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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 wo 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.


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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 wo 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.

30 review for Winter's Orbit

  1. 5 out of 5

    chai ♡

    There is truly nothing the restive embrace of a good story cannot fix. I had the opportunity to read an early copy of Winter’s Orbit a few weeks ago, while caught in the dreary throes of finals and deadlines, and the story was like a rope thrown into a churning sea, mooring me to some semblance of sanity. Those moments when I would step outside myself, and step inside the story were the only moments my mind shut off its rigor, and everything in me settled like silt. I yearned for the escape I kne There is truly nothing the restive embrace of a good story cannot fix. I had the opportunity to read an early copy of Winter’s Orbit a few weeks ago, while caught in the dreary throes of finals and deadlines, and the story was like a rope thrown into a churning sea, mooring me to some semblance of sanity. Those moments when I would step outside myself, and step inside the story were the only moments my mind shut off its rigor, and everything in me settled like silt. I yearned for the escape I knew the story would bring, and for the space of a few hundred pages, I felt weightless, like all the trouble in the world had lifted from my shoulders. Ironically, trouble finds our characters from the outset of the novel, and quickly begins to pile up like mountains on their shoulders. The high concept of “a wayward, scandal-magnet prince and an intensely serious, duty-bound scholar are drafted into a political marriage and forced to work together in order to prevent an interplanetary war” tells you all you need to know about this book, but it only scratches the surface of the story’s unstinting delights. Winter’s Orbit represents everything in the genre for which I have an unaffected fondness: an extraordinarily believable and imaginative world with varied forces forming a tremulous web of fraught coexistence, complicated political machinations, the racy, adventurous feel of a mystery left unsolved, deftly rendered characters that drive straight to your heart, and an ineffably tender romance that wraps around you like a thick wool robe—all woven through a superbly assured prose to create the kind of masterful storytelling that wells up to pull the reader into a unique and unforgettable experience. The novel is also, thrillingly, just as emotionally satisfying. Maxwell explores emotional wreckage with a keenness both terrifying and touching, making her way through the stripping rains and stinging winds of human emotion with the grim purpose of a ship battened against the storm. (slight spoilers ahead) Winter’s Orbit most painful and deeply wounded sections reside in Jainan’s chapters, and I wanted so desperately to reach through the page and hug him tightly. From the beginning, Jainan carried himself with the flinching weariness of a man who bore memories that required iron cages, kept still and quiet and captive lest they pounced and devoured him whole—and it sent a dreadful pang of foreboding lancing through my heart. It started with a whisper of wrongness: how timidly Jainan seemed to move through his life, always guarded, always careful, like he was waiting for a blow, how he carried his duty before him like a shield, how often he has to realign his whole world around an unexpected kindness, how everything he thought and did often tended towards an all-pervasive self-loathing, and most chillingly: how those private, repeated mantras bore the echo of someone else’s voice. The full picture soon begins to bloom like a stain across the paper: the full arc of Jainan’s traumatic relationship with his abusive ex-husband, who, for five years, had used his position as an imperial prince to etch the knowledge of powerlessness directly into Jainan’s heart, cutting all Jainan’s tethers—his family, his friends, his dreams—and making sure Jainan had no ally but his abuser, which is to say, he had no ally at all. Through Jainan’s character, the author plumbs the cavernous depths of domestic abuse, tracing the interwoven strands of shame, anger, guilt, and sometimes even grief, that cling to survivors as stubbornly as lichen clings to rock. It’s a devastating topic, and it hit me like the waves hit the shore, but Maxwell handles it with sensitivity, complexity, and so much care. Abuse, the novel hauntingly illustrates, carves a wound so deep and so hidden it often takes a very long time to find and address. It casts a vast, horrible shadow over your relationships, and leaves you unmoored, and it’s a very long time before you can feel like you have a firm grip on yourself, like all your tethers are drawn taut once again. There are so few literary accounts of domestic abuse in queer relationships (something I read a while ago still knocks around in me: “when your love is taboo, so are its violences.”) and I firmly believe that stories like Winter’s Orbit are crucial in expanding the scope of the queer experience. As for Prince Kiem, well, he slid into my heart as easily as breathing from the very first chapter, and I couldn’t not love him. Kiem constructed his reputation as the evanescently charming, scandal-prone prince who leads an unfettered and feckless life and has no desire to exert himself one bit more than he absolutely had to in much the same way one might erect a brick façade, or drape armor around their body. One piece at a time. But soon we see Kiem with his defenses lowered, his shields abandoned on the ground, the barricades abraded; and standing in the shifting rubble, is someone so achingly familiar, someone whom you can’t help but feel an upswell of immediate protectiveness for. Kiem is like springtime distilled into a person. He was gentle in his optimism, dogged in his pursuits, reassuring in his untroublesome, take-everything-in-stride attitude—and it’s what held the story together when the feeling of a precipice became too great. By his own admission, Kiem had not cared for the intricacies of war and politics, and had banished from his thoughts all of the Empire and its tumultuous affairs, but when the fog of complacency and ignorance lifted, forcing him to confront several uncomfortable truths, Kiem throws himself headlong into the perilous enterprise of unearthing the secrets lodged under the Empire’s skin, holding them into the light and calling for wrongs to be set aright. It was quite a remarkable feat of character-development for Kiem, but if there was a sport Kiem had trained for, it was self-deprecation. Kiem had refined it like a high art: he often acknowledged his triumphs with a self-effacing laugh, and a dismissive wave of the hand, as if distractedly swatting a fly. He accepted people’s unfavorable opinions of him, let them set and cut and fester, then slashed the wounds wide open, and pretended the howling pain didn’t even sting. But throughout the story, a fragile little sprout of confidence starts to grow in Kiem, and it warmed my heart to see it. As for the romance between Kiem and Jainan, it was like a balm upon raw skin, and I long to slip inside the story once again and nestle into the warm cocoon of their happy, loving, and healthy relationship. Jainan and Kiem could not be any more different— Kiem was loud and chaotic and drew all eyes like a flare, while Jainan was a world unto himself, intense and quiet and with a shadow’s talent for passing unremarked—but both of them kept an invisible barbed wire between them and the rest of the world. I loved how Kiem fell in love with Jainan in one swift motion, clear and unmistakable, and how he slowly eased open Jainan’s heart like a book, mindful of the places, still tender and aching, where the past had left its bruises. I loved how Jainan slowly learns to let go and trust that Kiem’s embrace would break his fall, and how he always stood by Kiem’s side. Throughout the story, Kiem and Jainan wrestle with a longing as sharp as swords, and something about their relationship felt as delicate as a sigh, something to cherish and cradle like an infant in your hands. It made my heart ache. They also make such perfect partners in crime—I enjoyed seeing them navigate the treacherous pathways of Empire with war’s breath hot at their necks, and I was left wondering how they, and everyone else, would find a home in the dangerous tumult of the newborn world they found themselves in. All in all, Winter’s Orbit is a smart, tender, and deeply rewarding gem of space opera. I could have gladly spent twice as long with Jainan and Kiem, and still longed for more! CWs: domestic abuse (in a prior relationship) If you liked this review please consider leaving me a tip on ko-fi ! ☆ ko-fi ★ blog ☆ twitter ★ tumblr ☆

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ash | Wild Heart Reads

    Once again Tor shows up for the gays

  3. 4 out of 5

    jessica

    i feel a little duped. i saw quite a few reviews firmly stating this is a romance with a sci-fi setting, but i actually have to strongly disagree. this is very much a sci-fi story with a very small side of romance. the romance is used more as a minor plot devise rather than the actual plot. add to that the slowburn nature of it all and it becomes practically non-existent. this isnt a bad thing, but i picked this up with the intention of reading a romance story and this was not it. setting my per i feel a little duped. i saw quite a few reviews firmly stating this is a romance with a sci-fi setting, but i actually have to strongly disagree. this is very much a sci-fi story with a very small side of romance. the romance is used more as a minor plot devise rather than the actual plot. add to that the slowburn nature of it all and it becomes practically non-existent. this isnt a bad thing, but i picked this up with the intention of reading a romance story and this was not it. setting my personal disappoint aside, i do recognise this is a good book, especially as a debut novel. its well-written, the pacing is consistent, and the plot feels well thought-out for a standalone. i did, however, skim through a lot of the parts about the military, mining operations, and interplanetary diplomatic relations as it was very dull content for me. but again, this goes back to me wanting the focus to be on the romance instead. so i have no problem saying that readers looking for an interesting sci-fi novel about an allegeded murder cover-up will enjoy this. but if you are wanting a sci-fi romance, i would suggest reading something else. ↠ 3.5 stars

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ellie (faerieontheshelf)

