Book Review: Winter’s Orbit


Everina Maxwell

Rating: 4 out of 5.

published: 2nd February 2021
spoilers? no

Goodreads

Ancillary Justice meets Red, White & Royal Blue in Everina Maxwell’s exciting debut.

While the Iskat Empire has long dominated the system through treaties and political alliances, several planets, including Thea, have begun to chafe under Iskat’s rule. When tragedy befalls Imperial Prince Taam, his Thean widower, Jainan, is rushed into an arranged marriage with Taam’s cousin, the disreputable Kiem, in a bid to keep the rising hostilities between the two worlds under control.

But when it comes to light that Prince Taam’s death may not have been an accident, and that Jainan himself may be a suspect, the unlikely pair must overcome their misgivings and learn to trust one another as they navigate the perils of the Iskat court, try to solve a murder, and prevent an interplanetary war… all while dealing with their growing feelings for each other.

“Are you kidding?” Kiem said. […] “I’m going to laser tomorrow’s front page posts on our bedroom wall.” “I will void the treaty,” Jainan threatened.

Galley provided by publisher

CWs: past domestic abuse (inc. scenes)

Winter’s Orbit is a book for me that feels very like a fic (I don’t mean it negatively, take it how you will). And I can’t tell if that’s because I read the original piece it stemmed from (although it has hardly changed) or it genuinely does. Either way it’s a fun, action-packed romance-slash-space-mystery that hits all the right notes when it comes to emotions.

Kiem expects to spend his life unbothered by Iskat Empire politics, barring the occasional disapproving meeting with his grandmother. But when his cousin, Taam, is killed in a crash, Kiem is forced to step in and marry his widower, Jainan, to maintain a treaty and, hopefully, peace throughout the entire galaxy. Add onto this evidence that Taam’s demise wasn’t entirely accidental, and Kiem finds himself at the centre of a plot which may threaten life as he knows it.

I’m honestly finding this book a bit tricky to review because, in effect, it’s a reread for me. I don’t know why that makes it harder, but them’s the breaks.

What catches your attention first and foremost in this book are the characters. I loved Kiem from the first page of the original and I loved him even more from the first page of this. And the same was the case for Jainan. They, and all the rest of the main cast, are the kinds of characters who are so vibrant as to leap off the page at you. It’s that, and the growing relationship between Kiem and Jainan, that makes the book for me.

In terms of plot, the novel is half romance, half thriller. I say half and half because the thriller part does sort of take a backseat to the romance at times. It’s like a romance in space thriller trappings, and it’s excellent. My favourite genre is mysteries or thrillers used as a vehicle for a romance, and it does it so well here. Perhaps at times, I wanted it to lean more into the thriller aspect, but I knew what I was getting into here, so that wasn’t a problem for me.

If there was anything for me to nitpick, it would be just that, on occasion, I wanted the worldbuilding to go even more in depth than it did. I think that may have been a byproduct of me finding it a little fic-ish, to be honest, though. It didn’t really impact on my original rating either.

If you are looking for a standalone science fiction book to read, then, this one fits perfectly and I would highly recommend it.

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