What happened? What are these sensible, mature adults doing in the middle of my space opera? Where are the hot-headed, brash heroes? Where is the sass-mouthed young princess? WHERE ARE THE ROBOTS AND ALIENS?This is not your father's science-fiction novel. But it might be your mother's. I don't mean that in a sexist or dismissive way, but reading this book felt more like reading a romance than it did a sci-fi book. I don't mean a bodice-ripping (space bodice!) romance, but a realistic, measured and mature romance. There are no sex scenes here, just a character study of two people, each slowly being drawn into the other's orbit (obligatory space metaphor!) despite social (planetary) differences. Despite galactic war! Separated by wormholes, their love bound them together! In the courtship of Cordelia Naismith and Aral Vorkosigan, this book reminds me of Regency Romances (in her review, Elizabeth calls then them the space-faring equivalent of Anne Elliot and Wentworth, which sounds about right). These are adults who have lived through the disappointment of past relationships and the frenzies of first love. They've known pain and heartbreak, and they don't fall into each other's arms (and beds) immediately, nor do they obsess over or glorify one another (I waited the whole book and I never found out if Aral had a rippling chest or not. Probably he doesn't sparkle though). Even in her first novel (of many, many to come, including about a dozen in this series), Lois McMaster Bujold is an assured and witty writer, content to take her time with character, something that a lot of sci-fi writers see little use for.Which brings me to the part of the book that didn't work quite as well for me -- the sci-fi parts. A lot happens in this slim tome, too much perhaps -- grand political intrigues, complex plots and betrayals, a war than spans worlds -- and we see just snatches of the action and intrigue, because the book isn't really about any of that. Or if it is, only tangentially, in the ways these grand events impact Cordelia and Aral (I feel like they need one of those 'shipper mash-up names... Cordaral?). I wanted the plots and the coups to be a little more fleshed out; I wanted more of the backstory that is only hinted at, particularly some eyebrow-raising hints about Aral's past relationship with a chief villain.So I am giving this one three stars, even though I enjoyed it immensely. For one thing, its direct sequel, Barrayar (which has actually been bound together with Shards in my edition) is by all accounts a much stronger book (it won the Hugo award, one of several major awards Bujold has won for this series), and I wanted to leave myself some breathing room. My space heart is engaged! I want to see where these characters are going. Also I already picked up about five more of the books at a thrift shop.