    There's been some discussion within the SFF community recently about books with romance as the central focus and the SFF aspect as a backdrop, rather than the other way around. I'm mentioning this because WINTER'S ORBIT is exactly the kind of work that slots itself neatly (in my mind) as a sci-fi romance rather than sci-fi with romance. And so is exactly the kind of romance-focused SFF work people (including myself) are interested in seeing pop up more. It's been pitched as many things: Ancillar There's been some discussion within the SFF community recently about books with romance as the central focus and the SFF aspect as a backdrop, rather than the other way around. I'm mentioning this because WINTER'S ORBIT is exactly the kind of work that slots itself neatly (in my mind) as a sci-fi romance rather than sci-fi with romance. And so is exactly the kind of romance-focused SFF work people (including myself) are interested in seeing pop up more. It's been pitched as many things: Ancillary Justice meets Gideon the Ninth, or Ancillary Justice meets Red, White & Royal Blue. Personally, I'd pitch to fans of MDZS/The Untamed - it's got the same bubby x stoic dynamic (Kiem really reminded me of WWX), useless gays and a slowburn romance born out of misunderstanding. Anyway, it is first and foremost a romance and secondly a book about a murder and galactic politics. It was fun and charming, with worldbuilding on the lighter side. And true to its roots as an online novel, the heroes are faced with convenient problems and a fair smattering of tropes. (Example: in the middle of the book, these two useless individuals - in a marriage of convenience and both mistakenly thinking the other doesn't like them - have crashed in the middle of nowhere. Dramatics ensue, including the love interest (sexily) fighting off a bear to save the hero. Then they have to huddle together for warmth in their tiny tent in what is essentially the 'there's only one bed' trope.) It wasn't perfect - there were bits where I thought it meandered just a bit too much and I felt my attention slipping, and I wished I could've loved Jainan (the love interest) rather than just liking him. It also didn't make my heart flutter as much I wish it could have done. But it was fun, and I've already recommended it to others. If you're a reader who wants detailed worldbuilding and a narrative that adheres strictly to the plot rather than meandering for personal & romantic character developments, WINTER'S ORBIT may not be the perfect read for you. But if you like your romance and your science fiction, then hurrah. > 4 stars + content warning for domestic abuse (in a relationship prior to the story's start, mainly alluded to but seen clearly in flashbacks near the end of the novel) Thank you to Orbit UK for the proof copy! * as a useless gay myself, I am very interested in a book full of similarly useless gays

  5. 5 out of 5

    Philip

    Officially released as of 2/2/21! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. 4.5ish stars. To categorize this as a "romance novel" would, I think, be doing it a disservice, (especially to SFF readers who might be put off by that label, although maybe that’s just my implicit bias) because that would discount how good it is as a science fiction novel. It is equal parts tightly plotted, imaginative space opera, and intimate, significant relationship study. Very impressive. I was looking forward to reading Officially released as of 2/2/21! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. 4.5ish stars. To categorize this as a "romance novel" would, I think, be doing it a disservice, (especially to SFF readers who might be put off by that label, although maybe that’s just my implicit bias) because that would discount how good it is as a science fiction novel. It is equal parts tightly plotted, imaginative space opera, and intimate, significant relationship study. Very impressive. I was looking forward to reading based on pre-release advertising and hype, but I was not expecting something so exciting, fun, and polished from an unknown debut author. Again, Maxwell has done an equally good job of building a nuanced world of intergalactic intrigue as she has of making her characters lovable and believable. Both aspects, the politics and the relationships, are tense and page-turning. The marriage of the two main characters in particular is challenging as a reader because the POV switches from one to the other and their miscommunication makes it so they never manage to get on the same page, despite my internal screams toward them. Maxwell does a good job playing on those frustrations. Posted in Mr. Philip's Library

  6. 4 out of 5

    Hamad

    This Review ✍️ Blog 📖 Twitter 🐦 Instagram 📷 Support me ☕ Winter’s Orbit theoretically is something I would love, I mean from the amazing cover to the settings and the fact that it is published by Orbit aka my favorite publisher. And I am saying theoretically because it ended up being a lit underwhelming. You should take this review with a grain of salt though because I know it will be successful and the majority of readers will love it. The story follows prince Kiem who finds himself facing an arr This Review ✍️ Blog 📖 Twitter 🐦 Instagram 📷 Support me ☕ Winter’s Orbit theoretically is something I would love, I mean from the amazing cover to the settings and the fact that it is published by Orbit aka my favorite publisher. And I am saying theoretically because it ended up being a lit underwhelming. You should take this review with a grain of salt though because I know it will be successful and the majority of readers will love it. The story follows prince Kiem who finds himself facing an arranged marriage with his cousin’s widower Jainan. The cosuin’s -Prince Taam- death is suspicious and the new pair finds themselves entangled in a political situation complicated by the fact that Taam’s death may not have been an accident. The two characters are kind of stereotypical for stories of this kind, Kiem is the goofy extrovert and Jainan is an introverted ball on anxiety. They are kind of opposites and I think opposites attract each other?! The problem is that up to 60% the dynamic between them was meh and could have been improved by a little more conversation and then suddenly they talk and they fall head over heels for each other. The secondary characters are not memorable for me except maybe for one character. The writing is not bad, it is light-hearted, and easy to follow but I don’t think it goes to the degree of being quotable! There was something strange and I don’t know how to explain it, it kind of reminded me of fanfiction which I don’t read a lot of (I used to read using Wattpad back in the day) and when I finished it I did find out that it actually started as one and don’t get me wrong here because I don’t think fan fiction is bad bit I think there is a certain format to it that I kind of touched upon here. The other thing is that it is a sci-fi story but I did not feel that, it was just a minor part of the story. I actually don’t read much sci-fi and I am more of a fantasy reader so I had to prepare myself and get in the mood for this genre and then I felt it was not really sci-fi. The world-building is very simple and we are not given much, it then takes the course of a contemporary story with sci-fi in the background! Summary: I think Orbit’s Winter is a good story but I kind of had different expectations which affected my enjoyment of the story. The characters and settings could have been better in my opinion but I can still see it as a successful book among readers which is what matters at the end of the day!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Frankie

    2/2/2021 GOOD MORNING, WORLD!! THIS AMAZING BOOK RELEASES TODAY! You might want to grab a copy soon ;) Or read my review down below: 11/19/2020 Winter's Orbit feels a lot like coming home. This slow, soft, and utterly romantic space opera is unlike any other sci-fi novel I've read before, and I hope that it starts a trend, because it's something special. This was originally published on AO3 and you can tell. It reads like a fanfic in the best way possible. Familiar tropes done in a fun way; longer, s 2/2/2021 GOOD MORNING, WORLD!! THIS AMAZING BOOK RELEASES TODAY! You might want to grab a copy soon ;) Or read my review down below: 11/19/2020 Winter's Orbit feels a lot like coming home. This slow, soft, and utterly romantic space opera is unlike any other sci-fi novel I've read before, and I hope that it starts a trend, because it's something special. This was originally published on AO3 and you can tell. It reads like a fanfic in the best way possible. Familiar tropes done in a fun way; longer, self-contained chapters that suit being posted serially; even the way the romance unfolds with its focus on the smallest touches, lots of introspection, and emotional connection over the physical (even if the physical attraction is real). Just. Divine. Reading this gave me the same amount of joy as coming home to binge read an 80k slow burn arranged marriage AU fic. This is the definition of comfort read. So stellar. Prince Kiem and Count Jainan are diplomatic aids forced into an arranged marriage after Jainan's husband Taam (also Kiem's cousin) is killed in a spaceship accident. But when Taam's death is revealed to have been a murder, not an accident, the two must now work together to solve the mystery before political intrigue causes an interplanetary war. All throughout, of course, they slowly fall for each other and duty becomes real love. This is very much an opposites-attract type of romance with Kiem as the easygoing, charming, and extroverted flirt while Jainan is the quiet, socially awkward, and stone-faced academic who's more into duty and numbers. It is a delightful slow burn that is at times hindered by miscommunication and insecurity, but not extreme enough to be annoying. There's a good reason for it and I'd like to include a content warning for mentions of past domestic violence/abusive relationships. All in all, handled very well, in my opinion. The worldbuilding flew over my head at the beginning but it is only really secondary to the characters and their relationships with each other. This is a space opera and not hard sci-fi, but it's got gorgeously described scenery (that very iconic tent in the snowy mountains scene is carved into my heart) and a special emphasis on culture and politics over technology and space battles. Fans of A Memory Called Empire may enjoy this too. This is an atmospheric and cozy read that's meant to be savored slowly, rather than binge read all in one sitting. A very refreshing novel that I was excited to pick up after a long day, because it really did help me recharge. I'm looking forward to getting a physical copy when it's released because I appreciate it so much. TL;DR A full 5 stars and highly recommended, even for non sci-fi readers. Thank you to Tor Books and NetGalley for providing me with a free e-copy of this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Amy Imogene Reads

