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Winter's Orbit #1

Winter's Orbit

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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 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.

432 pages, Hardcover

First published February 2, 2021

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Everina Maxwell

6 books1,416 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,462 reviews
Profile Image for chai ♡.
321 reviews153k followers
August 17, 2022
There is truly nothing the restive embrace of a good story cannot fix; and Winter’s Orbit is a damn good story.

I had the opportunity to read an early copy of this book 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 could shut off its rigor and everything in me would settle 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.

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 many 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.

(spoilers ahead)

Jainan’a chapters are some of the novel’s most painful and wounding sections. From the moment we meet him, Jainan carries himself with the flinching weariness of a man with memories that require iron cages, kept still and quiet and captive so they did not devour him whole. This comes with a sense of foreboding, a whisper of wrongness. The reader does not immediately understand why Jainan moves so timidly through his life, always guarded, always careful, like he was waiting for a blow; why he often has to realign his whole world around a single act of kindness; or why everything he thought and did tends towards an all-pervasive self-loathing. Most chilling, however, is the sense that Jainan’s private, repeated mantras carry 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, that 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 after they’re freed from their abusers. It’s a devastating topic, 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 takes a very long time to find it and address it. It casts a vast, horrible shadow over your relationships and leaves you unmoored. There are so few literary accounts of domestic abuse in queer relationships (something I read a while ago about it still haunts me: “when your love is taboo, so are its violences.”) so stories like Winter’s Orbit are crucial in expanding the scope of the queer experience.

Prince Kiem, on the other hand, offers a very good counterpart to Jainan. Kiem has carefully constructed his reputation as the evanescently charming, scandal-prone prince who leads an unfettered life, and he did it in much the same way one might erect a brick façade, or drape armor around their body. One of the novel’s most rewarding moments is seeing Kiem with his defenses lowered, his shields abandoned on the ground, the barricades abraded, revealing someone who’s so achingly familiar and undeniably loveable. Beyond the charming façade is someone who is insecure and self-effacing, tragically concerned and affected by other people’s unfavorable opinions of him. Kiem can also be naive sometimes: by his own admission, he had not cared for the intricacies of war and politics and has banished from his thoughts all of the Empire and its tumultuous affairs. But when the fog of complacency and ignorance lift, forcing Kiem to confront several uncomfortable truths, he throws himself headlong into unearthing the secrets lodged under the Empire’s skin, holding them into the light and calling for wrongs to be set aright, in what is a beautiful display of character-development.

Jainan and Kiem could not be any more different. Where Kiem is loud and chaotic and draws all eyes like a flare, Jainan is a world unto himself, intense and quiet and with a shadow’s talent for passing unremarked. And for long stretches of the novel, they both keep an invisible barbed wire between them. I loved how Kiem falls in love with Jainan in one swift motion, clear and unmistakable, and how slowly he eases open Jainan’s heart like a book, mindful of the places, still tender and aching, where the past left its bruises. On the other hand, I loved how Jainan always stood by Kiem’s side, and how, in turn, he slowly learns to let go and trust that Kiem’s embrace would break his fall. Winter’s Orbit is truly about the longing. At times, Kiem and Jainan’s relationship feels as delicate as a sigh, fragile and tentative. The will-they-won’t-they back and forth drove me INSANE, and I wanted to scream at them to “PLEASE JUST KISS”.

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!
Profile Image for jessica.
2,534 reviews32.4k followers
May 29, 2021
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 and political scheming will enjoy this. but if you are wanting a sci-fi romance, i would suggest reading something else.

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Ellie.
575 reviews2,119 followers
January 12, 2021
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
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 58 books8,110 followers
July 8, 2021
Sci-fi romance, heavier on the romance, with a lot of pining and hurt/comfort. I wasn't surprised to see this originated on AO3: there's a very distinctive quality in the setup, structure and pacing. Someone ought to do a full linguistic study on this, because it's fascinating how this entire genre has developed. Ideally comparing it to the early lays/medieval romances in the use of tropes and stylistic gestures. Or something.
Profile Image for Philip.
500 reviews672 followers
February 3, 2021
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
Profile Image for Hamad.
1,009 reviews1,327 followers
February 12, 2021
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!
Profile Image for michelle xie ✧.
108 reviews36 followers
January 29, 2021
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for giving me this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Believe me, giving this book a 1-star rating upsets me greatly. I love the blurb and I thought I would really love this book. In fact, it was one of my highest anticipated 2021 releases. I love science fiction. I love space opera. I love the political arranged marriage trope. Basically, at first glance this should've been the perfect book for me. Unfortunately, it turns out to be a really disappointing read.

