Shards of Honor - Lois McMaster Bujold

Shards of Honor cover (wikimedia)

"Shards of Honor" is interesting, but rough.

The book is about Commander Cordelia Naismith in a time of war in a galaxy far, far away.  It's science fiction, but the plot doesn't center around technology at all -- it would be a relatively minor rewrite to make it happen in a world more like our own.  The focus is on emotion and politics.

A lot of books have stories of young, head over heels, love at first sight.  The love story in "Shards of Honor," on the other hand, is between two wry middle-aged people on opposite sides of a war (but it's not Romeo and Juliet, either).  The book focuses as much on the baggage and past losses that each of them bring to the table as it does on the present day love story.  The story in the present day touches on things like mental health and work / life balance.  

The universe's politics are full of intrigue, cause for moral outrage, and moral outrage.  However, the protagonists are sufficiently compelling to tide the reader through it all -- things are bad, but there is hope.

Given that all of that is interesting, my main issue with the book is its writing style.  It was a fairly common occurrence in the book for me to think, "Huh, is that an idiom that I don't know?  Is the author a non-native English speaker?  Was this book translated?"  But no, it was just an awkward turn of phrase.  That happened enough to make my reading experience not feel seamless or immersive.  That said, it was Bujold's first book, so I assume the style gets more refined in the many sequels.