Cover Image: Winter's Orbit

Winter's Orbit

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Member Reviews

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It reminded me of Red, White, and Royal Blue and Boyfriend Material, two of my favorite M/M adult romances, but this time set in space! It had all of the humor, banter, and swoon I love in romances with way more substance, plot, and intrigue than I was expecting. I'll read more by this author for sure.
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WINTER'S ORBIT is a queernorm, 'soft' science fiction novel that manages to draw extraordinary impact from well-worn science fiction and fantasy tropes and plotlines. It features the wayward, playboy-type Prince Kiem who is unexpectedly maneuvered into a last-minute arranged marriage with Count Jainan after Jainan's previous partner was killed in a shuttlebug accident. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the 'accident' doesn't look too accidental, and it quickly falls to Jainan and Kiem to save the treaty between their planets by figuring out what actually happened and why. 

Although the plot sounds simplistic, the characterization fills it out well. Jainan and Kiem are both incredibly nuanced with realistic strengths and insecurities clearly shaped by their respective environments, which makes them a pair of protagonists it is difficult not to root for. The fact that the plot hits very familiar beats to the genre-savvy reader means that more time can be spent on the characters themselves, who grow tremendously throughout the novel. There is an abundance of strong secondary characters, each of whom could easily captain their own novella, and there is easy, natural integration of nonbinary gender identities throughout. Overall, although Maxwell does not spend very much time worldbuilding at the beginning of the novel, but does reveal enough pieces that as the novel wears on, it becomes clear that the world is as well-developed as the characters in it.

This is an excellent book for adult readers unfamiliar with science fiction who want to explore the genre, and for those who love a good character-driven adventure. It is likely not a novel with very much teen appeal.
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An amazing fast-paced, engrossing, political sci-fi with fun and lovable characters whilst still having a plot you can follow and be invested in.

I cannot believe how much I loved this! If you liked the main couple in Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall, you'll love these two. I've also seen it comp'd to Red, White and Royal Blue which makes TOTAL sense! Love me some political sci‑fi but when you mix in slow‑burn romance (arranged marriage to actual love), partners that respect boundaries, and the importance of acknowledging power imbalances and abuse of power... You have me.
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Everina Maxwell's Winter's Orbit absolutely blew me away with its intricate world-building, complex political structure, layered characters, and twists and turns. I adore Sci-Fi as a genre, and this story slots right in with some of my all-time favourites!

Winter's Orbit begins with the revelation that our protagonist, Prince Kiem, has been promised to widower Jainan in an arranged political marriage to maintain relations between worlds in the grand Iskat Empire. Kiem, an unlikely choice for a diplomatic position due to his frivolous lifestyle, struggles to come to terms with the drastic shift in his circumstances and to connect with his closed-off new husband. But when it becomes clear that Jainan's late partner, Prince Taam, was the victim of a murder of which Jainan himself is suspected, Kiem and Jainan must find a way to trust each other and to protect the security of their respective worlds and the entire Iskat Empire.

I loved the inclusion of various gender identities in this novel and the clever ways gender was identified between cultures. The gender inclusivity of this story, as well as the central relationship between two men, created a solid foundation of much-needed LGBTQIA+ representation in the Sci-Fi genre. 

Maxwell put a lot of thought into how the various worlds in the Empire function and relate to each other, and that detail added so much nuance to this story. Traditional dress was referenced throughout and painted a vivid picture of this vast and culturally diverse empire of planets.

While there was much to love about this story, not the least of which being the auditor's disquieting presence as he holds the empire's future in his fist and an intriguing murder mystery, my favourite element, without a doubt, was the slow-burn romance between Kiem and Jainan. Jainan, a reserved man and abuse survivor, is slow to trust, and Kiem, a former playboy, struggles to find the sensitivity and vulnerability required to build a bridge. The gradual development of a deep connection between them was an absolute joy to read and left my heart so full.

I cannot recommend Winter's Orbit enough to my fellow lovers of the Sci-Fi genre. I can't wait to read what Evelina Maxwell writes next!
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Winters Orbit was a book I hadn’t even heard of before, but it ended up becoming one of my favorite books of 2021, and possibly one of my favorite books ever. What made this book so amazing for me were the two main characters, Kiem and Jainan. The two are forced into a marriage alliance after Kiem’s counsin, who is also Jainan’s husband dies. Kiem is such a cinnamon roll to Jainan, but you can definitely tell something is up with Jainan. You can read the signs and my heart absolutely broke for him repeatedly. I loved watching the two of them begin a friendship and Jainan slowly learn to trust Kiem. Then when the two start to fall in love….well it was everything I could want. There is a lot of political stuff happening too, but I cared less about that and more about the characters. This is a book that I plan reading over and over again. I loved it so much!
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Quite liked this debut though I wouldn’t quite call it a space opera — more of a sci-fi romance. However it is very fun and creative enough to sustain the story and build a real romance. 