    A last-minute arranged marriage between a royal and an ambassador days before a treaty that relies on their successful marriage...oh yeah, nothing can go wrong with that... Cue Winter's Orbit and its tense journey through intergalactic politics, interpersonal pitfalls, and a murder conspiracy. Romance: ★★★ 1/2 Plot: ★★★★ Pacing: ★★ 1/2 (too slow for my preference) Enjoyment: ★★★★ So from the top, you can probably tell that this story is a DOOZY. Winter's Orbit has it all, and that was kind of its pr A last-minute arranged marriage between a royal and an ambassador days before a treaty that relies on their successful marriage...oh yeah, nothing can go wrong with that... Cue Winter's Orbit and its tense journey through intergalactic politics, interpersonal pitfalls, and a murder conspiracy. Romance: ★★★ 1/2 Plot: ★★★★ Pacing: ★★ 1/2 (too slow for my preference) Enjoyment: ★★★★ So from the top, you can probably tell that this story is a DOOZY. Winter's Orbit has it all, and that was kind of its problem. We've got the setup: Kiem, a royal with more partying under his belt than diplomacy, finds out that he's being tapped for a political marriage alliance with a diplomatic ambassador from Thea, one of the Empire's outposts. Kiem is given one day's notice. He's told that above all else, this marriage MUST succeed, because their Empire's status in the intergalactic Resolution treaties is at stake. We've got the dark backstory: Jainan, diplomatic ambassador to his home planet, Thea, is currently reeling from the recent death of his former husband, Taam. Taam was a member of the royal family and one of the realm's key military players. With Taam's—supposedly accidental—death, Jainan is told that his alliance is to be secured with a new marriage. Jainan has never heard of Kiem, but he can only hope that Kiem will be better than Taam... He's been punished for breaking his silence before. (Trigger warnings: past domestic abuse.) We've got the intrigue: With Kiem and Jainan embarking on a whirlwind of marriage, living together, and parading their "romance" to the public with just weeks to go until the Resolution, it would seem that the two men have enough on their plate. But no—things start to crumble beneath them. Personally speaking, Kiem and Jainan seem to communicating on different levels. Professionally, they're dealing with Jainan's home planet not-so-quietly rebelling. And finally, as if that wasn't enough—it turns out that Taam might have been murdered after all. Now it's up to Kiem and Jainan to juggle the politics, navigate their relationship, and somehow solve a murder and avoid getting murdered themselves... See what I mean? It's a LOT, y'all! Personally, I would have most likely enjoyed this story more if it had been split up into at least two books. With all of the above crammed into one novel... it was a lot to handle, absorb, and flesh out appropriately within this highly complex science fiction world. I loved the characters. In particular, Kiem and Jainan's different mindsets and approaches to life's problems led to extremely distinct points of view. That was fantastic, as usually multiple POVs are hard to differentiate without chapter headers. There are no headers here, but we're not confused. It was also refreshing to see such a diverse spread of gender and sexual orientations. In the Empire, gender is displayed with wardrobe/etc. as opposed to societal stereotypes, and sexual preference is handled in a similarly all-encompassing vein. I did wish that the plot and pacing were slightly adjusted, however. Like I've said at least a few times by now, this story had a lot going on in it. But despite how much was spinning in the plot, the pacing took forever to get off the ground. I felt that the first third of Winter's Orbit dragged on, and then the last third was a !wham bam! of sequences and a rapid conclusion. This could have been a trilogy—which would have allowed us to expand on the world building, the politics, the side plots, and the romance. In a way, all of those elements suffered for me given how much had to fit in such a limited space. Definitely a read to check out if you're interested in a LGBT+ science fiction epic, political intrigue, space opera, or murder-mystery-in-space concept. It's a lot of fun! Thank you to TOR for my copy in exchange for an honest review. Blog | Instagram

  9. 5 out of 5

    Evy

    UPDATE February 09/2021: I FINISHED!! JUST AS GOOD AS I REMEMBERED! Oh goodness, I missed these delightful characters. I feel like since my review somehow has a bunch of likes already I should write some kind of deep and nuanced thing here, but... Really, this book is just 1000% exactly my jam. It has: Angsty forced marriage; political maneuverings in space; deep worldbuilding; a whole ton of wonderful characters; adventure; and oh yeah, it's super gay. But the thing this book does above all that's UPDATE February 09/2021: I FINISHED!! JUST AS GOOD AS I REMEMBERED! Oh goodness, I missed these delightful characters. I feel like since my review somehow has a bunch of likes already I should write some kind of deep and nuanced thing here, but... Really, this book is just 1000% exactly my jam. It has: Angsty forced marriage; political maneuverings in space; deep worldbuilding; a whole ton of wonderful characters; adventure; and oh yeah, it's super gay. But the thing this book does above all that's perfect for me, is that it focuses so much on the relationship. There's some exciting plot and political stuff going on, but it's all backdrop against the foregrounded relationship between Kiem and Jainan, as they get to know each other, work through misunderstandings, and come to work together and love each other (with help from some peril!) There is so much heart and emotion and feeling in all the relationships here. This is exactly the kind of thing I like to read, and the fact that the book then also has excellent side characters, great politics, space stuff, etc. etc., only makes it better. My favourite thing to read about is emotional, empathetic development of relationships (not necessarily romantic!) in stories. This is actually not often a focus of books. You might think tons of books have great characters, great relationships--this is true of course, but it's often not the focus of a book. Instead it happens off to the side or along the way. I think this is why I've really dived into romance novels the last couple years--romance novels put deep, meaningful relationships to the foreground the way a lot of other books don't. So this new mode of fantasy and sci-fi I see emerging, where a relationship is at the foreground (like Witchmark and Silver in the Wood), combining romance and fantasy/sci fi together, is like the ultimate genre for me. It adds an level of empathy and heart to the genre I didn't even quite realize was missing for me. I'll never get sick of these books and hope they keep coming forever. Okay, so I guess I did write something here! Hope my short little review was alright. This book is absolutely delightful, and you should read it that's all :) ----- UPDATE February 01/2021: MY PRE-ORDER IS IN THE MAIL, MY PRE-ORDER IS IN THE MAIL !!!!! (also, how the heck is this my second-most-liked review on Goodreads??? I didn't even review the thing yet lmao) ------ August 13/2019: HELLO YES HI i read this novel multiple timeswhen it was still online and hearing it will be traditionally published, IN PRINT, and I will be able to hold it literally in my hands, and put it literally on my bookshelf, made my day and my week and possibly my month and year and you can bet I am going to buy it the first second possible and read it another time and probably another after that. Anyway it’s a queer space opera political love story and it should be on your radar if you are into space and feelings. More info here: https://www.tor.com/2019/08/13/book-a... edit: now i desperately want to re-read this story again but of course it is no longer online and I cannot and have to wait until 2021! *VERY SAD*

  10. 4 out of 5

    Marieke du Pré

    Kiem and Jainan are so cute!Although Sci-Fi is not one of my most favorite genres, I liked this one! A lot! I pick up Sci-Fi books when I know the author, the premise seems interesting, and when I think the Sci-Fi part will be easy to understand. From the moment I saw Winter’s Orbit, I loved the cover and the blurb. And it was compared to ‘Red, white and royal blue’! I have to admit I had to get used to the world-building first, but afterward, I loved the story. Kiem and Jainan are lovely togethe Kiem and Jainan are so cute!Although Sci-Fi is not one of my most favorite genres, I liked this one! A lot! I pick up Sci-Fi books when I know the author, the premise seems interesting, and when I think the Sci-Fi part will be easy to understand. From the moment I saw Winter’s Orbit, I loved the cover and the blurb. And it was compared to ‘Red, white and royal blue’! I have to admit I had to get used to the world-building first, but afterward, I loved the story. Kiem and Jainan are lovely together, complementing each other in a lot of ways. Kiem charming, social, and empathetic, always feeling he’s not smart enough, and Jainan thoughtful, anxious, and distant, always afraid to do wrong. Their relationship builds up slowly, although Kiem immediately thinks Jainan is attractive. They get to know each other pretty quickly and start working together when they find out Taam might be murdered. From the start, it’s clear that something happened in Jainan’s past that made him anxious and obedient. As a reader, I felt that way earlier than Kiem. The first part of the story is directed to the world-building and the growing relationship between Kiem and Jainan, while the second half of the story is more fast-paced with a lot of action. The representation in this story is fabulous, all kinds of sexualities, different gender, Jainan and Kiem both colored, women who were called Prince, and so on. It’s refreshing to read a story where no emphasis is placed on sexuality, race, or gender. Instead, differences are seen as normal. Love it! So a fantastic story set in space, and I’m ready to read the next story of Evarina Maxwell. I received an ARC from Little Brown Book Group UK and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘

    I've been going back and forth with my rating for Winter's Orbit but in the end, 3 stars doesn't feel right, so I'm rounding it up to 4 stars. Kiem didn't even try to hold her gaze. If she chose to make it an Imperial command, he could be imprisoned for disobeying. "Of course not," he said. "Very happy to- to-" He stuttered to a halt. To forcibly marry someone whose life partner just died. What a great idea. Long live the Empire. The thing is, I did like following Kiem and Jainan and will for I've been going back and forth with my rating for Winter's Orbit but in the end, 3 stars doesn't feel right, so I'm rounding it up to 4 stars. Kiem didn't even try to hold her gaze. If she chose to make it an Imperial command, he could be imprisoned for disobeying. "Of course not," he said. "Very happy to- to-" He stuttered to a halt. To forcibly marry someone whose life partner just died. What a great idea. Long live the Empire. The thing is, I did like following Kiem and Jainan and will forever remember them fondly but somewhere around the 70% mark, my interest wavered for some incomprehensible reason. It might be just me and the chronic tiredness I've been fighting against lately, though : let it be said that Winter's Orbit characters - even secondary ones - are fleshed out and interesting, and that its world feels both imaginative and believable. Everina Maxwell's writing flaws smoothly and especially shines in the MCs' inner monologues. Therefore I can't pinpoint what went wrong, exactly, but I feel obligated to acknowledge the way I had to consciously stop myself from skimming scenes near the end. It doesn't make sense, even to me, so I suppose I'll need to reread it *shrugs* CW : domestic abuse (both mental and physical) in a previous relationship For more of my reviews, please visit:

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Lanz

    Winter's Orbit was such a lovely story, the perfect blend between interplanetary politics and heartwarming romance. The protagonists were so sweet, and the worldbuilding was truly spectacular! ~★~ What is this book about? ~★~ Every twenty years, the Iskat Empire renews peace treaties with its planetary colonies. The deadline for a renewal is creeping up fast, but the sudden death of Imperial Prince Taam halts procedures across the galaxy. In an attempt at patching up interplanetary relations b Winter's Orbit was such a lovely story, the perfect blend between interplanetary politics and heartwarming romance. The protagonists were so sweet, and the worldbuilding was truly spectacular! ~★~ What is this book about? ~★~ Every twenty years, the Iskat Empire renews peace treaties with its planetary colonies. The deadline for a renewal is creeping up fast, but the sudden death of Imperial Prince Taam halts procedures across the galaxy. In an attempt at patching up interplanetary relations before the treaty conference, the Empire organizes an arranged marriage between Taam’s widow (a Thean ambassador named Jianan) and Taam’s cousin, the disreputable prince Kiem. Rushing into marriage with a grieving man seems bound for disaster, but things become far worse when Kiem finds out Jianan is being investigated for Taam’s murder in the midst of an impending interplanetary war. ~★~ It’s hard to believe Winter’s Orbit was originally posted on AO3; I’m so thrilled that it was picked up by publishers! Maxwell has a real talent for writing, which shines through in her careful plot planning and undeniably amiable cast. I can’t express how much I love Jianan and Kiem as protagonists. Every bit of dialogue between the two was wonderful, especially considering their “opposites attract” dynamic.The slow-burn romance tinged with softness and humour made for such a well rounded story. The sci-fi and romance elements are so nicely intertwined with each other that the removal of either aspect would make the logistics of this tale almost impossible. The balance was so nice to see! It wasn’t long before I became deeply invested in both the main relationship and the politics of Maxwell’s universe. If you’re in need of a (mostly) wholesome romance with action, mystery and space politics, Winter’s Orbit is the perfect book for you! Trigger warning (mild spoiler): brief description of domestic abuse.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sahitya

    CW: past domestic violence I still remember how excited I was when I first saw the cover and premise of this book and couldn’t wait to get to it. Now that I’m done, I can just say that I have a wide smile due to how much I enjoyed it. When someone says that a book reads like fanfiction, I find that to be a compliment because fanfics have been the ones that have gotten me through the year from hell. The writing in this book does resemble that, being very easy to read and accessible. It’s a space CW: past domestic violence I still remember how excited I was when I first saw the cover and premise of this book and couldn’t wait to get to it. Now that I’m done, I can just say that I have a wide smile due to how much I enjoyed it. When someone says that a book reads like fanfiction, I find that to be a compliment because fanfics have been the ones that have gotten me through the year from hell. The writing in this book does resemble that, being very easy to read and accessible. It’s a space opera but the world building isn’t too complicated, the author giving us just enough information to understand the political intrigue. There are unexpected twists and betrayals and lots of political maneuvering that makes it a very interesting read that’ll keep you engaged. We have some very beloved fanfic tropes like arranged marriage, only a single bed, the unlikely couple getting stranded and bonding over it and also lots of miscommunication and yearning because of it. And one of the most fascinating parts of this world is how normalizingly queer it is - gender is chosen by every individual and they can present themselves as whatever they want using symbols on their person, and relationships between any genders are just part of life. It’s just so lovely to read more stories like this where homophobia and gender binaries don’t exist. But the strength of this book is definitely the characters. Kiem is kind of an insignificant Royal who is thrust into an arranged marriage in a very short notice while Jainan, who is from a vassal kingdom doesn’t have much choice either. While Kiem is kind, charming and capable of talking himself into and out of any situation despite being not at all political savvy, Jainan is more reserved, thoughtful, slightly anxious and thinks many times before even uttering a word. They are definitely opposites, which means the attraction is inevitable. While there was a lot of communication between them for a while which made me quite tense about what was gonna happen, it was also so lovely to see them slowly become reliant on each other and then able to talk about their feelings. I was literally sobbing with happiness seeing them get together and then work with each other to figure out all the mysteries. The ending was particularly very amusing and I was full of joy seeing the proceedings play out. Even the side characters are quite interesting and each has their own arc. I especially loved Kiem’s assistant Bel who was a total badass with an interesting backstory and was such a supportive figure throughout the mystery solving. The Auditor and Agent Rakal also turned out to be fascinating despite me doubting their motivations. Gairad was a sweet addition while the Emperor was kinda subtly funny. But it was Taam, Jainan’s dead husband who felt like a constant presence despite not being alive and the author did such a great job creating and solving all the entanglements. To conclude, I’m so happy that I got to read such a cute and lovely romance early on in the year. This is such an easy read in the space opera genre but the author balances the love story, the politics and the murder mystery perfectly - making this a very memorable book. It made me giddy and emotional and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I highly recommend this one, especially if you like queer worlds and sweet romances.

  14. 5 out of 5

    anna (½ of readsrainbow)

    rep: mostly poc cast, bi mc, gay mc, wlw, mlm & nonbinary side characters tw: past domestic abuse, past rape, mental torture, murder 3.5 If you’re a fan of the fake dating and/or arranged marriage trope, this is definitely a book for you. If you’re not (why though?), you would still appreciate the court intrigues and cool space opera vibes. (Even if you don’t usually read sci-fi novels, like I don’t.) A lot of books these days use the fake dating trope, but not all of them succeed, and it’s pretty o rep: mostly poc cast, bi mc, gay mc, wlw, mlm & nonbinary side characters tw: past domestic abuse, past rape, mental torture, murder 3.5 If you’re a fan of the fake dating and/or arranged marriage trope, this is definitely a book for you. If you’re not (why though?), you would still appreciate the court intrigues and cool space opera vibes. (Even if you don’t usually read sci-fi novels, like I don’t.) A lot of books these days use the fake dating trope, but not all of them succeed, and it’s pretty obvious why. For this trope to work in a story, to have any emotional load at all, you need to have some miscommunication. Both of the characters who are supposed to fake a relationship need to be into each other, but without the other realising. The longer this lack of knowledge goes on, the better. The bigger the emotional punch. Winter’s Orbit understands that perfectly. It gifts you pages and pages of gay pining, and we all know there is absolutely nothing better in the world. The characters are also an ideal combination for this kind of story, with one of them being an absolute himbo & the other a detached, austere figure. There are always reasons behind actions and not everything is what it seems to be, so don’t be fooled exactly. Dig deeper. The novel deals very heavily with domestic abuse, so it’s probably not for every reader out there. The whole arc is treated with respect, though, and all the care and attention it deserves, and the characters aren’t turned into victims with no agency. Despite that, it’s actually a fun book that keeps you on your toes. Mainly thanks to the writing; the style is simple, but focused on details, minute emotions, which allows you to fully experience everything along the characters. And makes you care about all the more. So really, it’s a little bit perfect.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Virginja ↢ 99% imp

