after much delay

Dear Internets: as a reader new to the Vorkosigan books (I know, I know; I’ve been meaning to read them for years), which book should I start with?

Relevant factors include publishing order, internal chronology, accessibility, and quality of writing. Recommend the one you think is most likely to make sense and hook me into the series.

0 Responses to “after much delay”

  1. sumik

    I would start with Cordelia’s Honor.

    There is actually a site with a chronology here – which includes stuff from even before Cordelia’s Honor.

  2. sartorias

    Start with the one now called “Cordelia’s Honor.” The writing might be a tad rougher but the story kicks off fast and stays intense. It’s followed by “Barrayar” which is more mature, and rounds off this powerful duo.

    Then you are ready for Miles.

    • gwyneira

      Heartily seconded. It’s where I started, and it worked for me excellently.

    • coraa

      Thirded. I think that’s the perfect place to start.

      From there you can proceed through in internal chronology or in publication order—I think it works either way—but Cordelia’s Honor is an excellent introduction.

    • sartorias

      I should say, to be clearer, that CORDELIA’S HONOR is made up of what was once SHARDS OF HONOR, the very first book out, and BARRAYAR, which came out a bit later, but takes place not long after. They fit together very, very powerfully.

    • rachelmanija

      I agree, with the caveat that Shards of Honor was her first novel and its sequel, Barrayar, is a big jump forward in quality. The first has strong romance elements, but the second is both more epic and more intimate/intense, with excellent worldbuilding of a planetary culture that’s sketched in in the first book.

      Alternatively, you could start with The Warrior’s Apprentice if you’re in the mood for something more fast-paced and with more comedy. It’s space opera with space battles, ship hijacking, etc.

      Either make good starting points because they start off sequences with different heroes. There are other possible entry points, but those are the ones which begin at the beginning.

      • sartorias

        I think you get more bang for your buck, though, if you start with Cordelia–I’m thinking of certain threads of Warrior’s Apprentice that really hit harder if you know the b.g. (Bothari)

        • rachelmanija

          Yes, although the interesting thing is that it works both ways – I read Warrior’s Apprentice first, and all the stuff with Bothari in Cordelia’s books hit twice as hard because I already knew where it was going.

          • sartorias

            Oh that’s an interesting view.

            Yep. I could see beginning with Miles and working back to his parents.

          • Marie Brennan

            That was how I experienced Daniel Keys Moran’s Continuing Time books. Reading them backward gave the first one the quality of a Shakespearean tragedy, because I knew what awful things were going to happen, but not precisely how.

          • rachelmanija

            I read a lot of books in the wrong order, sometimes because I was in India and the whole set wasn’t available. Perhaps the oddest experience was beginning the Prydain Chronicles with The High King. People kept showing up and getting killed, and then everyone else would be sad.

          • Marie Brennan

            First episode of Buffy I ever saw was “Faith, Hope, and Trick,” which is the one where Angel comes back from Hell at the very end.

            Everybody around me was going “ZOMG!!!!eleven!” I was sitting there going, “Who’s the naked guy?”

            (Their efforts to explain did not help. I bounced off the show and didn’t come back until some of my roommates started watching it the following year; didn’t get hooked until S5, when the random episode I caught happened to be “Fool for Love,” with the awesome flashback structure.)

  3. ashcake

    I loved the Vorkosigan books for years and years and years. Personally, I started with The Warrior’s Apprentice, but I was nearly the same age as Miles and that’s what was in my library.

    Epinions has a number of ways one could enter the series, as well as brief synopses. I’d suggest starting with the Cordelia books (either Shards of Honor or Cordelia’s Honor, depending on if you read the two separate books or the omnibus). Then follow the internal chronology, which isn’t publishing order.

    Welcome! 😉

  4. mllelaurel

    Seconded, and I’d say Memory is an even worse place to start (which is a shame, as it’s one of my favorites). It’s a major turning point in the series, referencing pretty much everything that came before and setting the stage for the later parts of the series.

    • diatryma

      Do not read Memory first.

      It is the worst book to start on, and a great book once you know what’s going on.

    • mindstalk

      OTOH Mirror Dance worked fine for me. It’s sort of in media res, but things made sense with patience, and it introduces you to a very wide spectrum of the suite of characters and significant worlds.

      But yeah, internal chronology (with Falling Free off to side) should work fine. Though I’d note that Warrior’s Apprentice and Vor Game are probably the weakest of the Miles books[1], as well as the earliest, especially Vor Game — not bad over all, but Lois has a weakness for coincidence-driven plotting, which really shows there.

      [1] Some might counter with Diplomatic Immunity and Cryoburn, which should be saved for the end anyway, especially the latter.

      • rachelmanija

        I read Mirror Dance first, by accident. If you do that, you will identify a LOT with Mark, who also has no idea what’s going on or who anyone is. But I don’t recommend this.

  5. mrissa

    I will join the chorus of those saying Shards of Honor/Cordelia’s Honor.

    The risk to starting there instead of with The Warrior’s Apprentice is that if you imprint hard on Cordelia, you’re going to have to switch protags in two books. But I think Miles can carry it.

    • alecaustin

      I also agree with the chorus – Shards of Honor or Cordelia’s Honor. There are major events in The Warrior’s Apprentice which carry a different emotional valence if you’ve read Shards first.

  6. hawkwing_lb

    Also one for the chorus of Shards of Honor.

  7. beccastareyes

    Going to agree with what folks have said: if you want a test of the series proper, I’d either go with The Warrior’s Apprentice/Young Miles* or Shard of Honor/Cordelia’s Honor. I don’t know your tastes well enough to gauge things, but I’ll say this.

