Review: Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

There’s a big gap in the Sci-Fi genre between books that have some romance in them, and real romantic sci-fi novels. Usually when I read a SF book that touts romance, I have to hunt to find the peck. And when I find a real romance set firmly in the SF genre, it’s usually of the alien tapeworm erotica sort.

Where is the balance? Where is the sweet spot between the sci-fi novel where the main characters dance around their attraction, kiss a couple of times and then you find out the dude woke her up from their cryogenic sleep cycle because he was a lonely incel and has doomed her to death and the erotica novel where you are unsure how the alien anatomy not only works but how it doesn’t also spontaneously combust? 

Where is the sci-fi romance?

Well, it’s in Winter’s Orbit.

Full of some of our favorite romance tropes: arranged marriage, only one bed, so much yearning, doesn’t know how attractive they are, studious quiet one and reformed partier make nice – Winter’s Orbit is a high concept sci-fi where the Imperial Power is facing an interplanetary treaty-making fraught with plebeian tensions abroad. When the military minded Imperial Prince Taam dies suddenly, the Emperor is forced to arranged a political alliance with his widow, Jainan (from the unhappy allied planet) to the playboy Imperial Prince, Kiem. 

Kiem and Jainan are forced into a world of royal duties, treaty obligations and political intrigue that neither of them are prepared for. But the biggest hurdle is figuring out how to be a good partner to the other without letting him know just how much you want to HOLD HIM. Enter: the yearning. 

Kiem is fun and easy and silly and a bit reckless. And even though he is forced into his marriage with Jainan, he is never reckless with him. Jainan’s husband has just died – perhaps been murdered – and Kiem is acutely aware that Jainan is grieving. He gives him space, hopes he is well, and quietly falls for him while trying not to get too close. 

Jainan, on the other hand, is the stoic rock in a precarious place. He is there to represent a planet he hasn’t been on in years, and he views his entrance into Kiem’s life as an inconvenience to Kiem. He keeps his distance emotionally and physically so as not to be a nuisance. But he’s lonely. And Kiem is kind. 

Watching these two navigate not only their burgeoning feelings for one another, but also the galactic politics and potential murder investigation coming their way was pure pleasure. They are so soft for one another. When their flybug (self-driving car thing) impossibly crashes into the side of a mountain, I cheered because finally they were going to be really alone for a really long time. Only one tent? Even better. 

Winter’s Orbit is a true science fiction romance. Romance set in a fully realized sci-fi world. Don’t miss it. 

Winter’s Orbit is the debut novel by Everina Maxwell. It hits bookstores on February 2, 2021. 

E-book provided by Tor Books through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Content Warning: Winter’s Orbit contains allusions to past relationship abuse – mental and physical, and towards the end of the novel is explicit about said abuse. 


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