    3🌟 I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The writing style was really accessible and simple, so if you are looking for a light-hearted and quick read this may be what you are looking for. Winter’s Orbit is not a bad book, however I found it very lacking, both plot wise and in regards of developing a solid relationship between the two main characters. The main problem, for me, is that Winter’s Orbit feels too much like a fanfiction. This book is the direct de 3🌟 I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The writing style was really accessible and simple, so if you are looking for a light-hearted and quick read this may be what you are looking for. Winter’s Orbit is not a bad book, however I found it very lacking, both plot wise and in regards of developing a solid relationship between the two main characters. The main problem, for me, is that Winter’s Orbit feels too much like a fanfiction. This book is the direct descendant of “Course of Honor” a popular AO3 fanfiction; unfortunately, even after the publishing process, the book maintains the typical structure of an AO3 work. The conflict is just pretext to write an extremely watered romance, which progresses slowly and is wrapped up quickly. There is practically no world building, nor any palpable difference between the planets and cultures introduced (so to say, Thea and Iskat). The characters are cute, their dialogues and scenes together funny at times, but it takes way too long for them to work things out. It was obvious right after the marriage that something was off with Jainan, that he was acting strangely, but Kiem figured it out only at the 70% mark. For me that is pretty absurd, considering that Jainan’s behavior had really big red flags. The miscommunication was handled quite badly because both were expressing discontent, but none of the two would recognize it as so. This miscommunication cheapened the relationship between the two, especially on Kiem’s behalf: he appeared as a total idiot for not recognizing Jainan’s actions as dictated by trauma. The better part of the book is devoted to filler scenes were the two main characters have absurd dialogues, and none of them reaches out and tries to communicate with the other. Kiem, as I previously said, was a total moron; Jainan kept secrets for no apparent reason when talking would have been the most intelligent solution.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kaa

    So I liked this, although I think either I'm more critical of published books than online fiction, or I'm a more critical reader now than I was a few years ago. (Both? Both is good.) I still adore the arranged marriage tropiness and a lot of the world-building, but, hmm, I do have some questions about the politics. Longer review after I ponder, maybe. advance reaction: Y'ALL I ONLY JUST NOW REALIZED THAT THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE AO3 STORIES IN TRAD PUB FORM. (For clarification - it was always or So I liked this, although I think either I'm more critical of published books than online fiction, or I'm a more critical reader now than I was a few years ago. (Both? Both is good.) I still adore the arranged marriage tropiness and a lot of the world-building, but, hmm, I do have some questions about the politics. Longer review after I ponder, maybe. advance reaction: Y'ALL I ONLY JUST NOW REALIZED THAT THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE AO3 STORIES IN TRAD PUB FORM. (For clarification - it was always original fic, but it was free online for several years.) Now I'm even more excited to read(/re-read) it!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Anniek

    This book was a 5 star prediction for me, and I'm so glad I was right! I took my time reading this so that I could really savour it, and I loved the slow build-up of Kiem and Jainan's relationship. I was hesitant to put much faith in the comp to Red, White & Royal Blue, as this is a sci-fi novel, but honestly, I could really see the comparison from the start. Of course it's a very different book, but it does have a similar feel to it. And it's for sure a new favourite for me. Reading this book was This book was a 5 star prediction for me, and I'm so glad I was right! I took my time reading this so that I could really savour it, and I loved the slow build-up of Kiem and Jainan's relationship. I was hesitant to put much faith in the comp to Red, White & Royal Blue, as this is a sci-fi novel, but honestly, I could really see the comparison from the start. Of course it's a very different book, but it does have a similar feel to it. And it's for sure a new favourite for me. Reading this book was a frustrating experience at times, because I wanted Kiem and Jainan to JUST FUCKING TALK TO EACH OTHER. But it made a lot of sense to me why they didn't - especially from Jainan's point of view it's clear to see why he doesn't easily trust Kiem. And seeing them learn to trust each other was really amazing to see, and I love how this was spun out - I kept wanting them to talk to each other, but at the same time, every time I got JUST enough to keep me happy for a while. CW: past domestic abuse

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

    So...this book is easily going to be one of my favorite releases of the year! Winter's Orbit is a stunning sci-fi debut that merges loads of political intrigue, mystery, culturally intricate world-building, and a political marriage of convenience turned slow-burn romance. It's everything I hoped for and would be a great crossover book for romance readers trying to get into sci-fi, or for sci-fi readers wanting a little more romance. Kiem is an outgoing, playboy prince known for his escapades and So...this book is easily going to be one of my favorite releases of the year! Winter's Orbit is a stunning sci-fi debut that merges loads of political intrigue, mystery, culturally intricate world-building, and a political marriage of convenience turned slow-burn romance. It's everything I hoped for and would be a great crossover book for romance readers trying to get into sci-fi, or for sci-fi readers wanting a little more romance. Kiem is an outgoing, playboy prince known for his escapades and carefree attitude. When the emperor tells him he is to marry the recently widowed husband of his cousin for political reasons, it's the last thing he expects. Jainan is introverted, nerdy, and it becomes clear that things in his marriage weren't quite right. Kiem tries to respect his space as he grieves and Jainen is determined to be useful to Kiem and not get in his way. And neither of them think the other is remotely interested in a real relationship. They couldn't be more wrong. But twists start coming as they discover Jainen is being investigated for the murder of his former husband, and there are plots that need to be uncovered. I won't say more, but this was just perfection. It really leans into the galactic sci-fi empire bit with lots of a political intrigue, but it's grounded by the thread of this slowly developing relationship between Kiem and Jainan. I loved it SO very much! I'm incredibly impressed with this debut and am eager to read more. One thing I really appreciated is that it takes a different approach to dealing with gender. In the primary society we see on the page, people indicate their gender via accessories rather than clothing choices or body appearance. Women wear flint, men wear wood, and nonbinary folks wear glass ornaments in their hair or as jewelry. We hear about another culture where gender is indicated through different ways of tying scarves. I thought this was so interesting and and such a useful idea. And why not use speculative fiction as a way of reimagining the world to be inclusive rather than homophobic? What an incredible book and one I hope to see get lots of attention this year! I received an advance copy of this book for review from the publisher. All opinions are my own. Content warnings include physical, emotional, and psychological domestic abuse (in a prior relationship), anxiety and PTSD, attempted murder, torture involving memory alteration.

  19. 4 out of 5

    laurel [the suspected bibliophile]

    Trigger Warning: Domestic Abuse, Mind Control Playboy Prince Kiem is doing just fine thankyouverymuch. That is, until he's forced into an arranged marriage with recently widowed Count Jainan, who was previously married to Kiem's cousin, Taam. But the empire of Iskat is held together by marriage treaties, and they're going to have to make it work in order to help certify their empire to the larger galactic federation. Things aren't going to be that easy though. Because it turns out Taam was murder Trigger Warning: Domestic Abuse, Mind Control Playboy Prince Kiem is doing just fine thankyouverymuch. That is, until he's forced into an arranged marriage with recently widowed Count Jainan, who was previously married to Kiem's cousin, Taam. But the empire of Iskat is held together by marriage treaties, and they're going to have to make it work in order to help certify their empire to the larger galactic federation. Things aren't going to be that easy though. Because it turns out Taam was murdered, and it could be due to a cover-up for a greater scheme... "What about sprawls of despair?" he asked. "Do we have special furniture for that? Put that on the list: source despair furniture for living room. Did I tell you I'm getting married?" Well this went a bit differently than I was expecting, and I um, am kinda hoping it's going to be a series?? The Red, White and Royal Blue comp title is perfectly accurate, but there was not enough tea drinking for Ancillary Justice to fit. But you know what does fit? Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series. Definitely got shades of the Vorkosiverse reading this one, and I loved it. Was it because of the blinding charisma of Kiem, the deep levels of reserve within Jainan (the signs are there immediately), the blisteringly competent Bel, and the other secondary characters? Along with the descriptions of the space, the way the military was integrated, how Internal Security popped up, the Emperor, and a whole bunch of other things (including gender and cultural considerations), and I loved it so much! Also, it has the following tropes, used delightfully: -One bed -Arranged political marriage between two kinda enemy peoples -disaster bisexual and uptight gay -Someone fell into a river while camping and they must now huddle together naked for warmth Also, Kiem repeatedly puts his foot in his mouth around Jainan, and it's so painful to watch the two constantly miscommunicate. Anywho, lots of conversations on healthy relationships, communication and more, all wrapped into a really fun military-political-and-thoroughly-queer space opera! "I think," Jainan said slowly, "that it's very possible to spend all your energy doing the right thing but still miss something obvious. I think that doesn't make your effort meaningless." I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review

  20. 5 out of 5

    solanne

    when I tell you I’m OBSESSED with both this cover and this premise I mean I would sell my actual soul of a copy

