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.
I really enjoyed Winter’s Orbit, and polished most of it off in a single sitting. It’s got everything you could want. Murder, political chicanery, arranged marriages, devious goings-on, a disreputable playboy prince and a studious, quiet scholar.
It’s definitely a sci-fi romance, heavy on the romance though with goodly lashings of your galactic politics and a nice bit of worldbuilding going on in the background. Our good Prince Kiem is told that he must marry his freshly deceased cousin Prince Taam’s widower. He’s not a little alarmed by this, not only as it will mark the end of his current lifestyle, but also because of how soon after Taam’s death it is, and how his husband Jainan must still be deep in grief.
I really liked Kiem (and his PA Bel, who I wish we’d seen a lot more of). I loved the politics of it, and the slow-burn misunderstanding romance going on. I found Jainan a little annoying for a good chunk of the book, and his ‘oh no, I’m not good enough’ attitude, but warmed to him in the second half. Having the chapters switch between Kiem and Jainan worked really well at building the tension and you find yourself shouting (internally at least) JUST KISS HIM YOU FOOL.
The worldbuilding was also interesting, with the very odd and slightly creepy Auditor lurking in the background. I’d love to see a bit more of that corner of the galaxy should Everina Maxwell ever decide to return – I think this is a standalone.
In short, great fun and a welcome change from recent sci-fi books.
Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell is published by Orbit Books. Many thanks to Nazia Khatun from Orbit Books for the advance copy, and to Tracy Fenton for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.