Fri. Jun 14th, 2024

Although the planet Iskat is cold and gray and wild species of birds of prey adorn the frozen environment, Everina Maxwell’s first Novel, the Orbit of Winter, is far from icy. This queer Sci-Fi romance surprises not only with its believable and layered character development, but also with the eons of intergalactic political and cultural history that Maxwell weaves into a 400-page Novel.

Kiem Tegnar is a Playboy prince of Iskat in his mid-twenties who prefers to party until the sun comes up, drink carnival and cause a scene rather than worry about anything that seems to be a political responsibility. But his life is turned upside down when his grandmother, the emperor, informs him that he will fulfill his duty as a minor nobleman throughout his life by marrying the next day. This surprise for the emperor’s most unpopular grandson will disrupt not only his hedonistic lifestyle, but also his arranged marriage with jainan nav Adessari, the widower of Kiem’s Cousin, Taam, whom Jainan is still crying over and whom Kiem barely remembers. Their marriage will preserve the political alignment between Iskat and one of her seven vassal planets, the homeworld of Thea of jainan.

Suddenly pushed into a diplomatic role, Prince Kiem must follow a new etiquette to save face and maintain the relationship between Iskat and Thea. With the vassal contracts due to be renewed soon, Kiem and Jainan find themselves in awkward and uncomfortable situations as the Press bullies them for gossiping about their spontaneous marriage, and a faceless listener comes to observe the veracity of their union — and therefore the veracity of the connection between the planets. But while Kiem and Jainan share a common political goal, their strikingly different personalities pose challenges when they become one.

Under Kiem’s somewhat callous celebrity exterior hides a loyal and sympathetic potential leader with a strong sense of morality. Maxwell uses Kiem’s wry sense of humor to convey his insecurities and fears about his new Position and his relationship with Jainan. There is no doubt that he is attracted to his cousin’s handsome widower, but due to formal customs and Kiem’s inner compass, he feels guilt, shame and confusion as a newlywed with a man he has just met. While Kiem considers the condescending treatment of the Iskan government towards other Jain theologians and finds evidence that his cousin’s passed away was not accidental, he is filled with a strong sincere desire to help the secret man he had to marry — and who was forced to marry him.

Winter’s orbit fits into both the Romantic Genre and Science Fiction, and her central relationship develops and thrives in a world without Homophobia. On Iskat and its vassal planet, the characters wear certain characters to indicate binary or non-binary gender identities, and the relationships, even royal ones, range from monogamous, polyamorous, queer (or not) and religious (or not). As Kiem adapts to his new relationship, he also needs to learn more about customs and traditions if he really wants to understand and sympathize with his new spouse and become both a good and a noble husband.

Maxwell expertly weaves interconnected themes – cultural tensions, tense family dynamics, relationship struggles and government and media corruption – into a breathtaking spatial setting where readers are as invested in Kiem and Jainan as in discovering the peril secrets that hide in Iskat. With its dark, dry humor and unforgettable depictions of heartbreak, grief and a new love, The winter orbit is hopefully the beginning of many other things that Everina Maxwell will do.

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