    Cordelia’s Honor has many selling points. The fact the first book deals with the space-travel military SF angle many of the early Miles books have and the second book is more on Vor politics that many of the later Miles books have is a good test to see if Bujold’s range works for you. I know there’s a bit of a fannish divide on whether people like the earlier Miles books (which are more military SF and planet-hopping) or the later ones, where Miles is more anchored to his home world, so it’s a good test. Barrayar also has some awesome meditations on the nature of ‘strong’ femininity. Plus, Cordelia is an awesome character, and I’ve seen many bloggers say they want to be her when they grow up. As others have noted, though, after this duology, the books skip a generation, and, while Cordelia appears again, it’s more as a supporting character.

    (Shards of Honor, however, is one of two books in that series that need a trigger warning for sexual assault, the other being Mirror Dance.)

    As others have noted, TWA is the start of Miles’s story, and since he’s the sole narrator for many of the books and short stories (He’s got sole narrator duty from TWA to Brothers in Arms, if I recall, and has partial narrator duty for every book he appears as an adult/teen.) If you can’t put up with Miles, you probably won’t like the series, or at least the early books — both because Miles does change as he ages, and because the later ones have other characters narrating.

    Both SoH and TWA are pretty early in Bujold’s career, but she still has some pretty powerful lines. I’m rereading the books now, and I nearly started to cry during the end of ‘The Mountains of Mourning’.

    (For the economical, TWA and ‘The Mountains of Mourning’ are some of Baen’s free eBooks — another selling factor.)

    * As others have mentioned, most of the books are in omnibuses. The one exception is Memory which for arc purposes, LMB wants left to stand alone.

  8. amysun

    I started with The Warrior’s Apprentice/Young Miles. I later returned to read Cordelia’s Honor, and I bounced right off of it. I know I’m in the minority here, but mostly I just wanted to say, if you bounce off one of these novels, don’t give up altogether.

    • zellandyne

      I’ll ditto here. I actually like Shards of Honor, but if I’d read it before The Warrior’s Apprentice, I would have bounced. Too much of the pivotal action happens offscreen for me. So, if you bounce off of whichever book you start with, try the other one.

  9. mastadge

    I read my first Bujold novel in November, and have now finished 9 or 10 of them. I’ve been working in order of publication, and regret that decision not at all. Each novel stands alone, but a minor character from one might show up as a major character in another. I think I may have gotten bored if I’d read in internal chronological order, but this way I’ve gotten to watch Bujold’s evolution as a writer, and the way she’s jumped around chronologically has kept me from being exposed to the same characters for too long. So I’d recommend starting with Shards of Honor, then The Warrior’s Apprentice, then Ethan of Athos, and continuing thataway.

  10. cofax7

    I started with Barrayar. I wouldn’t recommend doing it that way. *g*

  11. marydell

    I started with The Warrior’s Apprentice, which is the first one “starring” Miles instead of his parents. It hooked me good and proper, and I went on from there. I haven’t read the two most recent books yet, and I haven’t (thus far) found his parents interesting enough to want to read the first two yet, but I expect I will once I run out of “Miles” books.

  12. amy34

    I started with the Cordelia books, but didn’t get truly hooked until The Warrior’s Apprentice.

  13. landofnowhere

    I started with /Warrior’s Apprentice/ and liked it but didn’t see what the big deal was, and didn’t start deeply caring about the characters until a few books later (this is possibly true wherever one starts?) but I’m not sure I can recommend starting somewhere around /Brothers in Arms/, since that one confused me enough even though I’d read the books before it. If you don’t mind jumping in at the middle, I might recommend /Mirror Dance/. I think I might have been more hooked if I’d started with /Cordelia’s Honor/, which I liked better despite its flaws, but it’s hard to tell.

  14. auriaephiala

    I would NOT start with _Mirror Dance_ or any of the Vorkosigan book after that, because they have too many interrelationships and later books will spoil the earlier ones.

    Beyond that, it doesn’t matter as much, although I agree with the chorus saying that Shards of Honor&Barrayar/Cordelia’s Honor would be the ideal starting point for YOU.

    But, frankly, if you don’t mind picking up a bit of context as you go, I think Cetaganda might not be a bad starting point either. Or if you want a non-Vor book in the same universe, Falling Free.

    And if you haven’t read The Curse of Chalion/Paladin of Souls/The Hallowed Hunt (fantasy, not Vor books), don’t miss them.

  15. stakebait

    IMO the best books in the series are:

    Cordelia’s Honor (the very first, chronologically and in publication order, a portmanteau volume of Shards of Honor and Barrayar). The only flaw to starting here is that it is about the parent generation, while subsequent books focus on the son, so it may not be totally representative.

    Memory (about fifth) — dark, complex, compelling, but I’m not sure how it would resonate without the backstory of the intervening books.

    A Civil Campaign (about seventh) — a fun fantasy of manners, very much in the tradition of Austen/Heyer, am assured by friends who started here that it works without backstory though it also works with, only flaw to starting here is that it will spoiler the earlier books.

    That said, I think you can really start anywhere *except* Ceteganda (which verges on Mary Sue), Ethan of Athos (tangentially related and not, IMO, the strongest) and Diplomatic Immunity (reads like a slight side story/placeholder).

  16. Anonymous

    Vorkosigan books

    You should read “Shards of Honor” first followed by “Barrayar”. If you can find a copy of “Cordelia’s Honor” is is an Omnibus containing both books. Ms. McMaster has a web site that list her bibliography.

    Although the Vorkosigan books are wonderful her best works are the “Sharing Knife” series (4 books) and the “Chalon” series (3 books).

    Happy reading,

    Richard Young

    P.S. Are you the Marie Brennen who is/was a part of the Clannid musical group?

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