Happy Monday book friends! Everything book related has suddenly taken a backseat, because I started working again and I immediately forgot how to manage my time. But I’m still finishing books! Albeit more slowly than usual…
I just finished reading Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell. To be real honest, the beginning of this book confused me immensely. But, by the end of it I realized I did have a good time reading it. So check out the content warnings below if you want to, and I’ll attempt to explain this book.winter’s orbit
By Everina MaxwellMy Rating: ★★★★☆
Published 4 February 2021 by Orbit
Space opera | LGBTQ | Romance
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
Some background info
Like I said, in the beginning of the book I was quite confused about the world and the mechanics of this space-faring society. So I think it will be helpful for future readers that I lay it out a bit. This particular story takes place within the Iskat empire, mostly on the planet of Iskat. The empire consists of several other planets, as well, but there are more, much stronger empires out there.
The empire and its vassal planets are all bound by a set of treaties, that are overseen by a group called the Resolution. As far as I can tell, they are human, but they use a specific type of extraterrestrial technology that grants them ~some~ powers. This technology stems from material known as Remnants, and any time a planet finds Remnants they are obligated to hand the shards over to the Resolution.
The treaties can only be deemed valid if there is a legitimate marriage between an Iskat and someone from the vassal planet. So, that’s why Kiem and Jainan are matched up, because without Taam, Jainan’s home planet doesn’t have a treaty which is bad news. Of course the Resolution decides whether a marriage is legit or not.
I think it’s a good thing that I enjoy character-driven stories, because that’s what saved this book for me. There was definitely a good plot, but it was very unlike other space operas I’ve read before. The conflict had a more bureaucratic theme, in that there are many institutions and agencies involved. Naturally these all had their own way of doing things, which made the conflict complicated, but also a teensy bit slow. Either way, it was surprising, but also refreshing, to read about characters that didn’t immediately become total rebels.
Kiem is honestly quite a himbo. He’s described as being charming, kind, and handsome, but he’s also not very smart. Or well, he doesn’t make an effort to be smart. He probably would be smart if he picked up a book. Jainan is the complete opposite, which makes for an interesting pairing. I won’t tell too much about Jainan, though, because it’s much more rewarding to learn about him by reading the book.
This is probably also the only time I’ve enjoyed the miscommunication trope. Kiem tries to give Jainan space because, duh, he’s probably grieving his dead husband. Meanwhile, Jainan is all about duty and thinks he’s doing everything wrong because Kiem keeps giving him space, which he interprets as dislike. It makes for quite some frustrating, but also funny moments.
The second half of the book is when it became clear to me how high the stakes were, and what everyone involved stood to lose. You’ll be suspicious of everyone at some point. I think the plot resolved itself nicely, and it was a satisfying end to this standalone. I enjoyed Kiem and Jainan’s arcs especially. They really grow toward each other.