Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

Title: Winter’s Orbit
Author: Everina Maxwell
Published: February 2021
Publisher: Macmillan-Tor/Forge
Readership: Adult
Genre: Sci-Fi Romance
Rating: ★★★★
Content Warnings: Domestic abuse, dubious consent, kidnapping, interrogation/torture

I received a copy of Winter’s Orbit from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Ancillary Justice meets Red, White & Royal Blue in Winter’s Orbit, Everina Maxwell’s gut-wrenching and romantic debut.

Prince Kiem, a famously disappointing minor royal and the Emperor’s least favorite grandchild, has been called upon to be useful for once. He’s commanded to fulfill an obligation of marriage to the representative of the Empire’s newest and most rebellious vassal planet. His future husband, Count Jainan, is a widower and murder suspect.

Neither wants to be wed, but with a conspiracy unfolding around them and the fate of the empire at stake they will have to navigate the thorns and barbs of court intrigue, the machinations of war, and the long shadows of Jainan’s past, and they’ll have to do it together.

So begins a legendary love story amid the stars.

There’s been a lot of hype around the release of Winter’s Orbit and I am so grateful to say that this debut novel is just fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed my reading experience and can’t wait to see what Evarina Maxwell releases next.

A sci-fi romance story with a political intrigue plot, we follow the Prince Kiem of the Iskat Empire, the youngest and most disappointing of the Emperors heirs, and the one who’s finally being asked to step up and marry the delegate from Thea, one of Iskat’s vassal planets. Count Jainan was formally married another Prince of Iskat until his partner’s death. Neither Kiem nor Jainan want to be married but both step up to the task and inadvertently find themselves investigating Jainan’s former-husband’s murder and end up caught in a political plot to wrest stability from the empire.

A lot happens in Winter’s Orbit, and while the initial set-up involves a lot of heavy world-building, it doesn’t take long to become invested in both Kiem and Jainan’s stories.

There are content warnings in this book for domestic abuse and dubious consent in a marital relationship (all of which happen off page but are mentioned in flashbacks during the book’s climax), as well as kidnapping and interrogation/torture. While they’re not super explicit they do inform the behaviours and actions of one of the characters within the book.

This book has a real fantasy-sci-fi feel in terms of its scope. As far as I’m aware it’s a standalone book, which is incredible, but it does mean it packs a lot into a small space and does it with finesse. I enjoyed reading about how Kiem and Jainan’s relationship develops over time, and how their own personal experiences impact on their ability to relate to one another and accept their new situation. Kiem has been known as the ‘bad boy/troublemaker’ of his family and now has to prove he can step up, and Jainan is dealing with the aftermath of his first marriage and the two have to work at finding and building trust and a middle ground where they can meet.

I’m always wary of books with a lot of hype surrounding them, but this was solid. If you enjoy sci-fi, politics, and queer relationships, definitely check Winter’s Orbit out.

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