychiatrist convinced that her injuries are evidence that she was tortured by Vorkosigan, and that she has been psychologically tampered with. Desperate to keep her terrible secret, Cordelia refuses to let herself sleep. On landing on Beta Colony she begins, stuttering, , which further leads the Betan psychiatrist, Dr. Mehta to conclude that she has been brainwashed and may even be a spy. She escapes as they are preparing to hospitalize and drug her against her will..
She manages to reach Barrayar, where she marries Aral Vorkosigan. The dying Emperor Ezar Vorbarra appoints Aral as Regent-Elect for his grandson and heir, the four-year-old Prince Gregor. Aral, who is next in line of succession, at first refuses, but Cordelia convinces him to take the job.
“His eyes bothered her, and his smile. His curtness she could meet and match with her own flippancy, guarding herself as with a fencer's foil. His kindness was like fencing with the sea, her strokes going soft and losing all volition. She flinched from the smile, and his face fell, then became closed and grave again.”
“She took the story in like some strange, spiked gift, too fragile to drop, too painful to hold.”
“Yes. . . I could take over the universe with this army if ever I could get all their weapons pointed in the same direction.”Aral Vorkosigan
“Permitting private judgments to turn <your> duty in the smallest matter <will> be just like getting a little bit pregnant -- the consequences will very soon get beyond <you>.”Captain Negri
“Why can't you just lose your temper with subordinates, like normal men, instead of with superiors, like a lunatic?”Rulf Vorhalas
“The truth was too complicated and ambiguous to appeal to them, and she herself, suppressing everything in it that had to do with Vorkosigan, was unable to make it sound convincing. Her duty seemed drained of meaning, dull and discolored. She longed for home, and her sensible mother and brother, and quiet, and one thought that would connect to another without making a chain of secret horror.”
“Exile, for no other motive than ease, would be the last defeat, with no seed of future victory in it.”Aral Vorkosigan
“A price is something you get. A cost is something you lost.”Cordelia Naismith
“I've always thought -- tests are a gift. And great tests are a great gift. To fail the test is a misfortune. But to refuse the test is to refuse the gift, and something worse, more irrevocable, than misfortune.”Cordelia Naismith
“Vampire balloons?”Aral Vorkosigan
“I've always tried to walk the path of honor. But what do you do when all choices are evil? Shameful action, shameful inaction, every path leading to a thicket of death.”Aral Vorkosigan
Followed by The Warrior's Apprentice.
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