By Everina Maxwell
Published date: February 2nd 2021
By Tor Books
Rating: 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Genre: Science fiction romance
About Winter’s Orbit
Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell was perfection. It gave me court intrigue on a galactic scale, an arranged marriage, a thriller investigation into a suspicious murder. In other words, it gave me everything and MORE.
The Iskat Empire and the planets it rules must sign an agreement that allows them access to interstellar travel. If they lose that link, all of the Empire’s planets become easy pickings for raiders and even bigger empires. Part of the agreement demanded by the mysterious Auditors, is a marriage between the Emperor’s family and someone from Thea, the newest vassal in their Empire.
The previous royal recently died so the Emperor decides to tap another of her royal grandsons. But unlike the suspiciously dead cousin, Prince Kiem is a pretty playboy, prone to screwups and regular gossip rag appearances. No one is more surprised than Kiem, the Emperor’s least favorite grandson, when he’s told of his impending marriage. Impending as in it happens tomorrow.
His partner is his cousin’s widower, Jainen, a quiet, reserved, self-effacing, always proper diplomat. Kiem fears to intrude upon Jainen’s grief which of course Jainen misinterprets as disinterest or even dislike.
Because that’s not enough pressure, Jainen is a suspect in his first husband’s death which is causing unrest on his homeworld.
My thoughts about Winter’s Orbit
Do you want romance tropes? Winter’s Orbit delivers – arranged marriage, one bed, OMG would they just TALK already, stranded in the wilderness, dark secrets they’re afraid to reveal.
The story is told from Kiem and Jainen’s POV. The author did a fabulous job of showing events and then how their pasts led them to misinterpret the other’s intentions. But I loved watching their friendship grow.
They’re surrounded by some fantastic secondary characters, no less well-developed despite playing smaller roles in the story. I am PINING for deeper dives into their lives.
The science fiction setting is so well done. Worlds with different climates, backgrounds, resources, priorities, and traditions. Technology that’s obviously futuristic but never described to the point where my eyes glazed over from pseudo-science tech babble.
No obviously included as a token for rep characters appeared. Within Iskat society, a person shows how they identify by the material of an accessory – wood signifies he, glass they and iron she. But gender doesn’t determine title. While Kiem is he and a prince so too a cousin is a prince but a she. The writing was so clear that I never felt confused about a character’s identity.
The mystery-thriller part was well done as well. Who killed the dead royal and why. Who wants the treaty to fall apart? The tension ramps up as they get closer to the Treaty signing. The author fantastically showed both what was at stake for Keim and Jainen as well as for Iskat and Thea, and the rest of the Empire.
I cannot stress how amazing this book is. Love, intrigue, the fate of worlds – all in one delicious read. For fans of Arkady Martine and Casey McQuiston.
CW: torture, physical and emotional abuse.
Thank you NetGalley and Tor Books for the ARC.