 The plot is decent but the real draw are the two main characters and their evolving relationship. TW for domestic abuse flashbacks. Heavier themes but not rooted in queer trauma. I’d be open to more books set in this universe.
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When Prince Kiem is called into the Iskat Emperor's room, he isn't completely surprised by the order to marry for diplomatic reasons. He is, however, surprised to be marrying Count Jainan — a man from the foreign planet Thea, and one whose previous partner (Kiem's cousin) died just a month before — just one day later. The reason for this rush is the upcoming re-signing of the Resolution, a 20-year treaty that will guarantee peace within the sector of space in which Iskat and Thea exist. Serious and intelligent, Jainan is everything that charming Kiem isn't, and as the two ease into their marriage, they begin to realize that Jainan's first husband may have been murdered, and the man certainly wasn't who he seemed to the public.

This is a fun read that combines a love story with plenty of political intrigue, and Maxwell does justice to both parts equally, which is no mean feat. It's almost like reading a lighter version of the award-winning A Memory Called Empire (which should be taken as a compliment). Definitely recommended.
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The stars coated the night sky, expanding across the galaxy and illuminating the darkness surrounding him. A light snow fell as he closed his eyes and inhaled the crisp air. Beyond him, in the uncharted territory past the mountains, other planets circled around. Each with its own aura as they floated amongst the galaxy. He felt infinitesimally small on his own planet, but could sense his ability to do something big within the galaxy.

Winter’s Orbit was a sci-fi adventure, introducing us to Jainen and Kiem, one a representative and count of his planet, the other a prince of his. Together they must unite their two empires to form a treaty to remain within the Revolution (or galaxy).

Now, when the book started off, I felt way over my head with the scientific jargon being used, but eventually I understood and got the hang of things. A murder, a secret operation, possible war? All of these things began to unravel, threatening to break the treaty apart and cause chaos to the planets.

This book has a lot of slow moving and repetitive sections, which made it hard for me to fully invest myself in the story. I was honestly bored for most of it. Plus, this book was advertised as a sci-fi romance and it definitely is just sci-fi... there is little to no romance in this one. But I really liked Jainen and Kiem (despite all the miscommunication in the beginning) and their character dynamics kept me reading.

I recommend this one if you enjoy sci-fi and want a book with LGBTQ+ representation.

TW: Murder, Physical/Emotional Abuse.
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A fun romp through a science fiction world, with some twists and turns throughout.  I had some trouble getting into this one, but once I'd gotten into it, I couldn't put it down.  Loved the back and forth between the two mains.
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5/5⭐️ to Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell! Thank you so much to Tor & NetGalley for an egalley copy to review!
This book transported me to a different, amazing world just as a good sci-fi book should! The writing was beautiful, and I could totally picture all the different place we went in this world with the landscape, buildings, and of course characters! To say I adored our main characters & their relationship would be an understatement. Kiem & Jainan were so full of life and colour, and I could feel their pull together electrically. As someone who loves romance, did I wish for more of their relationship and romantic scenes? Heck yes! But I realize that this was a sci-fi where romance is not necessarily at the forefront. That being said, it was super satisfying to see them go from strangers being married in a political alliance, to an immediate connection, to love. They were so cute!!! Speaking of sci-fi, we got some amazing action scenes and court politics. We got the fun space ship chase scenes, which were so good! The court politics and scheming was *chefs kiss*. I felt the danger, I felt invested, and I wanted to figure it out! There were true stakes in this, which made the book super effective. You never quite knew who to trust, and it was such an amazing ride! Please read this book! You won’t regret it!
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+Arranged marriage trope
+Wholesome relationship
+Genuinely kind/good main characters
+Intriguing mystery-based plot

I had high hopes going into this because some trusted friends loved it, but I still didn't expect to love it this much. 

While I usually like a bit more world-building in my sci-fi, the rest of this book more than made up for it. The setting was more background to the plot and character arcs, and we were only given information as we needed it, and only just enough to understand the plot. It ended up fitting the story well, since both Kiem themselves didn't know much of the world either, by choice or not. It meant we were on the same page as the characters for the story, and it ensured we saw things in a similar way they did. I am still very intrigued by the world though, as the small bits and pieces we got in this book were definitely interesting.

