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.
Thanks much to the publisher for providing a copy of this for review purposes. This did not affect the content of my review in any way.
I expected to love this and I did but I didn’t expect to have so much fun with all of the political intrigue and mysteries to be solved. Oh, and I do want to give one CW for domestic violence.
First off let me say how much I loved these characters. Prince Kiem is kind of a reformed rake in that he’s trying to be taken a bit more seriously but is having trouble escaping his past as a rebellious youth. At heart he’s a bit of a softy and maybe a bit naïve about how politics work but he’s also savvy enough to know how to work a room and is full of personality and swagger. He’s like a lively little cinnamon roll–I love him. To contrast, Count Jainan is subdued and would probably blend into the background if you let him. Kiem isn’t quite sure what to make of Jainan and vice versa. Of course, as the story goes on you start to get a sense that there’s a lot that Jainan isn’t saying about his past with his previous partner, Taam. His actions speak louder than words and to me it was obvious that something was very, very wrong. Overall, I loved the way that Kiem and Jainan’s relationship progressed. Kiem always tried to be thoughtful and considerate of Jainan’s feelings. Of course because there’s a huge misunderstanding between them his actions are often lost on Jainan or misinterpreted. If there’s one thing that did annoy me a bit was just how long the misunderstanding was drawn out between them. For one, as savvy Kiem is about some things he’s completely dense about others. For two, although I totally understand why Jainan wouldn’t want to talk about his past and why he assumed certain things regarding Kiem, I feel like it would have been better for Jainan’s character growth if this had all come to light earlier in the story. As it is, his courage at the end feels like it has come on rather suddenly.
As a romance reader I was really happy with the romance tropes utilized in this book as they’re some of my favorites. Arranged marriage, only one bed (or tent in this case), having to huddle together for warmth, etc. One thing romance readers look for (because we read so much of it) is not only that sense of comfort from the familiar but also new takes on those tropes. Somehow Winter’s Orbit made these tropes feel fresh. I don’t know if it was the setting or the way the characters navigated the relationship between each other, but something about this really worked for me. For instance, early on the ‘only one bed’ trope is avoided but then later it comes up again and by that point in the story you’re rooting for it.
And now for my favorite least expected part of the book–political intrigue! I was fairly impressed with the world building here (although I would LOVE to learn more because I still have a lot of questions about the greater universe) and especially enjoyed the set up of an empire ruling over a set of planets and the friction that causes when one of the planets takes exception to the empire utilizing their resources. First of all, love a ‘death to the empire’ story. LOVE. THEM. I am happy to see these type of systems criticized. I also love that there’s some criticism here of an act of rebellion because I think that was warranted, however I also think it’s a bit naïve to think that massive issues can be solved by talking them out. Of course, it also helps when you have a huge bargaining chip. I thought all the political intrigue in this was fascinating. I also love how there were so many red herrings, so many times the evidence led them down the wrong path. I was really kept guessing who was on whose side for a lot of the story. I never knew who was going to wind up being the one that had betrayed them. Of course, it also helped that there were enough components to lead the investigation in different directions. Anyway, this aspect of the story was really fun for me. Love a good mystery.
Overall, I had a really good time reading this one. I think if you’re looking for a romance in space or some fun planetary politics, this would be a good one to check out. 4/5 stars.