Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell is a m/m romance with a queernorm sci-fi world. As soon as I saw gay political marriage, I knew I had to request an arc. Thank you to Tor and Netgalley for granting my e-arc request, Winter’s Orbit was a joy to read! Winter’s Orbit is available February 2nd, 2021.
The Iskat Empire rules a seven planet space system through treaties upheld by political marriages. But things aren’t all sunshine and rainbows. Some of the planets, including Thea, are beginning to rebel, and the timing couldn’t be worse. The overarching galactic empire has sent an Auditor to verify Iskat’s treaties.
Prince Kiem is the least favourite of the Iskat Emperor’s grandchildren and a constant disappointment. He finds out about his political marriage the day before the ceremony. While the ceremony goes mostly to plan, Kiem worries about his new husband, the quiet and grieving Count Jainan of Thea. It has only been a month since Jainan’s last partner, Prince Taam, died in an accident. Kiem doesn’t want to push his own feelings onto the grieving widower, but their marriage must appear strong to keep the hostilities between the two planets under control.
Winter’s Orbit introduces engaging characters and a fast moving plot that kept me turning pages. Kiem and Jainan’s relationship is at the forefront of the story. There is definitely enough plot between the treaty, possible murder, and military conspiracy to land the book solidly in the sci-fi category. But, the plot really drives the changes in their relationship. The details of their feelings is prominent throughout the book.
I honestly think that the tagline comping Red, White & Royal Blue does a disservice to Winter’s Orbit. Here, the themes are more mature, the characters more developed, and the relationship is complex and ultimately rewarding. To be fair, I love angst and pining, and Winter’s Orbit delivers a great deal of that. Sometimes I just wanted to scream at Kiem and Jainan to talk to each other. But, each time they tried it often just made things more complicated in a way that never felt over done. It made sense for the characters and their histories.
Kiem and Jainan both go through strong character arcs. Kiem is a somewhat reformed fuck-up who stills sees himself in a negative light. He might be charming, but he doesn’t see his own worth. Jainan suffers from anxiety relating to his past trauma. He defers to Kiem regardless of his own wishes and never gives himself freedom. Both characters complement each other and develop and grow through their interactions with each other over the course of the story.
While some areas of the book felt a little stilted – there were parts where I wondered if I had missed a segue between different actions of scenes – it was overall a really enjoyable read and I would highly recommend it!