The strongest aspect of this story was by far the characters. I have so much love and appreciate for Kiem and Jainan, and I just loved how soft they both felt. There was miscommunication and frustration in their storyline, but these two characters are just such genuinely good people that I could never hold it against them. I loved seeing them grow as individuals and as a couple, and it was great to see such a wholesome relationship grow out of jagged remains of their backgrounds. I can definitely see myself rereading this book just to see their relationship grow again.

The plot was in perfect harmony with the character arcs. It was strong on its own yet didn't take too much away from the emotional journey the characters were both going through. It also brought in some sci-fi elements I always love, from the political intrigue across planets to weird experimental tech. The mystery itself also gripped me, yet I was a bit clueless to actually solving it (I didn't even have any theories! But honestly, I think I was distracted by Kiem and Jainan). I also really enjoyed that while this part of the book had a solid ending, it didn't take away from the romance ending well as well. There was space for both, and the balance of these two elements made the book a five-star read for me.

Overall, I highly recommend this book, and I can't wait to see what the author writes next! I heard she's writing another story in the same universe, and to say I'm excited is definitely an understatement.
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Thank you so much to the lovely publicist at Tor Books for sending a copy for me to read and review!
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CW: (Past) Domestic Abuse, Interrogation, Violence, Anxiety, Manipulation
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I was so excited when I found out about this book and thought it was what fiction dreams are made of with queer arranged marriage as the main attraction for me. I have not read any book yet with this trope that is also queer, so it was such a delight to have it in publishing! And to find out that it was originally started online was an added excitement bonus. 
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"Winter's Orbit", I found, was a great slow-burn romance but leans heavier on political intrigue and mystery. Everything felt raw and authentic as one of the main characters was in the process of healing from the past; a story of hope, comfort, and second chances along the way. Despite it being heavy on the politics and mystery, there was also added humor, and the romance between the characters felt natural. It was an interesting, fun, and unique read that I can see a lot of people will surely love.
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What I did not like though is that some parts of the book felt a little bit dull and dragging. The world building could have been done better, and the story could have had more moments to see the development between the main characters.
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But overall, I highly recommend it if you are in for spacial mystery and political intrigue with a queer arranged marriage trope!
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This book is Not For Me, but anyone who enjoys SFF may find this very enjoyable. I downlaoded this to give it a go, I'm trying to expand my reading, but the genre still doesn't tick my boxes.
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Winter's Orbit is a great recommend for any Science Fiction fan. The world created by Maxwell is fascinating and vivid. The murder mystery driving the plot and the characters forward is gripping. While the romance is more subdued, it is really nice to read about two characters slowly getting to know each other. Their relationship seemed realistic and it was pleasant to see that in a book for a change (love at first sight is fun to read about, but not realistic). This is a good recommend for readers who loved Gideon the Ninth or Aurora Rising.

This book reminds me of champagne and warm apple cider.
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Content warnings: discussion of spousal abuse, both physical and emotional, and recovery from it (which I will discuss in some detail in this review); secondary character death; minor violence and injury.

God, I loved this book. These are always the hardest reviews to write – it’s so hard to distill your feelings into words when every single aspect of a book is brilliant. I’m going to try to be slightly more articulate than screaming AHHHH at you, but please know that’s really what I’d like to do. This is exactly the kind of sci-fi that I like – plenty of space flavouring and clever worldbuilding, but ultimately a novel about people being people.

I adored both main characters. Kiem is wonderfully drawn, the emperor’s least favourite grandson and the kind of rebellious playboy who’s trying a little too hard to pretend he doesn’t care about his reputation. I loved him and his awkwardly charming voice instantly, to the point where I was a little disappointed the first time the perspective switched to Jainan. But I shouldn’t have been! I actually ended up loving Jainan even more – he’s a serious man, very loyal and with a strong sense of his duty as the face of Thea, but as you get to know him, it becomes clear there is way more going on beneath the surface. The characters are one of the best parts of this already brilliant book, and I cared so much about their development – they will stay with me for a long time. There are so many brilliant side characters too, all of whom feel like real people. This world just feels alive!