First of all, I really didn't enjoy reading this book. I usually like slow books but the thing with Winter's Orbit is the fact that nothing really happened in the first half. I was extremely bored because it took a REALLY long time to get into the actual plot. The plot picked up around 75% through but by then, it's too late to pique my interest. It took me quite awhile to finish this book even though usually I'm a fast reader.

And then, my main complaint about this book; MISCOMMUNICATION TROPE GALORE. This is my least favorite trope ever and honestly I wouldn't read this book if I knew this trope would play such a huge role in it. It's very frustrating to read because all of their problems would be easily solved if only they're WILLING to talk to each other. It's so tiring because the first half (or maybe even 3/4 of the book?) is basically miscommunication upon miscommunication upon miscommunication and so on.

Next, the lack of solid worldbuilding. I was so excited to read this book because I'm a sucker for sci-fi, especially space opera, but turns out the worldbuilding in Winter's Orbit was never really fleshed out. We got a few glimpses of the world here and there but well, that's it. It's such a shame because I think the world is pretty interesting and I wish we could've gotten more information about it.

Last but not least, I must stress that this book may not be particularly bad, but it's definitely not for me. I feel like this is actually a matter of preference and I'm sure this book is another reader's cup of tea. Go read it and judge it for yourself!
Profile Image for Madison.
607 reviews329 followers
January 7, 2021
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.
Profile Image for Frankie.
482 reviews122 followers
February 18, 2021
GOOD MORNING, WORLD!! THIS AMAZING BOOK RELEASES TODAY! You might want to grab a copy soon ;)

Or read my review down below:

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.
Profile Image for Heather K (dentist in my spare time).
3,859 reviews5,634 followers
December 28, 2021
I was eagerly anticipating Winter's Orbit by debut author Everina Maxwell, but, alas, I should know to curb my expectations of newbie authors by now.

Winter's Orbit was... interesting. The world-building felt very convoluted, but I was willing to go along for the ride if the payoff was an amazing story. However, I spent the first part of the book mucking through tons of secondary characters and a messy political story that I had little interest in. The book really centers around a convoluted political situation that I didn't even fully understand at the end of the book, so if you are wanted a more character-focused story, look elsewhere.

The romance was also extremely disappointing. I kept waiting and waiting for the two MCs to get together, but it was one miscommunication after another. I've found that new authors rely heavily on miscommunication to build tension in a plot, and that was certainly the case here. The romance was frustratingly underdeveloped, and it was glaringly obvious that one of the MCs was put through the literal wringer in his previous relationship. It was hard to see how the other MC didn't notice something was wrong.

While the book had potential, I seriously debated DNFing it at 90%, just because I was so over the story. Not what I was hoping for.

Profile Image for Lauren Lanz.
686 reviews247 followers
March 3, 2021
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.
Profile Image for solanne.
196 reviews479 followers
June 7, 2022
so apparently i did sell my soul to this intergalactic queer romance after all


when i tell you i’m OBSESSED with both this cover and this premise i mean i would sell my actual soul for a copy
Profile Image for cel ✼ readwithcel.
236 reviews444 followers
March 31, 2023
“i have nothing to be ashamed of. i might be easy to manipulate. but i am very difficult to break.”

so i guess winter’s orbit has officially converted me into a sci-fi person huh.

after prince taam dies, his widow, count jainan, is forced into an arranged marriage with prince kiem to maintain a delicate inter-galaxy alliance. circumstances aren’t ideal for both men, but when jainan is implicated in prince taam's death, they begin to work together, learn to heal and trust each other, solve the mystery, and prevent interplanetary war.

world building in sci-fi can be tremendous and when its combined with politics, my two brain cells quake. this one was manageable though and the political intrigue was enough to keep me hooked. if you asked, i could probably vaguely explain the world building to you, just not verbally simply because i cannot pronounce most names (e.g. hren halesar. me: hen racecar). it’s a soft space opera but beyond that, it shines as a character study and i am a hoe for characters.

my love for kiem was immediate. the wayward, scandal-magnet prince. an absolute himbo, a golden retriever, gently optimistic as he tries to be good to jainan, to make up for past mistakes. so genuine and eager to right the wrongs of those before him.

the most painful sections of the story belong to jainan. he appears detached and austere, but from the start your heart aches for him. and as you discover more about the secrets that plague him, that ache grows and so does the desire to create a gofundme so you can pay ms everina maxwell to write you into the book to give jainan a hug.

