Everina Maxwell’s Winter’s Orbit lands on shelves with the promise of a reluctant romance with space and interstellar peace as the backdrop. I got a free copy of the book through Netgalley, and all opinions are my own. This review is a bit late. Winter’s Orbit dropped 14 days ago, February 2nd. Put it on your TBR if you haven’t already, lovelies, as this is one excellent book. Five stars, FIVE STARS.
First (most important) things first. Apart from being an excellent sci-fi romance, it’s also queer! M/M couple at the center of it all. Have that in mind going in. I don’t think there’s any way you’d dislike the book. If you’re ready for the Winter’s Orbit review, let’s dive right in!
Winter’s Orbit: The Plot
Let’s just put it out there – Winter’s Orbit is all about a forced political marriage blossoming into a stellar love story. You feel me? We have a third-rate prince of the Iskat Empire, Kiem, who has to marry Jainan – a diplomat from Thea, who recently lost his previous husband – an actual important prince of the Iskat Empire.
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Everything happens at a time when the peace between Thea and the Iskat Empire is quickly eroding. To preserve it, Jainan is convinced and determined to be a proper husband and go through all the motions. Kiem… well, he’s waltzing into a political marriage with a recent widower who’s actually hot, but our prince doesn’t want to encroach on him, believing Jainan’s grieving.
First rule of good storytelling: give your characters a lie to believe. Good job, Everina Maxwell, I tip my hat to you. Moving on.
While the newlyweds tiptoe around each other, their fake relationship becomes deeper and deeper. And while they’re balancing it with the demands of being a royal couple, darker things start surfacing. Like the fact that Jainan’s previous husband had been killed, and our Thean diplomat is the only viable suspect. They have to solve that mystery while:
- Avoiding ‘accidental’ death by murder;
- Realizing, sharing, and accepting the feelings they have for each other;
- Convincing a greater galactic power called the Resolution all is peachy in their corner of the universe.
You know, the usual.
Explore the Winter’s Orbit World
There’s A HECK TON of worldbuilding put into Winter’s Orbit, yet it remains unexplored. I mean, I don’t mind having the romance as the center of attention (Everina Maxwell, please, give us more stories like this, please, please a lot?), but I can see how some people might find it shallow. Yet, I think that exact level of worldbuilding raised the stakes enough without overshadowing the fact this is a space opera LOVE STORY, FIGHT ME.
Moving on. There was a very sweet and smart, I think, worldbuilding element regarding gender in the world of Winter’s Orbit. Female, nonbinary, and male residents of the Iskat Empire used different materials (like wood) to signal their gender to people around them. That gave them the opportunity to express themselves through various ornaments and jewelry. At the same time, Jainan’s home planet has its own peculiar and complicated clan system with its specific intricacies. That was a bit underwhelmingly developed, but there’s that much you can put in a heckin’ love story.
Forget the brooches, show us smooches, amiright?
I’m just kidding, of course (or am I). The worldbuilding was sufficient, in my opinion. It was definitely a world worth exploring, even if your ship crashes in a snow-clad mountain. Moving on.
Winter’s Orbit: The Characters
The characters were the most wholesome part of the Winter’s Orbit story. I can’t stand characters without meat on their bones. What am I supposed to gorge on if not their protect-that-sushi-roll potential? Shorter stories with several characters often skimp on development or focus on a single character and underdevelop the rest. Not Everina Maxwell.
We have Kiem – the notorious mischief-maker who’s the tabloid’s favorite topic. But he also has a heart of gold, is really attentive, and is actually a molten mess of gooey tenderness. We have Jainan – awkward and stiff on the surface, but actually strong and passionate about the things he loves, putting his heart and soul in everything he does. Even if it’s living through a loveless marriage with a prince. Which prince? You’ll have to find out.
And last but not least, we have Bel, the supernaturally competent assistant cleaning after Kiem. Bel is goals, I want to be Bel when I grow up. Who am I kidding, I’m already too old for salvation. Moving on.
Read Everina Maxwell’s Book
If you aren’t convinced yet, I don’t know how to help your immortal soul. Winter’s Orbit is a fantastic piece of writing, excellent for lovers of queer lit and sci-fi fans. It has great dialogue, great characters, a world worth exploring, and I CAN’T GET OVER IT. Hit me in the comments if you’ve read it, but not for real. Do it with your feelings!