A mildly spoilery paragraph now, so skip ahead if you want to go in completely cold, or if you don’t want to read about the depiction of abuse in this book…. My spidey senses were set off early on, and it was very clear to me from the way Jainan behaved around Kiem that there was a deep trauma that had crushed a lot of his sense of self. There are such accurately observed, tiny behaviours of someone who’s spent time living under the thumb of a controlling partner, and they are acutely well-described, to the point that I found some of Jainan’s chapters far more intense and claustrophobic than the actual on-page action felt like it warranted. It’s exquisitely well done as a character study, but I would be careful going into this one if it’s a subject you find difficult. Jainan’s development is extraordinarily rewarding, so it’s well worth pushing through, but before I read the book, I saw a lot of people gushing over the cuteness of it and really neglecting to talk about the sharpness of the depiction of domestic abuse, which I think is doing a disservice both to the book and to readers; while it is, ultimately, a hopeful and comforting story, that happiness comes from building on darkness, and to ignore that would be wrong.

What I loved about this book was that blend of wholesome and dark, of quiet character work and intense politicking. If I had to describe it to two different friends, I think I’d end up highlighting totally different elements of the story, but it’s so deftly blended that it works beautifully. It’s simultaneously a really sweet tale of two idiots falling in love, and a searingly honest look at recovery from abuse and the dangers of rulership. The intrigue and political manoeuvring is just *chef’s kiss* good – it’s one of my favourite genres of fantasy, and I never thought to see it done so well in science-fiction! The dualities of the action and the character development, and the dark themes and the fluffy love story, are magnificently done, and make this book even more than the sum of its parts. Imagine if Becky Chambers wrote an outline of a novel, then handed her notebook to Elizabeth Bear to actually write the thing. It is fluffy and uplifting, but somehow simultaneously dark and intense, like a marshmallow full of emotions.

Obviously the fact that there’s an arranged marriage between two men here speaks to the queer-norm worldbuilding, but I thought that this was cleverly woven into the story through other ways. Gender isn’t binary, and the customs of Iskat reflect this beautifully, with people signalling their gender through specific use of materials in their outfits, which is clever and leads to much less ambiguity than trying to guess from appearance. However, what really elevated this to the next level for me was seeing this custom through Jainan’s eyes, as well as Kiems; as a Thean, Jainan wasn’t raised with this Iskan custom, and has to remind himself this is how it works here (though he’s no less accepting of any gender). This diversity between cultures adds so much realism to the setting, and also takes the queer-normity to another level – of course, different cultures would deal with it differently. The issue isn’t painted over as simply sorted in this world, but it’s shown to be a living, breathing part of the world. I’m only highlighting this one tiny aspect of the worldbuilding here, but this is repeated throughout lots of different aspects, and it helps to create the feeling of a really realistic and diverse empire.

Fans of Becky Chambers should immediately read this book, but I also think those who loved Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear (review here), or A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine will enjoy this too. It would also be a great first sci-fi for romance readers, or for those who love political fantasy like The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison or Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran (review here), or for those who love fun and fluffy queer arranged marriage fantasies like A Deceptive Alliance by Sydney Blackburn (review here), or Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst. It’s kind of not really like any of these, but I think if you enjoyed any one of them you’ll find something to love here – it’s just a wonderful, wonderful mix of all the things I love in a book. I’ll be surprised if this isn’t in my top few books of the year, and even though it’s early in the year, I’m giving it ten out of five stars!
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enjoyed this book. I thought that the marketing focused a lot on the romance, and while the romance was great, there was a lot more of the political intrigue than I would have thought. But i really enjoyed all of it, just had different expectations.
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I had a hard time with this one. It was just missing some spark for me-- the political situation just didn't hold my interest, and the two sides were similar enough that I had a hard time remembering the details that separated them. I did like the romance and the development between Jainan and Kiem, but it wasn't enough yo keep me going. I think it's a perfectly good book, maybe just not for me.
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Kiem is one of the many princes of the Iskat Empire, and his life has been one of freedom, until he is roped into a political marriage with a Thean representative.
It's a rushed affair to satisfy the peace treaty of the Resolution, but things are not as straight-forward as they seem.

I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Kiem is one of those minor princes in the Emperor's vast family. He's gotten away with a lifetime of providing plenty of scandal for the media. He has improved with age, but still has a reputation and his adoring fans.
All that changes when his cousin Prince Taam is killed in a shuttle 'accident', and for the sake of a political alliance Kiem has to marry Taam's widower.
When he meets Jainan, he feels a complete fool in comparison. Jainan is very reserved, and intelligent. He's quiet and careful in everything he says and does.

Jainan was married to Prince Taam for five years, and at first he's portrayed as a grieving widower, quietly doing his duty to keep peace between Thea and Iskat.
Slowly you learn that his life with Taam was far from perfect, and the only emotional impact it has are the scars of dealing with an abusive man.