and then the yearning! pining in the arranged marriage trope just hits different! the navigation between “oh heck i’ve truly fallen for him” vs. “oh no surely he feels bound by duty and doesn’t reciprocate my feelings” vs. “nah that act of tenderness doesn’t mean anything” but then the pov switches and the mutual yearning is so strong that it rattles your bones. its good stuff.

like yes! huddle together for warmth! offer to catch him but its an excuse to hold him close to your chest! touch your cheek in tender amazement and wonder after he gives you a peck on the cheek! you fools, now kiss!

kiem and jainan have jagged edges that fit together perfectly. how kiem fell in love with jainan and was always kind and gentle, never overstepping and respecting his past bruises, the way they grew to see the good in each other that they were blind to seeing in themselves.

one might even say this story was…out of this world.

content warnings: domestic abuse (physical, emotional, psychological), gaslighting, torture, violence
Profile Image for Marieke (mariekes_mesmerizing_books).
468 reviews275 followers
January 19, 2022
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.

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Profile Image for Maisha  Farzana (on hiatus).
551 reviews215 followers
August 21, 2022
I LOVED THIS BOOK SOO MUCH....(after what feels like a lifetime), I have found a space opera which I absolutely loved.

I just want to reach through the pages, get inside the book somehow and hug Jainan. The horrors he witnessed, the trauma he had to went through- broke my heart. Jainan deserves the whole world. And I am so glad he found Kiem.
Profile Image for tappkalina.
650 reviews399 followers
April 10, 2023
"I know you don't like asking for help," Kiem said carefully, "but you could keep in mind that I've got a duty to you too."

Whoever compared this book to R,W&Rb, was a hundred percent correct, because personality-wise Kiem and Jainan are literally Alex and Henry. And I loved them so much.

I didn't want to know what Jainan's previous partner did to him, because when I just started to suspect something bad happened to him, I was already an emotional mess.
The way he couldn't understand and accept that Kiem was treating him right, like a normal human being would, hurt me on a physical level. How could he think this? :
He could identify the odd sadness now. It came from the same source as the joy: life had been good to him, unexpectedly, but it wasn’t fair to try and stretch it out.

All this man needed was a hug and someone to tell him he is safe now and everything will be okay.

It also amazed me how much they tried to communicate, how both of them tried so hard to make the situation easier for the other, but it felt like they don't speak the same language and the more they tried to understand each other the more confused they got and somehow it just got worse every time. It was truly painful to watch.

So the main characters were immaculate, but sadly I didn't care about the sci-fi plot. Probably because I don't like military stuff, I don't know.

I'm excited for Ocean's Echo though and will definitely check out anything the author publishes next.
Profile Image for Virginia Ronan ♥ Herondale ♥.
531 reviews34.5k followers
April 8, 2023
I’m on BookTube now! =)

The fact I enjoyed this book so much! <333
This was awesome and I loved the world building and our two MCs. Such a good slow-burn relationship but boy, did I suffer with Jainan and Kiem.
And speaking of Prince Kiem! HE DESERVES THE WORLD! My new book bf! <3 Just love him to bits and pieces.

Full RTC soon! Why aren’t more people talking about this book?!!


I’m a simple person. You tell me “Winter’s Orbit” is an m/m romance that plays in space and I’ll be like: “Ohh I’m intrigued.”
If you add court intrigues, an arranged marriage and two princes who distrust each other at first but then fall in love? Well, all I’ll say is “I’m sold.” *lol*

So yep, this book seems to have everything I just mentioned and I’ve been dying to read it. Thankfully my library just got it and I was among the first people to snatch it off the shelf.

Plus I've been told this is a good choice for the #transrightsreadathon that's happening this week on Instagram and since I wanted to participate (even if it's just in a small way) to read this book seemed to be a good way to do just that.

I’m ready to dive into this book, are you as well? =)

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Profile Image for Books with Brittany.
645 reviews3,164 followers
March 6, 2021
I absolutely loved some things about this book & really didn’t like others....
Profile Image for Amy Imogene Reads.
928 reviews798 followers
February 22, 2021
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.

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Profile Image for Sahitya.
1,033 reviews206 followers
January 18, 2021

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.
Profile Image for micah ➳ canonicallychaotic.
162 reviews208 followers
April 1, 2023
8.10.21 — you know it’s real when i finish a book and immediately add it to my physical and goodreads fave shelves.

