Winter's Orbit by Everina Maxwell

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Winter's Orbit by Everina Maxwell

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Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Amber Wells
Reviewed by Amber Wells
Summary: Originally published on the Hugo-winning fiction site Archive of Our Own (AO3), it is not hard to see why Maxwell's original version of this story took the no. 1 in spot popularity on that site.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: February 2021
Publisher: Orbit
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0356515885

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Prince Kiem is a famous political disappointment. He's outgoing, carefree, and has gotten into many drunken scandals over the past few years. So when an important political alliance is to be arranged – one that is supposed to prevent an interplanetary war – no one expects him to be chosen for the role. Least of all him.

He is rushed into an arranged marriage with Jainan: a Thean representative who was previously married to Kiem's cousin – Prince Taam. As they try to keep the rising hostilities between the two planets at bay, it quickly comes to their attention that Prince Taam's death may not have been an accident like they have been told. Worst of all, they discover that Jainan himself is looking like a likely suspect. They must work together to solve this mystery, all while navigating the intricate politics of the Iskat court, preventing an interplanetary war, and hiding the growing feelings they have for each other.

From the opening pages of this book, I knew I was going to fall in love with it. Maxwell's characters are so strongly crafted that it felt like I knew everything about them immediately. Kiem is your classic playboy prince, flashing a smile and winning hearts wherever he goes. But he is also such a softie on the inside; he really cares about people and how others feel, making sure that he can help them with whatever they need and fighting the small injustices of the world. Jainan on the other hand is stone-faced, introverted, and incredibly socially awkward. He second guesses every encounter he has and is a constant bundle of nerves despite his smooth exterior. I loved them both immensely, and they will definitely be characters that stick around in my head for many years to come.

Although this is labelled as a Science Fiction novel, I would definitely say that there is a much stronger focus on the romance aspect of this story rather than your typical sci-fi elements. Kiem and Jainan's relationship is set up perfectly from the beginning; they are complete opposites who complement each other flawlessly, yet they are both too blind to understand the other's true emotions. The both of them try to subdue their growing feelings because they believe that the other would not be interested, and after reading from both of their perspectives, it is easy to see why they would believe that. It builds up tension and creates an incredibly slow burn romance that is fuelled by miscommunication and insecurity. Sometimes I find miscommunication as a plot device to be incredibly frustrating, but in this instance, I really enjoyed it.

Despite everything I just said about this novel being heavily focused on the romance, Maxwell has still managed to craft a complex and compelling world. The politics, inequalities, and corruption faced by the smaller planets are entirely believable, as well as the bitterness and distrust that comes along with it. There was also a refreshing take on how gender and sexuality is presented in the novel; gender is expressed by articles of clothing instead of societal assumptions, and same sex couples don't raise any eyebrows. Differences are seen as normal, and there is never any emphasis on demonising this – which was wonderful.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this whirlwind of a novel, and would further recommend Seven Devils by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May

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