Review: Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

Welcome to my tour stop for Winter’s Orbit, Everina Maxwell‘s recently released queer romantic space opera! That simple line would be enough to get this one on my radar but as soon as I read the synopsis, I knew I had to read it now.

Two men maneuvered into a marriage of convenience stumble onto a murder mystery that might just put into question the future of a galactic empire? The inflaming burn of a queer romance and space politics? Extrovert cinnamon roll meets introvert cinnamon roll? My favorite ingredients splashed onto a book right there for my reading pleasure.

For some trick of whatever god I managed to snag an ARC of this highly-anticipated novel, and it was a no-brainer to join the tour too since I was pretty excited about it.

My warm thanks to Tracy Fenton @ Compulsive Readers and Orbit for letting me hop in on the tour and giving me another excuse to promote this one!

Cover & Details

Cover by: Duncan Spilling (design) & Magdiel Lopez (art)
UK cover by: Duncan Spilling (design) & Magdiel Lopez (art)

Published: Orbit (UK) (Feb 4, 2021) & Tor Books (US) (Feb 2, 2021)
Genre(s): Sci-Fi, Space Opera

The Storygraph | Goodreads

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.


Winter’s Orbit is not only a queer romantic space opera perfectly engineered for this generation (and for my soul), it’s an instant serotonin booster and a delight all the way trough.

Everina Maxwell‘s prowess as a writer is evident from start to finish of this entertaining story. The author’s complex main characters face real world problems transposed to a galactic environment, and tangle themselves in a slow burn relationship that is just to die for. Seriously I nearly died like 10 times. Inside. My heart is a tomb where feelings lie. 

Jainan and Kiem rush into a strategic alliance meant to strengthen the political ties between their peoples. In a hasty attempt to satisfy the clauses of a treaty between the Iskat Empire and the Resolution, a mediatorial, intergalactic conglomerate, they must unite in marriage.

Yet the further Jainan and Kiem become entangled, the more they unearth what begins to look like a conspiracy behind the death of Jainan’s previous husband, one that could tilt the balance between Iskat and their vassals. 

Their marriage was meant to save the Empire. Instead, it could destroy it.

Thus, Winter’s Orbit begins, a deliciously frustrating slow burn romance about the effects of abuse on a person’s being, dangerous politics, and the power of the press.

Amidst the taxing diplomacy needed to navigate tenuous covenants, both Jainan and Kiem unravel as deeply scarred characters, each in their own way. It’s a delight to watch them slowly puzzle out one another, each introspectively pining away for each other in a way that pushed my every button! 

I’m talking about scenes where intimacy is the convenient outcome, for perfectly rational reasons. For science, really (yeah, pshh, the science of YEARNING). And yes, I’m a sucker for the good old “oh they’re so out of my league because…” when it causes both parties to long for one another like fools who should clearly just appreciate themselves as much as they appreciate others!! Deep breathe, I’m okay, really.

Don’t ask me why I love this dynamic because that’s a level of self-analysis I haven’t reached. All I know is that I loved how they supported each other’s vulnerabilities, not doing away with them, but complimenting the other’s faults with their own strengths. Gotta love a power couple like that.

As walls begin to crumble (slowly, gloriously slowly), we are caught further into the gravitational orbit of these characters. Jainan’s POV impacted me with such force he’s now one of my favorite characters of all time, I freaking loved him. The exploration of what abuse can do to a person through his character and his POV was brilliant.

“I might be easy to manipulate. But I am very difficult to break.”

I did feel like the cultural divergences didn’t stand out and that there was little focus on other cultures than Iskat, though the fact that didn’t happen does make an apt statement, especially considering Jainan.

For me, it’s the way the book constantly breaches the line between joyful giddiness and sorrow and how it reminded me that the world can be both (perfect timing on Orbit’s/Tor Book’s part).

One minute you’re reading about two cinnamon rolls huddling for warmth, the next you’re getting a ravaging display of one’s psyche or the ominous feeling of galactic empires prowling.

Winter’s Orbit takes well-known and wholly-beloved tropes and crafts them into an original story that puts disaster boyfriends at the forefront of a space opera with a political murder mystery.

A wild race hurdled with secrets, betrayal, corruption, and hegemony combines with a raw, open-wounded portrayal of abuse to forge a fantastic debut that should ping everyone’s radar.

Possible trigger warnings:Domestic abuse, abuse, violence, abduction, psychological torture

Support independent businesses and buy a copy at: US | UK | Blackwell’s

The above contain affiliate links for Bookshop and Blackwell’s. This means I will earn a commission off your purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Connect with Everina

Everina Maxwell author photo.  Photo credit: Richard Wilson Photography
Photo credit: Richard Wilson Photography

Everina Maxwell is the author of Winter’s Orbit, a queer romantic space opera about a diplomat who enters into an arranged marriage to save his planet.

She grew up in Sussex, UK, which has come a long way from the days of Cold Comfort Farm and now has things like running water and Brighton Pier. She was lucky enough to live near a library that stocked Lois McMaster Bujold, Anne McCaffrey and Terry Pratchett, so spent all her spare time devouring science fiction and doorstopper fantasy, with her family’s Georgette Heyer collection always a reliable friend when the library books ran out.

She first took part in NaNoWriMo in 2004 and continues to precariously balance writing, a day job, and watching Let’s Plays of video games she claims she doesn’t have time to play. She lives and works in Yorkshire.


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