3.12.22 — still hits !! still hurts!! still makes me lose my whole mind before putting me back together!!

8.11.22 — i cried through the whole last chapter sos

(initial review!)

“kiem wasn’t even sure what they’d had between them, but there had been something that had made jainan smile when kiem came into the room, something kiem had been trying desperately not to hold too hard, in case he broke it. he might be breaking it now.”

i finished winter's orbit the other day and haven't stopped thinking about it since. i immediately added it to my goodreads' fave shelf, then made space for it on my physical faves shelf. this book and its characters are gonna stick with me for a long time.

after his husband, prince taam, dies, count jainan is quickly arranged into a new marriage with the charismatic prince kiem. neither man is entirely onboard with the arrangement given the circumstances, but their partnership is intrinsic to ensure political alliances remain intact before treaties are to be renewed and signed. in the arranged marriage, the two men become something like allies as they get to know each other and solve the mystery of taam's death–because jainan is being investigated as a suspect. and then—“oh no i have a crush on the man i was forced to marry.” (that’s it that’s the book)

sci-fi and i are begrudging friends (world building makes brain hurt). and so are me and stories that involve politics (more brain hurt). what i need to tie me to a story, no matter what setting or tropes are used, is characters.

winter’s orbit has the politics and the sci-fi, but also has characters that i fell in love with and really wanted to see through to the end. prince kiem is talkative and full of life and i loved him so much. he’s working hard to make up for the reputation he had previously made for himself. and he just wants to give jainan a good life, even if neither of them signed up for this life.

now, count jainan. god. i love him so much. he is bound by duty. he just wants the best for his home planet of thea, and to be a good husband, first to taam and later to kiem. he is so much more than what you see at first—quiet, solemn, smart—as we begin to explore his backstory and his relationship with his first husband. my heart aches for him throughout the book and i just want to hold him. sometimes reading his point of view made me cry. there are some characters you read and you just feel so helpless as an observer. i really felt that with jainan.

we witness them grow together. both as partners and on their own. the way they each change by knowing each other. how they overcome their pasts, how they learn to see themselves the way the other sees them. how they

the story wouldn’t be what it was without these two as well as every other character around them—whether or not they were the ones you wanted to support or ones you wanted to punch directly in the face.

“but micah what about the actual sci-fi? the politics?” honestly. i think i got most of it. i was able to follow it through and it kept me captivated and i really think the author did a fantastic job at building it all. i mean, i could not explain it to you right now, but i already know this will be a book i come back to later. maybe the next round i’ll read it for the world, but just knowing that i was in this world with them was enough.

content warnings: past abusive relationship (physical, mental, gaslighting), violence & torture
please read with caution. this book is heavy.

(november 2021 reread)

“i might be easy to manipulate. but i am very difficult to break.”

winter’s orbit really lends itself to a reread. i had all the pieces of the story already, i remembered the names of people and planets and cities and titles (they were no longer jumbled keysmash names in my head!). i was able to focus more on the world building. i came to understand the politics—who played what role and why they were important. i understood the stakes more this round. rereading just really made me love and appreciate the book more. and even though i already knew how it ended, i still was on my toes.

incredibly, i fell even more in love with kiem and jainan. for a lot of books, i can tell you what character i kin more. but for this one if you made me choose between kiem and jainan i would simply start crying under the pressure. i love them both so much. and again—i knew how it would end. but my heart still ached.

i tried something new while rereading—color coded tabs for annotating. i’ve tabbed fantasy books before for world building, but since my first read of winter’s orbit was mostly on audio i didn’t do that last time. this time i was able to tab that and more. and by more i mean moments that kiem and jainan were obviously in love with each other and didn’t realize it. it made for such a satisfying reading experience.
Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
839 reviews3,759 followers
February 15, 2021
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

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Profile Image for Evy.
312 reviews18 followers
February 9, 2021
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 :)


(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*
Profile Image for Kiki.
193 reviews8,459 followers
October 24, 2022
Another sedative in book form. Holy smokes, this was boring as hell. RIP to anyone who read this during finals week or when they've got a newborn.

Jokes aside, this is a pretty well-written book, and I did like one of the main characters. That being Jainan. Kiem is exactly the kind of irritating, childish idiot who would use weaponised incompetence to get out of doing the dishes and who, at the age of...what? 25? still can't read a goddamn room. I wouldn't generally see this as something that's as prevalent in gay couples as it is in straight ones, but it fits here, because the romance in this book was obviously written with straight couples in mind.