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rosabel

    I could summarize this book as: 99% politics/drama and 1% romance and for a story this long the balance wasn't right. I don't mind political stories, I hate politics but I understand it so I didn't have a problem with it in this book, BUT it was painful how the author dismissed shows of affection everytime she had the chance, this was an arranged marriage setting and there were multiple opportunities at the end, but nope, one of the two main characters always held back because there were people w I could summarize this book as: 99% politics/drama and 1% romance and for a story this long the balance wasn't right. I don't mind political stories, I hate politics but I understand it so I didn't have a problem with it in this book, BUT it was painful how the author dismissed shows of affection everytime she had the chance, this was an arranged marriage setting and there were multiple opportunities at the end, but nope, one of the two main characters always held back because there were people watching or it wasn't the time, etc, BULLSHIT! And when they actually kissed or touched it faded to black, gurrl I've read 400 pages of the machinations and political games and you're not even gona give me a proper kiss? That's insulting! 🧐🤦🏻‍♀️ That was what bothered me, the rest of the content I must say it was really well done. I was really impressed by the way the characters were developed, they had depth, they had issues and they were total different people and you could absolutely tell. Jainan and Kiem didn't jump at their arrangement, they got to know each other, respect each other and then love each other to get there, so it felt real. The politic side and the mystery was well done, I did have my suspicions but still, it was really entertaining. So I would say this is a solid read but don't expect much romance in it. 🤭❤

  22. 5 out of 5

    Madison

    It's too complimentary to compare this book to a gem like Ancillary Justice, but I think the comp to Red, White, and Royal Blue is right on the money. Women writing santized gay romance set in sanitized political environments is apparently the thing now, and I am not into it whatsoever. This book has the advantage of being set in a fictional society, which automatically makes it far less cringey than RWRB, a book I admittedly absolutely hated. The worst part of that one, for me, was the fact that It's too complimentary to compare this book to a gem like Ancillary Justice, but I think the comp to Red, White, and Royal Blue is right on the money. Women writing santized gay romance set in sanitized political environments is apparently the thing now, and I am not into it whatsoever. This book has the advantage of being set in a fictional society, which automatically makes it far less cringey than RWRB, a book I admittedly absolutely hated. The worst part of that one, for me, was the fact that Casey McQuiston used the 2016 election as a cutesy backdrop for her otherwise unremarkable romance plot. In Winter's Orbit, a convoluted mystery serves as a sort of thin pretense for the romance between Kiem and Jainan, which emerges out of the "fake marriage" trope. The main problem for me is not so much the fact that Winter's Orbit originated as a fanfic-adjacent web serial and shamelessly relies on the usual tropes therein, though I have my own issues with that trajectory. It's that the plot exists to prop up a romance that barely even happens. The protagonists kiss rarely and have one single fade-to-black sex scene. Even RWRB had more than that, and I criticized that book for tiptoeing around the mechanics of gay sex. I have a real problem with women writing m/m romance novels who have absolutely no interest in developing their characters as, um, men who like to have sex with men. That wouldn't fly in mainstream m/f romance. It's one thing if you establish your characters as people who aren't interested in sexual relationships, but that's absolutely not the case here. If this were more hardline sci-fi story with a romance component, that would be one thing. But the world is barely developed beyond the plot points that are important to progress the romantic storyline along, and the political elements are subject to the same thing. It's a bizarre departure from convention that's all too popular among women who think boys kissing is cute but are squicky about the rest of it. And I'm completely 100% over it. This book gets three stars because there were sections that engrossed me--I was invested in the romance and I think plenty aspects of the narrative were done well. Maxwell isn't a bad writer. And I gave RWRB two stars, and this is definitely better than that. But between the sort of complimentary colonialism stuff and the dragged-out pacing and the rest of it, I find myself feeling ultimately disappointed.

  23. 4 out of 5

    emma

    this book has: - gays in space - political intrigue and mystery - arranged marriage → A+ mutual pining - the "there's only one bed trope" but upgraded to "there's only one tent and we need to stay close for warmth" - recovery from a past abusive relationship and learning to be yourself again i highly recommend this, and i'm very grateful to orbit for sending me a review copy! this book has: - gays in space - political intrigue and mystery - arranged marriage → A+ mutual pining - the "there's only one bed trope" but upgraded to "there's only one tent and we need to stay close for warmth" - recovery from a past abusive relationship and learning to be yourself again i highly recommend this, and i'm very grateful to orbit for sending me a review copy!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mogsy (MMOGC)

    3.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2021/02/11/... Well, this wasn’t awesome, but it was still pretty good! If you are looking for a fun and engaging sci-fi read that goes down easy, like a big bucket of buttery popcorn, then Winter’s Orbit might just fit the bill. That said, managing expectations is sort of critical with this one, as is being aware of its origins on Archive of Our Own, the open-source fanfiction website. For while you can take the book out of AO3, you c 3.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2021/02/11/... Well, this wasn’t awesome, but it was still pretty good! If you are looking for a fun and engaging sci-fi read that goes down easy, like a big bucket of buttery popcorn, then Winter’s Orbit might just fit the bill. That said, managing expectations is sort of critical with this one, as is being aware of its origins on Archive of Our Own, the open-source fanfiction website. For while you can take the book out of AO3, you can’t always take the AO3 out of the book, and this is a story where its fanfic roots are plain to see. The main focus of Winter’s Orbit is on two princes, Kiem and Jainan, who must enter into an arranged political marriage in order to quell the hostilities rising within a beleaguered galactic empire. As the novel opens, an important peace treaty called the Resolution is in jeopardy when Prince Taam of Iskat suddenly dies, prompting swift action by the emperor to mend the broken alliance with the planet Thea, home of Taam’s widower Jainan. As a last resort, Taam’s flighty and disreputable playboy cousin Kiem is called upon to wed Jainan, so that the allegiance of the Theans is ensured and amiable relations between their two sides can continue. Thrown together by duty and circumstance, our two protagonists try to make the best of the situation, understanding the importance of their roles in maintaining peace. However, as new evidence comes to light suggesting that Prince Taam’s death was no accident, and that Jainan himself might have been involved, the alliance between Iskat and Thea becomes threatened once again, leading the empire down a path of war. With the fate of worlds hanging in the balance, Kiem and Jainan must come to terms with their feelings for each other and learn to trust one another despite their differences, for only then can they begin working towards solving a murder and eventually uncover the greater mystery at hand. So, let’s just get the negatives out of the way first. I’m going to preface this by saying there’s legitimately good fanfiction out there, speaking as someone who has enjoyed reading her fair share of them over the years. That’s also how I know there’s a bunch of silly tropes—tropes that might be perfectly fine if you’re bored and looking for a bit of escapism with some of your favorite characters based in some of your favorite worlds, but are admittedly not so ideal when you’re picking up a novel with the expectation for more pretext. My main issue was that, even from the very start, every major plot point in Winter’s Orbit has already been telegraphed, and so for the entirety of its four hundred plus pages, I chafed with sensation that we were simply going with the motions and witnessing theater. As a result, the intrigue and action elements were lackluster, mostly because I already knew everything that was going to happen, not to mention the romance itself was pretty shallow, permeated with manufactured conflict. That said, I enjoyed the two central characters, for all that they were your standard cardboard cutouts playing predictable roles. Kiem reminds me of a big, adorable puppy, always bounding around getting into trouble because he’s a clueless, awkward, and larger-than-life goofball, and yet his heart of gold and his capacity to love is just so strong, you can’t help but find him endearing. Playing on the “opposites attract” theme, Jainan is far on the other side of the spectrum—quiet, introspective, and more prone to take a step back in any situation to analyze before acting. Again, it all just feels so put-on and fabricated as an excuse to inject unnecessary drama or create conditions rife for misunderstanding and miscommunication, though to be fair, I know plenty of other traditionally published romances that also utilize these very same tropes, for the very fact that they are entertaining, cute, and comfortably familiar. Incidentally, those are also the words I would use to describe Winter’s Orbit. It’s science fiction lite, but while world-building may be on the sparser side, the story itself super easy to get into, and the good news is you won’t need multiple spreadsheets and character charts to follow along with the political machinations and intrigue. I also liked how the romance featured prominently but wasn’t overbearing or too distracting from the overall plot. Will this be the most original or inspiring novel you read this year? Probably not. But it certainly comes packaged with all the ingredients of mass appeal, which means readers looking for a fun, casual sci-fi read with a good balance of story elements will find plenty of enjoyment.

