Book Review: Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell


Genre : Science Fiction, Romance

Publisher : Tor Books

Length : 432 pages

Format : eARC

Rating : 4 stars

Publication Date: February 2nd 2021


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.


The Empire of Iskat has to renew a treaty with the Resolution to prevent an intergalactic war. However, a few months before the event, an Imperial Prince who was a treaty representative dies in an accident. His former partner Jainan, a representative of a vassal planet of the Empire, is rushed into a new arranged marriage with Prince Kiem to keep up the appearance of unity in front of the Resolution.

Jainan and Kiem are not too happy with this arrangement but they have to appear like the perfect couple in front of the Auditor. Jainan is a shy scientist from small vassal planet of Thea, Kiem is a socialite known in the Empire for being a troublemaker. The match isn’t exactly made in heaven but both men don’t have the luxury to refuse a direct request from the Emperor. However, Jainan and Kiem soon realizes that Jainan’s former partner may not have died in an accident like everyone was led to believe. If they don’t find the real cause of his death, the treaty won’t be renewed. The two men have to work together the find the culprit… and save the Empire.

I was expecting this book to be very romance-heavy but, while the arranged marriage is an important element of the story, I think that even people who don’t like to read romance will enjoy this one. Indeed, the story is focused on the unification treaty and the investigation behind the death of Taam, Jainan’s former partner. The political relationship between the Empire and its vassal planets is at the heart of the story.  This book is mainly focused on the relation between Thea and Iskat since Jainan is Thean and Kiem is an Imperial Prince but other planets play a role in the story.

It was fascinating to discover the world Maxwell created in Winter’s Orbit. This book is a standalone story but I hope the author will revisit it in other books. I really liked reading about the dynamic between the Empire and the vassals planets but I was even more intrigued by the Resolution and its role in the galaxy. It might be because of my line of work but I couldn’t see the Resolution as anything other than a certification body for galactic alliances.

Indeed, the role of the Resolution is to maintain the peace in the universe and to check the treaties between different systems and intergalactic organizations. They also take care of objects that they deem too powerful to be kept by planets. It’s the case of remnants: pieces from ancient civilizations that can be turned into powerful weapons. I have to admit that I still have a number of questions regarding the remnants, I want to know what they are exactly and the Resolution is doing with them – are they just locked somewhere or are they used by the Resolution? I want to know! 😂

I really liked how queer this book was! Jainan and Kiem are in a relationship and it’s completely normal, Kiem has had sexual relationships with men and women and again, nobody cares. People from every planet indicate their gender by using different signs. On Iskat, people use earrings to indicate their gender – the material indicates if they identify as male, female or non-binary. On Thea, people use scarves to do so. I thought this was a great system to avoid any misgendering (as long as people knows the customs from different planets).

I also really liked the characters; my favorites were of course Kiem and Jainan even if their lack of communication almost drove me crazy around the halfway mark. I don’t usually like the miscommunication trope in romance because it’s usually only there to prevent the protagonists from working things out but, I understand why it was used in Winter’s Orbit. We learn early on that Jainan’s former partner wasn’t exactly as perfect as he appeared to be and because of that, Jainan is very hesitant to trust Kiem. Kiem is an adorable goofball but since he doesn’t know about Jainan’s complicated past, he doesn’t understand why they are unable to work together and he keeps on making mistakes.

I still wish the two characters had been able to talk things out sooner (very mild spoiler: they start talking openly about their feelings around the 55% mark and at this point I was very frustrated with them). However, I understood why they both acted the way they did so I was still rooting for them the entire time. I also liked the side characters quite a bit. My favorite is Bel, Kiem’s aide, she was so badass and competent! 😀

Winter’s Orbit was lot of fun, I loved the characters and the worldbuilding and while the plot was kind of predictable (I spotted one of the bad guys as soon as they were introduced), I still had a great time with it. Winter’s Orbit is a very solid debut and I’m looking forward to Maxwell’s future works!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for a honest review. My thanks to Tor Books. All opinions are my own.

14 thoughts on “Book Review: Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

  1. I loved this too! I know what you mean about the frustration with all the misunderstandings between Kiem and Jainan, it drove me crazy too, but for some reason I was ultimately OK with it. I did just hear that there is going to be another book in this world, with different main characters. So that’s something to look forward to!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I started this one today so I’ve been trying to avoid specific details in all the reviews I’ve been coming across in order to go in with fresh eyes! I’m encouraged by your rating though, especially as I’ve been hearing some mixed opinions, especially about the miscommunication issue and some complaints about how it feels “fanfiction-y” – here’s hoping I do well with it!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Since I’m not very romantically-inclined in my reading material, it’s strange how curious I am about this book despite its much-discussed romance angle: probably because I’ve by now learned that it’s not the focus of the story and that I can expect from it both a compelling read and some interesting characters – which your review promises I will find 😉
    Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not always the biggest fan of romance in books (I indulge in a few romance books a year but I usually prefer when the romance is in the background) but it worked well in the context of the story and I think the plot has “enough meat” to be intriguing even for readers who don’t usually like romance! 🙂
      My pleasure! 😀

      Liked by 2 people

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