Jainan feels like a straight woman from 2022. And please don't misunderstand me there. I am gay and genderqueer. I don't like this "men think this way" and "women think this way". That would be wildly hypocritical of me. In-universe, I don't think Jainan is especially like or unlike the other male characters. But this book doesn't exist in a vacuum. I've read a lot of m/m romance written by women, and you can tell that this was too, because the way the relationship is constructed (i.e. my prior point withstanding, that the male-placeholder character uses weaponised incompetence, while the female-placeholder tolerates said behaviour with a sort of fond boys-will-be-boys attitude) feels very heterosexual. It certainly feels like it was written for straight women to be able to insert themselves into. Of course, for this reason, wlw people are notably sidelined.

Also, the idea of using pieces of jewellery to denote gender sounds good at first glance, and obviously comes from a desire to be inclusive, but it actually doesn't work at all. Using gendered pieces of clothing to suggest a more liberal society is bizarre. And what about people who can't afford jewellery? Or who don't want to wear jewellery? People with sensory issues? People who might be reasonably averse to wearing glass or metal jewellery against their skin in sub-zero temperatures? This jewellery thing also treats nonbinary as a third gender, which it isn't; nonbinary is an umbrella term and encompasses various genders (or lack thereof!). Furthermore, pronouns do not equal gender, but when the characters see someone wearing a piece of glass jewellery, they're like, "That's a nonbinary person; they must be they/them, and we'll refer to them as they/them." That's not how it works. At all. People of any gender can use any pronouns. Stormé DeLarverie, a famous butch lesbian activist who reportedly threw the first punch at Stonewall, was known to often use he/him or they/them pronouns.

But this just has all the general mlm tropes that you mind find in a Tor hardcover. A downtrodden, self-hating, unlucky-in-love gay; his confident but secretly not confident bi love interest; various female satellite characters who fill administrative roles and give quippy one-liners; cute kissing scenes, but vague, cut-away sex scenes with no dicks or bodily fluids; forced proximity; clumsy but ultimately well-meaning attempts at wider gender inclusivity (which never, may I add, includes the mains; they are always cis).

Where have we seen this before. Red, White and Royal Blue, A Strange and Stubborn Endurance, Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, A Taste of Gold and Iron, Captive Prince*.

I don't think this is necessarily bad. I don't want you to think I'm shitting on this book or its genre. But it is worth noting that all of the books I mentioned before were written by women or afab people. I suppose it's a safe formula, especially when you're arguably writing about an experience you haven't had, but still. When you make an active effort to read queer media, you notice it. This is not to say that I don't think women shouldn't write mlm, or men shouldn't write wlw, because I've actually read some really good queer romances from people who were writing outside of their lane. But I will note that I recently read Ben Alderson's Lord of Eternal Night, which was cheesy and bad (in a good, funny way) but which felt like a gay book written by a gay man, in that the central romance did not adhere to heterosexual tropes, was obviously not written solely to appeal to straight women, and yet still allowed its male characters to be gloriously melodramatic and fruity. The same thing can be seen in Gideon the Ninth, A Memory Called Empire, and The Priory of the Orange Tree. Gideon the Ninth is particularly excellent in that its lesbian rep is so powerfully relatable and authentic. It was written by a lesbian for lesbians and you can tell.

[Psst. If you want a really good gay romance, read Shades of Grey by Brooke McKinley. It's a timeless banger. I reread it every few years and I still to this day love it.

Also, *don't get it twisted. Captive Prince slaps and when my time comes to meet my maker I want to be cremated with my copies of it.]

Anyway. This book wasn't dreadful, per se, but it is boring. The characters are lacklustre. The mystery plot is messy. The twist can be guessed at the 70 page mark (I'm notoriously stupid when it comes to guessing twists, but even I got this one). I think me and this author will just amicably, quietly part ways here and promise never to darken one another's doors again.


P.S. Exquisite Corpse is one of the best queer books I have ever read, and was written by a gay trans man about gay men, but it is extremely fucking disturbing and is not a romance by any stretch of the imagination. I wouldn't say that I recommend it, because it's so incredibly dark and horrifying, but if you want to read it I wouldn't tell you not to. Just consider yourself warned.
Profile Image for Virginja ↢ 99% imp.
180 reviews106 followers
February 3, 2021

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.
Profile Image for Starlah.
393 reviews1,597 followers
June 15, 2021
actual rating: 4.5 stars

This book is the perfect mixture of science fiction, mystery, political intrigue, and of course, romance. We're following a tumultuous political alliance between several planets within the Iskat empire, namely Thea. When the Imperial Prince Taam tragically dies, his Thean widow, Jainan, is rushed into an arranged marriage with Taam's cousin, a disreputable Kiem, in hopes of taming hostilities between the empires and continuing the peace treaty between people. On top of following these two men trying to learn to navigate their new marriage, news that Prince Taam's death may not have been an accident and that Jainan himself is a suspect, cause tthe pair to work together, learn to trust one another, to try to solve the murder, navigate the Iskat court, and prevent interplanetary war ... all along the way, they begin to grow feeling for one another.