  25. 4 out of 5

    AnnaLuce

    disclaimer: I did not finish this book so if you are thinking of reading this book I recommend you check out reviews from other readers. DNF 45% Teenage me would have probably liked this. Alas, as I am no longer a teenager, I find the fanfic-y vibes of this novel to be a wee bit cheesy. The two main gain have very generic personalities (one is the fun-extrovert and the other guy is an introvert). I also guessed a 'reveal' within the very few pages...the way the narrative portrays trauma feels v disclaimer: I did not finish this book so if you are thinking of reading this book I recommend you check out reviews from other readers. DNF 45% Teenage me would have probably liked this. Alas, as I am no longer a teenager, I find the fanfic-y vibes of this novel to be a wee bit cheesy. The two main gain have very generic personalities (one is the fun-extrovert and the other guy is an introvert). I also guessed a 'reveal' within the very few pages...the way the narrative portrays trauma feels very scripted (to me). The sci-fi is merely a backdrop and I guess I prefer more detailed and less generic world-building. The interaction between the characters, the tone of the story, the relationship between the two main characters....they all reminded me of fanfiction (which I used to enjoy reading but no longer). I'm sure many readers will love this (I can already see lots of glowing reviews) and I wish the author the best but I am just not 'vibing' with Winter's Orbit. ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Banshee

    This was a perfect blend between an exciting political science fiction and a romance that I couldn't help but root for with all my heart. I found myself completely submerged in this world from the very first chapter and it was difficult to make breaks for the ordinary life. The political intrigue was well-built and extremely engaging. It was a mystery with multiple puzzle elements, and I found it thoroughly satisfactory to observe how the different pieces started to fit together. There were compl This was a perfect blend between an exciting political science fiction and a romance that I couldn't help but root for with all my heart. I found myself completely submerged in this world from the very first chapter and it was difficult to make breaks for the ordinary life. The political intrigue was well-built and extremely engaging. It was a mystery with multiple puzzle elements, and I found it thoroughly satisfactory to observe how the different pieces started to fit together. There were complex diplomatic relations to navigate, a murder case to solve and the minefield of political games to maneuver through. The deadline for working out the problems added a lot of tension and kept me at the edge of my seat. The characters were compelling and real. I felt a burning hatred for the antagonists and a strong affection for the protagonists. Their journey was a true emotional roller-coaster. The main couple was simply perfect - there's just no better way to describe it. I generally appreciate the trope of an arranged marriage, where both sides are good people and try their best to make it work, but this was simply excellent. The characters were so very different from each other and came from drastically different baggage. Every interaction between them was precious, even if often frustrating due to miscommunication challenges, and I loved how much they ended up pushing each other to become a better version of themselves. They went through a significant development, both individually and together. They go straight to my list of favourite fictional couples of all time. I can't find a single thing I disliked about this novel. I just wish it wasn't a standalone, because I wasn't ready to say goodbye to the characters I grew so attached to.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Monogamist

    Thank you so much Tor Books and NetGalley for a free e-copy of this book. The Iskat Empire controls its political relationships with the vassal planets with a system of treaties and often alliances with marriage. After the death of the Iskat Imperial prince Taam, who is married to a representative of the planet Thean, the Emperor needs to reinstate this alliance as soon as possible ahead of the imminent visit from the Auditor for the signing of the Resolution, which will guarantee peace among emp Thank you so much Tor Books and NetGalley for a free e-copy of this book. The Iskat Empire controls its political relationships with the vassal planets with a system of treaties and often alliances with marriage. After the death of the Iskat Imperial prince Taam, who is married to a representative of the planet Thean, the Emperor needs to reinstate this alliance as soon as possible ahead of the imminent visit from the Auditor for the signing of the Resolution, which will guarantee peace among empires for decades. She decides to marry the Thean widower, Jainan, with her most problematic grandchild, Kiem, within only a day. As soon as they are married, it becomes apparent that the death of the Imperial prince Taam was not an accident and Jainan is accused of murder. As they struggle to get along in this forced marriage, the murder investigation tests the relationship between Kiem and Jainan and the stability of the whole Iskat Empire. I wish you could hear me squeaking of joy, because this novel was a beauty. This debut science-fiction and space opera was originally published on the website Archive of Our Own and it gathered so much enthusiasm that it made its way to Tor Books. It’s often compared to Red, White & Royal Blue – which was one of my favourite reads of the last year – and I can see the similarities in terms of atmosphere and feels. I still consider Winter’s Orbit as a diamond on its own, because the plot is written around a forced marriage trope, and I will add that it’s finely executed. Moreover, other than being basically based on a science-fiction story which takes place in a galaxy far far away, it also analyses and explores the topic of abuse and violence in a unique and delicate way so it definitely is a different story, with a different tone, compared to Red, White & Royal Blue. I would say, this book reminds me more of Becky Chambers’s debut novel The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, because of its world/space building, because of its fantastic gender and sexuality representation and because of all the feelings that both stories left me. In terms of the world structure, I would say probably it needed a little bit of more development as certain details are left unsaid. For example, I felt the origin of remnants was not explored sufficiently, except the reader was given the explanation of their purpose only toward the end of the story. The best part of this world is that people’s gender is a choice that they can choose, or not, to express with accessories they wear (like glass or wood) and not with physical traits. Also, homophobia doesn’t exist, simple as that. No need to justify your gender and your sexuality and that’s so good that the writer doesn’t even mention it in the whole story or compare this reality to the normal world. However, I do understand that the main factor of this story is the relationship between Kiem and Jainan, and so other details about this world have less relevance. Kiem is the typical social (galaxy) butterfly, he got in trouble so many times in the past and he is forced within only 24 hours into marrying someone who is grieving his previous partner. He is not educated like Jainan, but he is someone I would identify as “street smart”. Thanks to all his networking connections, he knows how to survive in this society full of journalists always ready for the next royal scandal. I loved how he was super conscious of Jainan’s grief and feelings at the beginning of their relationship. Jainan is probably one of the most intriguing characters I had ever encountered (well, I think I say this a lot about all my favourite characters – lol). Anyway, Jainan is duty bound to the Empire and to his planet, every action he takes, every thought he has, every word he says are bound to his loyalty and for the sake of the relationship between Thean and the Empire. Kiem and Jainan’s relationship slowly progresses, so the romance builds up around the mystery of the murder of Prince Taam and all the political intrigues of the Iskat Empire, but it genuinely follows a natural development, in accordance with the main characters’ personalities and pasts until they finally complement each other. The other side characters needed a bit more love, and more background, in particular Jainan’s sister, but again, this could be me in need of learning more about these characters. It’s a fast, action-packed read and a refreshing science-fiction story, which clearly left me thirsty for more stories in this fantastic world/space-building. A part of me is glad this was a stand-alone, and the plot itself has a round and satisfactory ending. However, the small lack of background about these planets and how they came to be, and about a few characters make me wish for more and I would keep my radar on for more novels from this writer. An absolute must-read for all the fans of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and Red, White & Royal Blue. You can also read my review and more on my blog: Monogamist Reader