I thought Jainan's story was very strong. It's a realistic portrayal of an unhealthy relationship, and all the little things that Jainan does, as a consequence of having lived with Taam's abuse.
It's upsettingly sweet how he struggles to process Kiem's open friendship. He's trying to work out what he's supposed to say and do to keep his new husband happy; but struggles to come to terms with the fact that Kiem's words don't have a double-meaning and there isn't a hidden threat in everything he says.

This is not a romance. Yes, there is the slow-building connection between Jainan and Kiem; but that romance is not always central to the story.
And I liked that.
This has a solid plot. The marriage is what pulls Kiem in, and between the two of them they uncover a lot about the empire, the actions of the army, and the Resolution.
It turns out that Prince Taam's death may not have been an accident, and there may have been a cover-up.
There are plenty of suspects, as the Empire is not as stable as one would hope. It does keep you guessing throughout.

Sometimes I thought there were too many elements in play, and I lost track of some of the sides and their motivations.
I personally felt that it seemed to hit a natural climax about 80% of the way in, when they discovered who was behind everything and why. What happened next could have been exciting, but I felt disconnected from this part of the story.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure and look forward to more of this author's work.
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From the very first page, I knew i was going to love this book, and it never disappointed. I don’t read very much sci-fi/space set books, just because I find the explanations of alien cultures/the science parts can be a bit slow and take the reader out of the Story, but the world building of Winter’s Orbit was fantastic. It was woven through wonderfully, in a way that felt rich and real. But the character dynamics of this book are what made it truly fantastic. The push and pull, the yearning, was all just deliciously present, and utterly perfect.
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I’ve always been adamant that I don’t enjoy scifi books. I hadn’t liked reading a single scifi book in all the years I’ve been a reader … that is, until I read Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell. And after I devoured this book in a day and a half, I came to the realisation that I actually love scifi books; I just hadn’t been reading any soft, queer, tropetastic books like this.

Winter’s Orbit follows Count Jainan who, after the sudden death of his partner, Prince Taam, suddenly finds himself hastily married to Taam’s cousin, the reformed partier and playboy, Prince Kiem. Together, the two men have about two weeks to convince an interplanetary organisation that their partnership is real and lasting to ensure that their home planets resign a longstanding treaty. But Jainan can’t shake the feeling that Taam’s death was not natural and before they know it, Jainan and Keim find themselves in the middle of a secret murder investigation, a smuggling operation, and the threat of war between their planets, all while dealing with their growing feelings for one another.

For a book with such a large range, Winter’s Orbit has become a comfort read to me. I’ve already read it twice within the space of three months and fully intend to reread it again at some point. I have now discovered that the types of scifi books I really enjoy are queer romances with light scifi in the background. Everything about this book just resonated with me, especially the wonderful main characters, Jainan and Keim.

Jainan has now become one of my all-time favourite characters. I connected to him on a deeply personal level, primarily due to how intense his anxiety is and how he spends so much of the novel trying to please people at the expense of himself. Jainan is so successful at hiding behind a mask that he comes across as cold and unfeeling, when he actually feels so much and so intently but he’s terrified of showing it. Kiem, on the other hand, is the star of the show: he’s incredibly likeable, a ridiculous flirt, and makes friends wherever he goes. He has a cheeky, loveable personality that everyone is drawn to, even Jainan. But Kiem tries to hold himself back from Jainan, careful to be respectful of Jainan’s grieving and give him as much space as possible. But as this book is ripe with my favourite tropes, one of them being miscommunication, of course neither Kiem nor Jainan realise the scope of their feelings for each other. While Kiem believes he is being respectful of Jainan’s grief, he’s missing some pretty obvious clues that all was not right in Jainan and Taam’s relationship.

The worldbuilding was fascinating, even as it took some time for me to wrap my head around. This is not a heavy scifi novel: you’re not gong to find an unnecessarily long and boring battle between humans and aliens here. What you will find is a captivating world full of deadly, overly large animals, complex clan systems, gender expression free from the binary, and interplanetary politics. All mixed in with a beautiful, soft queer relationship between two achingly human characters.

Winter’s Orbit is a novel I can’t recommend enough. It’s full of my favourite tropes — arranged marriage, miscommunication, yearning — with absolutely fantastic character development and a beautiful relationship at the heart of it. I’m crossing my fingers that Maxwell decides to return to this world — even if it’s an epilogue — because I would buy that story in a heartbeat!
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