I was immediately drawn to these characters; investing in their lives. I quickly found both of them very likeable and easy to root for. Their both so charming in their own ways. Kiem - the "least favorite grandson of the Emperor" - is easygoing and kind but often lets his nerves get the better of him and often ends up with his own foot in his mouth. Jainan is smart, strong and dutiful, but extremely anxious and working through trauma. (I will protect him at all costs!)

The writing of this was effortlessly entertaining. It was easy to read and get absorbed in; easy to imagine the world around us, and when paired with just real, familiar characters, and a plot that had me invested from page one, this was immensely enjoyable!

We truly get the best of both worlds in this book as it starts as a sort of slice-of-life, contemporary, character-driven science fiction story. But the story isn't always lighthearted. The focus shifts fairly quickly from lighthearted tropes like royals, arranged marriage, forced proximity, oblivious characters, to more serious, darker themes including, but not limited to, political consequences, cover-up murders, looming war, abuse, and trauma.

Kiem and Jainan were truly the greatest part of this story. I love them! They are so heartbreakingly human. They do have some level of the misunderstanding and miscommunication trope which in many instances can be very annoying and off-putting, but I didn't mind it in this story. I felt the way the characters were characterized and the situations and circumstances we found them in, I found a lot of it to be understandable. I loved how Kiem and Jainan always tried to be kind to one another, even as married strangers. I loved how they grew to be able to see the good in each other that even the other couldn't see in themselves. I loved that they were both adorable awkward. That they learned so much by being together. That they truly cared for and respected each other. I just love them so much!

The only real complaint I would give this is I felt the ending was a little rushed. There were several plotlines that needed to be wrapped up by the end of this standalone, and I feel the book could have benefitted from extending the ending some. I also may just have not wanted it to end ... ever.

I'm extremely impressed by this novel and cannot wait to see what Everina Maxwell comes out with next. I highly recommend this story! It's one of the most immersive books I've read in a hot minute.
Profile Image for Teal.
597 reviews189 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
July 12, 2022
It pains me to give up on this book. It was one of my most anticipated reads of 2021. Good solid well-written science fiction with an m/m romance subplot would presumably be right up my alley. But. It's taken me two months to reach 65% and I cannot make myself go any further.

It's easy to imagine other readers liking this just fine; the issues I had with it feel very much like *my* issues. There are four of them:

1) The POV alternates between the two MCs, one of whom is seriously depressed. Or at least seriously melancholic. And it's obvious he has a history of abuse, although that wasn't made explicit in the part of the story I read. He was trudging through life, so squashed and numb and hopeless that spending time in his POV became unbearable for me. What a downer, I could hardly stand it.

2) The stakes were meaningless to me. Oh noes, the Empire might fall! Uh, okay, I'm fine with that. I'm not gonna root for the perpetuation of an autocracy. Possibly I'm missing some (or lots) of nuance, but the story was all politics-politics-politics, and let me tell you, it's bad enough I have to pay attention to politics in the real world, I sure as hell don't want to have to figure out complex political machinations in a world that doesn't even exist.

3) Miscommunication rules the relationship for the first % of the story. It's a common trope in romance, and often reeks of laziness on the author's part, but here the author put in the work. These guys are from different worlds — literally, different planets — with different cultures, values, etc. Some degree of miscommunication would be inevitable in their situation. But it dragged on past the point where my patience wore out. Like, way past. Way, way past.

4) There was a glitch in the world-building that disrupted my ability to suspend disbelief and sink into the story. An empire has an independent and powerful free press? Eh, I think not. If it hadn't featured so prominently in the story I could have overlooked it, but the news media and its rude, intrusive, belligerent paparazzi-style reporters were pure 20th/21st century, and glaringly out of place in this far-future autocracy.

Oh well. I wanted to love it, but I couldn't love it. I couldn't even finish it. My loss. I hope other readers enjoy it more.
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