  28. 5 out of 5

    Goblin Reaper

    'There is something wrong with you', he told himself, because there was no loss, and now he was sounding quite insane. But it was like an echo of someone else's voice Winter's Orbit is a new favorite! It was such a strong and solid debut novel with layered and complex characters, a very well developed plot, and a really sweet romance story. Maxwell's writing was wonderful and so easy to get into - Winters Orbit is a Sci-Fi romance rather than Sci-Fi with romance. I was looking forward to reading b 'There is something wrong with you', he told himself, because there was no loss, and now he was sounding quite insane. But it was like an echo of someone else's voice Winter's Orbit is a new favorite! It was such a strong and solid debut novel with layered and complex characters, a very well developed plot, and a really sweet romance story. Maxwell's writing was wonderful and so easy to get into - Winters Orbit is a Sci-Fi romance rather than Sci-Fi with romance. I was looking forward to reading based on pre-release advertising and hype, but I was not expecting something so exciting, fun, and polished from an unknown debut author. Again, Maxwell has done an equally good job of building a nuanced world of intergalactic intrigue as she has of making her characters lovable and believable. The Iskat Empire controls its political relationships with the vassal planets with a system of treaties and often alliances with marriage. After the death of the Iskat Imperial prince Taam, who is married to a representative of the planet Thean, the Emperor needs to reinstate this alliance as soon as possible ahead of the imminent visit from the Auditor for the signing of the Resolution, which will guarantee peace among empires for decades. She decides to marry the Thean widower, Jainan, with her most problematic grandchild, Kiem, within only a day. He's told that above all else, this marriage must succeed because their Empire's status in the intergalactic Resolution treaties is at stake. There can be no broken links in the chain to show the Empire's weakness. Jainan, diplomatic ambassador to his home planet, Thea, is currently reeling from the recent death of his former husband, Taam. Taam was a member of the Emperor's royal family and one of the realm's key military players. With Taam's—supposedly accidental—death, Jainan is told that his new political alliance is going to be secured with a new marriage. Jainan has never heard of Kiem, but he can only hope that Kiem will be better than Taam—even if Jainan would never admit those words aloud. He's been punished for breaking his silence before. This is very much an opposites-attract type of romance with Kiem as the easygoing, charming, and extroverted flirt while Jainan is the quiet, socially awkward, and stone-faced academic who's more into duty and numbers. It is a delightful slow burn that is at times hindered by miscommunication and insecurity, but not extreme enough to be annoying. There's a good reason for it and I'd like to include a content warning for mentions of past domestic violence/abusive relationships. All in all, handled very well, in my opinion. I liked Jainan but I loved Kiem. Kiem is the typical social (galaxy) butterfly, he got in trouble so many times in the past and he is forced within only 24 hours into marrying someone who is grieving his previous partner. He is not educated like Jainan, but he is someone I would identify as 'street smart'. Thanks to all his networking connections, he knows how to survive in this society full of journalists always ready for the next royal scandal. I loved how he was super conscious of Jainan’s grief and feelings at the beginning of their relationship. Both aspects, the politics, and the relationships are tense and page-turning. The marriage of the two main characters, in particular, is challenging as a reader because the POV switches from one to the other and their miscommunication makes it so they never manage to get on the same page, despite my internal screams toward them. Maxwell does a good job playing on those frustrations. There are unexpected twists and betrayals and lots of political maneuvering that makes it a very interesting read that’ll keep you engaged. We have some very beloved fanfic tropes like an arranged marriage, only a single bed, the unlikely couple getting stranded and bonding over it, and also lots of miscommunication and yearning because of it. And one of the most fascinating parts of this world is how moralizingly queer it is - gender is chosen by every individual and they can present themselves as whatever they want using symbols on their person, and relationships between any genders are just part of life. It’s just so lovely to read more stories like this where homophobia and gender binaries don’t exist. But the strength of this book is definitely the characters. They are definitely opposites, which means the attraction is inevitable. While there was a lot of communication between them for a while which made me quite tense about what was gonna happen, it was also so lovely to see them slowly become reliant on each other and then able to talk about their feelings. I was literally sobbing with happiness seeing them get together and then work with each other to figure out all the mysteries. The ending was particularly very amusing and I was full of joy seeing the proceedings play out. I especially loved Kiem’s assistant Bel who was a total badass with an interesting backstory and was such a supportive figure throughout the mystery solving. The Auditor and Agent Rakal also turned out to be fascinating despite me doubting their motivatives. Gairad was a sweet addition while the Emperor was kinda subtly funny. But it was Taam, Jainan’s dead husband who felt like a constant presence despite not being alive and the author did such a great job creating and solving all the entanglements. Kiem and Jainan are lovely together, complementing each other in a lot of ways. Kiem charming, social, and empathetic, always feeling he’s not smart enough, and Jainan thoughtful, anxious, and distant, always afraid to do wrong. Their relationship builds up slowly, although Kiem immediately thinks Jainan is attractive. They get to know each other pretty quickly and start working together when they find out Taam might be murdered. From the start, it’s clear that something happened in Jainan’s past that made him anxious and obedient. As a reader, I felt that way earlier than Kiem. The first part of the story is directed to the world-building and the growing relationship between Kiem and Jainan, while the second half of the story is more fast-paced with a lot of action. Now it's up to Kiem and Jainan to juggle all of the political balls in the air, navigate their relationship, and somehow solve a murder and avoid getting murdered themselves... See what I mean? It's a LOT, y'all! I did wish that the plot and the pacing were slightly adjusted, however. This story had a lot going on in it. But despite how much was spinning in the plot, the pacing took forever to get off the ground. I felt that the first third of Winter's Orbit draggggggged on, and then the last third was a wham bam! Of action sequences and an extremely rapid conclusion. This story could have been easily expanded into a trilogy—which would have allowed the author to expand on the world-building, the politics, the side plots, and character motivations, and the romance. In a way, all of those elements suffered for me given how much had to fit in such a limited space. If you're a reader who wants detailed world-building and a narrative that adheres strictly to the plot rather than meandering for personal & romantic character developments, Winter'S Orbit may not be the perfect read for you. But if you like your romance and your science fiction, then hurrah. Overall, really glad I read this, and I'm excited for everyone else to have the chance when it gets officially released in four days. Thankyou Tor for sending me an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Holly (The Grimdragon)

    “Pain had its uses, Jainan thought. It put things in perspective. There was something clean about the way it cut through the emotional tangles and reminded you that things could be worse.” Winter’s Orbit is the debut novel from Everina Maxwell & it is EVERYTHING! I guess I dig romance now? At least when it’s done as gorgeously as this one! The central story focuses on two princes as they navigate an arranged marriage in space. As one does. The Iskatian representative, Prince Taam, died under stran “Pain had its uses, Jainan thought. It put things in perspective. There was something clean about the way it cut through the emotional tangles and reminded you that things could be worse.” Winter’s Orbit is the debut novel from Everina Maxwell & it is EVERYTHING! I guess I dig romance now? At least when it’s done as gorgeously as this one! The central story focuses on two princes as they navigate an arranged marriage in space. As one does. The Iskatian representative, Prince Taam, died under strange circumstances after five years of marriage to Count Jainan nav Adessari, the Thean representative. Prince Kiem is contracted out to be married to Jainan, ensuring that the Resolution will remain peaceful & that the treaty will be renewed. They are essentially forced to work together in order to prevent DEATH & DESTRUCTION! The POV chapters alternate between Jainan & Kiem, which was brilliant in getting to know them both together, yet separately. After the death of his father, Kiem became quite the wild child, a rebellious teenager who made mistakes & is learning from them. He’s grown into a friendly & good-humored human, although he feels in over his head with the upcoming nuptials. At the age of 27, Jainan has a doctorate in deep-space engineering. He’s brilliant, serious, quiet & composed. Having just lost his partner in a spacecraft crash, there are plenty of conflicting emotions for Jainan. He’s in mourning, but also dealing with the trauma of having been in an abusive relationship. There are few books I can think of that highlights abuse in a queer relationship, like this. It’s obviously a sensative topic, but Maxwell tenderly explores the resulting damage that was caused & how the survivor must heal by learning to love themselves, despite everything.. and because of everything. I mean, I bloody adore those boys so damn much.. but it was Kiem’s sassy, smart, funny & ridiculously organized assistant Bel that respectfully caught my eye! BE STILL MY DARK, SECRETLY SOFT, HEART! I’m projecting it out into the universe, hoping that a book from Bel’s POV will manifest itself ::fingers firmly crossed:: Along with Kiem, Jainan & Bel, there is a fun group of characters to read about that have their own corner of the story. Ressid, Colonel Lunver, Professor Audel, Gairad, Aren Saffer, Chief Agent Rakal. There is.. a lot going on, especially behind the scenes! Something I haven’t touched on yet is the worldbuilding. This is a queernormative world, one that is devoid of homophobia. Queer relationships are such a non-issue in this world, AS IT SHOULD BE! Although it’s never stated as such, there are a variety of relationships including polyamorous & pansexual. Genders aren’t immediately known by physical appearance, which was refreshing as fuck. However, there are certain details that Maxwell included that were an interesting choice. For instance, on Iskat, people indicate their gender by wearing tokens. Wooden for men, flint for women & glass for nonbinary. My only complaint was that I wish there was *more* to this. Like, what about people who choose to wear multiple adornments? How did this tradition come to be? I’m not sure if a sequel is planned, but if there is, hopefully the story explores that more. “You can’t just tinker around the edges and jail some soldiers who worked for him, because none of this works if you keep someone in power who tried to start a war.” Murder, embezzlement, blackmail, kidnappings, misunderstandings, hallucinations, bear attacks. I read this in two sittings, which doesn’t happen all that often. MY PRECIOUS CINNAMON ROLLS OH HOW I ADORE YOU!! This queer space opera, heavy on the romance, blew me & my expectations away! Featuring a murder mystery, shady af characters, glorious personal developments & interplanetary political intrigue. It’s such a beautifully impressive story that is beyond five stars for me & a definite new favorite! CW: Domestic abuse (in a prior relationship), PTSD from said abuse. (Massive thanks to Tor Books for sending me a copy!) **The quotes above were taken from an ARC & are subject to change upon publication**

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rhian Pritchard

    Well, damn. We're gonna sell a lot of this. It's not as complex or layered as Chambers or Leckie or some of the other authors it's been compared to, but it is a sci-fi novel that answers my prayers about the face of sci-fi changing. It's exactly the kind of thing that publishing has been missing out on for so long, and I hope it's far from the only novel like this that's coming our way. It's also not going to suit a lot of classic sci-fi readers, and to be perfectly honest, I am very excited abo Well, damn. We're gonna sell a lot of this. It's not as complex or layered as Chambers or Leckie or some of the other authors it's been compared to, but it is a sci-fi novel that answers my prayers about the face of sci-fi changing. It's exactly the kind of thing that publishing has been missing out on for so long, and I hope it's far from the only novel like this that's coming our way. It's also not going to suit a lot of classic sci-fi readers, and to be perfectly honest, I am very excited about that. There are so many people who don't read sci-fi because nothing about it appeals to them, and this book is going to change that. This is a light, easy, comforting read that nevertheless tackles some pretty damn deep and difficult themes. There's a pretty hefty trigger warning for domestic abuse, for starters, even before you add the disintegrating interplanetary politics. Most importantly, it's a showcase of the best that A03 has to offer. Crap like fifty shades has tainted public opinion of fanfic and fandom culture, and it's such a relief to finally see the other side of the coin - the books that hundreds of thousands of people have read and loved because they're really, really good.

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