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.
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.
My god. I did not expect to love this one as much as I did but I am so so dearly happy I picked this up. Shoutout to my discord friends for putting this one on my radar because despite practically living on the Ao3 ‘Original Work’ tag, I someone managed to miss this? Also shoutout to the friends who emailed me an ebook copy of the Ao3 version for me to read, even though I never ended up getting to it by the time Tor sent me a copy. I was just absolutely delighted with this lovely space opera romance.
The number one selling point of Winter’s Orbit is our arranged marriage power couple: playboy Prince Klem and man with a Ph.D. and a shitty dead husband Jainen. If you can’t tell already, their dynamic is High EQ/Low IQ (Klem) meets High IQ/Zero EQ (Jainen) and my god they work so well together. Their sheer chemistry drives, despite circumstances neither party really wishes they would be in, is just absolutely delightful to read. Yes there’s a lot of miscommunication at the beginning, where Jainen thinks Klem is Just Being Nice because he has to for social media’s sake and Klem things Jainen’s still not over the dead ex and sometimes you really *really* just want to shove them in a room together until they talk it out, but watching the two of them still work it out and get so so so close, only to not quite make it, truly sends the reader on a roller coaster of emotions. And when they finally do talk it out about halfway through…..AHHHH. Just delightful.
Of the two, I found myself relating to Jainen more. Partially because of his nerdy academic side, but also partially because of his crippling social anxiety that could fuel ten people’s worth of social anxiety. Also Jainen’s an engineer and I’m an engineer and therefor I’m obligated to love him. There are times one reads and just immediately adopts a character. For me, Jainen was one such character. Watching Jainen slowly open up his shell, slowly come to work with and trust Klem was just so so satisfying to read. Likewise, watching Jainen slowly work through some of the issues that his previous marriage brought on and develop into such a strong character was just lovely. Klem being the supportive boyfriend, cheering Jainen on in the background was just similarly fantastic.
Naturally, the romance takes center stage, but I was pleasantly surprised by how strong the worldbuilding was. Klem and Jainen are leaders in what’s really a tiny, backwater section of the galaxy, where our focus is on Klem’s governing planet, along with several ancillaries like Jainen’s. We get strong glimpses into the government (and it’s failings), the leadership and military power struggles, and cultural tensions between said ruling and ancillary planets. I find myself fairly picky with sci-fi world building, but Maxwell does a fantastic job of bringing this world to life, especially with Jainen’s academia sectors. It definitely makes me thing Maxwell is/has been through grad school with some of the academia jokes.
Overall, I rate this book a 5/5. I absolutely loved the chemistry between Jainen and Klem and I just cannot wait to read more about them. There’s a lot of open questions left in the worldbuilding and I’m excited to see where this series goes.
r/Fantasy Bingo Squares:
- Setting Featuring Snow, Ice or Cold
- Optimistic SFF (hard mode)
- Romantic Fantasy
- Novel Featuring Politics