I received this book from Little, Brown Book Group UK (Orbit) via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Iskat Empire rules its vassal planets through a system of treaties – so when Prince Taam, key figure in a political alliance, is killed, a replacement must be found. His widower, Jainan, is rushed into an arranged marriage with the disreputable aristocrat Kiem, in a bid to keep rising hostilities between two worlds under control. But Prince Taam’s death may not have been an accident, and when Jainan himself is a suspect, he and Kiem must navigate the perils of the Iskat court, solve a murder, and prevent an interplanetary war . . .
‣ POV: 3rd Person, from the povs of Kiem and Jainan only
‣ Summary in Emojis: 🌌🚀👑📜💎👨❤️👨
‣ Trigger and Content Warnings: mental torture, physical violence, domestic abuse
I don’t generally read Sci-Fi but how could I turn down a premise that is Ancillary Justice meets Red, White & Royal Blue? I couldn’t, and I’m so glad I put my concerns about Sci-Fi aside because this debut was amazing!
So this is a book with an intriguing murder mystery, and some fascinating politics to keep the plot moving–but at its heart it’s a captivating love story, and I just fell headfirst for this charming slow-burn romance.
The main characters, Kiem and Jainan, were brilliantly multi-faceted creations, whose insecurities and fears were fully explored throughout the book. They play off each other wonderfully with Kiem being the charming one, used to socialising and making friends easily, and Jainan being more closed off, always thinking his actions through carefully before he commits to anything. It makes their relationship an interesting one as they slowly uncover each other’s layers and learn to trust one another. Their attraction is definitely a slow burn, even though Kiem does find Jainan handsome from the beginning, those feelings aren’t acted on straight away. I loved that they didn’t jump straight in, they spent the time to really get to know one another first. There are a few misunderstandings along the way but they are quickly cleared up.
The murder mystery took a backseat to most of the politics in the book, there’s a lot of struggles between all the different planets as they volley for power. The action mostly takes place in the second part of the book, and a lot of the first half is made up of conversations, and the subtle power struggles that take place in the palace. The world building was decent, although, like I said, I don’t generally read Sci-Fi but I thought Maxwell did a good job at setting the scene for her space opera. It’s not a hard Sci-Fi by any means but it is a very enjoyable and easy read.
I loved the representation in this story! This is a world that Maxwell has created and it is wonderful in its inclusivity, there are all kinds of sexualities, all kinds of genders, people can choose to display their gender or hide it if they wish. You have a woman called the Emperor, and another called Prince. Both Kiem and Jainan are coloured and it was all just so lovely to read a book where this is all seen as normal. We need more of this in fiction!
It’s hinted at the end that there might be more books in this Universe and I really hope there will be. Even if they’re not about Kiem and Jainan I just crave more in this series, I love Maxwell’s writing and I’m very intrigued to find out more about the planets, the Auditors and the remnants.
All in all Winter’s Orbit is a wonderfully charming love story, an adventure in space, and an experience in space politics. A magnificent debut and I can’t wait to see what Maxwell writes next!