The Bujold Nexus

Thoughts on Shards of Honor

I was reading a book yesterday which made me feel like I was in an exciting new world. I absolutely fell in love with the main characters, and there were moments of excitement, true love and romance, terror, mirth and of delight. The experience was lovely.

After finishing the book, I found that I was so in love with the characters and the experience of sharing their lives, that I felt sadness, even grief over not being able to continue in the world created by this author. After all, one can only read a book once in awhile to experience it fully, because the feelings evoked, the sense of interest and excitement fades with familiarity.

After this experience, I found myself pondering what was so important to me about this book, what made this experience so positive, so important. Why did I wish with all my heart that these people lived in my world? Why did I yearn to be a part of their lives in a real way? Why did I want to be them, or know them?

As I pondered my feelings, I realized that these characters, which so fascinated me, lived with a very deep code of honor, sometimes at great personal expense. This code was an intrinsic part of the make up of their being. The ongoing struggle to live according to these deep values was exciting, and created tension and drama. Over and over again, it was evident that these characters struggled with the importance of personal honor, of keeping one's word, of living consistently by their code. Sometimes they succeeded, and sometimes they had to set aside the code, for the greater good.

Does living by a code of honor make things humorous; I don't know - although there are sections in this book that really made me laugh. Or perhaps honor gives one a way of looking at the world that facilitates laughter sometimes, and then tears as well, sometimes.

Villains were portrayed as humans that had so immersed themselves in vice that they had lost their code, and turned into monsters, albeit predictable monsters, capable of the most hideous acts of depravity against others. In fact, the ability to brutalize those that were trying to live by honor gave them pleasure and satisfaction. Personal honor was not important to these characters, except the ability to undermine it in others and enjoy their pain. Feeding their lust for physical and emotional sensation was an important motivator for them. Gratification of their egos was important, winning was important, but honor was not.

And there was one key character to whom loyalty was the only code of honor. This character was honorable within his relationships to key dominant characters, but he had no code otherwise, and could be influenced to perform horrific acts. Although his emotional make up was warped and sadistic, this character was ultimately sympathetic as he struggled with his own flaws, and tried to redeem himself from acts that are almost beyond redemption.

Although this is probably the third time I have read this book over the years, reading it this time moved me every bit as much as when I read it the first time, perhaps more. I wish I could forget it and then read it again. The experience was lovely, and I recommend it highly.

© 1999 by Alice J Saczawa
Added to The Bujold Nexus: October 15th 1999

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