Saturday, February 13, 2021

REVIEW: Winter's Orbit (book) by Everina Maxwell

Winter's Orbit is somewhere on the spectrum between sci-fi romance and sci-fi with romantic aspects. I bought my copy brand new.


Prince Kiem is shocked and dismayed when the Emperor tells him that he'll be marrying Count Jainan, the representative from one of the Empire's vassal planets, Thea, tomorrow. While Kiem does think Jainan's attractive, he's well aware that Jainan's previous political marriage was, by all accounts, picture perfect and happy, up until Taam was killed in an accident almost a month ago. Jainan has barely had any time to grieve, and now he has to marry some stranger.

Delaying the marriage is impossible. Unification Day is coming up soon, and by that time the Auditor must confirm all of the Empire's representatives and witness the treaty, or the Empire's place in the Resolution will be in danger. Trade agreements and continued peace rely on Kiem and Jainan playing their parts properly. Unfortunately, there's an additional wrinkle: Taam's death may not have been an accident.

I previously read this when it was a free original fic released on Archive of Our Own. I enjoyed it so much I read it a couple times (and reread my favorite parts even more than that), the most recent time being in 2019. I still have the file saved on my phone, although I resisted the urge to open it and do some comparisons.

I was thrilled when I heard that Tor was going to publish it - I rarely pre-order books, but I pre-ordered this one. I hoped some of the minor issues I had with the original would be ironed out prior to publication, but even if it turned out to be the exact same thing I'd downloaded from AO3, I knew I'd be happy just owning a paper copy.

I'm mentioning all of this because it very much had an effect on my reading experience (and my review - apologies for all the comparisons scattered throughout). Although my recall of the AO3 version was definitely fuzzy, I found it impossible to read Winter's Orbit without mentally noting scenes I recognized and scenes that were new to me. Even worse, my brain latched onto any information in the new and old scenes that didn't agree with each other - I caught at least one or two errors that were the result of old scenes containing info that didn't match up with the new scenes (which admittedly isn't bad, but I normally don't catch stuff like this at all). 

Although the overall story was the same as the AO3 version and all the major characters were still the same sort of people, Winter's Orbit was definitely a new experience. The political aspects and setting were more fleshed out, and certain events were integrated differently (for the better, overall). The book's second half, in particular, was different enough in key areas (or my memories were fuzzier) that I was finally able to just read and enjoy what was going on without my brain spending so much time in comparison mode.

I found the political aspects of the book to be a bit dry and confusing to the point where I'm not 100% sure that my description at the beginning of this review is accurate - I still don't understand the Resolution, the Auditor (who came across as very alien but was apparently human), and why certain things were the way they were. Thankfully, understanding the political aspects of the book wasn't vital, at least not for me - I tend to be a more character-focused reader, and I was more interested in Kiem and Jainan. 

That's probably part of the reason why I liked the second half of the book more - that was when most of the forward movement in Kiem and Jainan's relationship happened. I loved watching them interact and figure each other out just as much this time around as the first. Kiem was the sparkling extrovert who could make friends with almost anybody. Jainan was the duty-bound and scholarly introvert. They both secretly thought they were a bad match for the other and wished that wasn't the case - I wanted to hug them.

One character/relationship aspect that was a bit different than I remembered was the way part of Jainan's backstory was handled. In the AO3 version, I felt it was clear enough earlier on that I didn't consider it to be a spoiler. In Winter's Orbit, however, it seemed more subtle and deeper into spoiler territory. On the one hand, it made Kiem look less dense (one of my few complaints about the AO3 version was how long it took Kiem to catch on to one bit of information, since it seemed so obvious and he was otherwise great at reading people). On the other hand, it potentially made Jainan a more frustrating character.

I'm really glad that this got the print release it deserved - I enjoyed it overall, despite my "can't turn off comparison brain" issues. From what I've heard, there will be at least one more book in this setting, if not necessarily starring the same characters, and I'm very much looking forward to it.

No comments:

Post a Comment