Winter's Orbit by Everina Maxwell
Reviewed by Cardyn Brooks
YA SciFi romantic suspense
Compulsive bon vivant Prince Kiem of Iskat and dutiful Thean, subject of the empire Count Jainan, are maneuvered into an arranged marriage that makes them an odd couple in more ways than one. Their public personae, private housekeeping habits, and personal expectations for their sudden union diverge, but their equal commitment to the success of their shared diplomatic mandate aligns. Now all they need to do is figure out who they can trust, solve multiple mysteries, keep secrets from some people and share them with others, avoid getting arrested or killed, and preserve the treaty that keeps the peace between competing political entities in their galaxy. These two 20-something strangers who are each struggling with their own insecurities need to handle all of those challenges—in less than a month. So of course circumstances collide in ways that threaten to defeat them at every stage of their quest.
In Winter's Orbit, clever world building creates a dynamic backdrop for an engaging smashup of a SciFi adventure, how-and why-done-it investigative mystery suspenseful romance that's emotionally reminiscent of The Proposal in its poignant, sometimes comic reversal of marriage and courtship. Nods to Machiavelli show up in the twisty political intrigue. Same-sex unions and non-binary designations as unremarkable norms plus superficial ornamentation as primary indicators of gender smoothly integrate subtle social commentary into this beautifully composed, multilayered love story. The occasional f-word and a few other curse words (maybe one dozen total) along with tender foreplay and afterglow regarding physical intimacy make Kiem and Jainan's saga a sweet romance that delivers profound emotional complexity in addition to thrilling drama.
Carina Press, March 9, 2021