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Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

Published by Orbit (TOR in the US) – February 2021

Synopsis

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.

Review

Thank you to Orbit Books and Netgalley for the review e-copy!

This was a journey for me to read! In a good way! I really enjoyed it but I would be lying if I didn’t say it took me a while to get through and that is in no way a negative reflection on the book. Winter’s Orbit is ultimately a science-fiction YA novel but actually it is so much more. Maxwell has woven such a detailed plot, I found myself blown away when I first picked this book up – there is very much a political backstory within Winter’s Orbit. And with that backstory comes a whole heap of backstabbing, mystery, loyalties and connections. I’m not quite sure how Maxwell kept this book to it’s 432 pages as there is so much to take in. Every character has thorough thoughts, feelings and agendas – nothing is skipped out on.

So, when I first picked up this book back in February, I had just come out of a reading frenzy of fantasy which meant when I started to read Winter’s Orbit I just couldn’t get my head in the right place at all so I wasn’t following the story. I paused my read and took on some lighter bits before returning to Winter’s Orbit in early April. I was ready and eager and honestly, I sped through the final 300 pages at light speed. I did not want to put this book down!

I loved the relationships between the characters – Jainan and Kiem very much have my heart and I want to see more of them. Maxwell’s fluid use of genders and sexality in this book is frankly, refreshing and needed. I will be shoving Winter’s Orbit under several people’s noses I can assure you. The way we saw a vulnerability to Jainan (and Kiem) broke my heart so much, their awkward interactions in the beginning were so real for me I couldn’t help but become invested.

The setting for this book is notably, in another set of worlds where space travel is a usual and common thing which really gave Maxwell free reign in her use of character design, world building and storytelling. There are so many elements to touch upon. I feel like I need to re-read it already to get my head around my words. I did feel like I needed a road map at the beginning! I would love to have more books in this universe, so that I can see all of the wonderful nations included in the narrative. I really do think this book has everything, even a royal family.

I’ve rated this at 4.5 and would easily push that to a 5 on a re-read I think!

Goodreads Rating – 4 / 5 stars

Posted in book review, fantasy, fiction, gifted

The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett

Published by Titan Books October 2020 (UK)

Titan Books sent me an e-copy of this book in exchange for a review!

Synopsis

An enchanted tale of intrigue where a duke’s daughter is the only survivor of a magical curse.

When Ekata’s brother is finally named heir, there will be nothing to keep her at home in Kylma Above with her murderous family. Not her books or science experiments, not her family’s icy castle atop a frozen lake, not even the tantalizingly close Kylma Below, a mesmerizing underwater kingdom that provides her family with magic. But just as escape is within reach, her parents and twelve siblings fall under a strange sleeping sickness.

In the space of a single night, Ekata inherits the title of duke, her brother’s warrior bride, and ever-encroaching challengers from without—and within—her own ministry. Nothing has prepared Ekata for diplomacy, for war, for love…or for a crown she has never wanted. If Kylma Above is to survive, Ekata must seize her family’s power. And if Ekata is to survive, she must quickly decide how she will wield it.

Review

In all honesty, when I first started this YA book, the opening chapter completely overwhelmed me – so much happened and Bartlett introduces such a rich world that I completely thought I wouldnt be continuing with the book … but I pushed myself to not judge by an opening and trust that the author would fill me in on all the details – and she did.

I really enjoyed the characters in The Winter Duke, Ekata was a great protagonist who I did root for – her decisions were human – sometimes reckless and other times calculated which really built her as a solid character. I enjoyed her choosing of a wife although felt the relationship part of the marriage was timid and more hinted at than actions – understandable given their age (sixteen I believe). Bartlett also includes a non-binary character who is quite important to the plot at one point so it was great to see some solid diversity in that respect.

The world was fantastic – I loved the idea of an underwater community living below an ice palace. The relationship between the two worlds is one of agreement – an exchange for the magic that the underwater dwellers can grow – I just found this totally unique and it took me by surprise!

Goodreads has this down as ‘part Sleeping Beauty, part Anastasia’ but I’m not completely on board with that – I think The Winter Duke was much more original. Bartlett uses russian style names and she has a very in-depth political plot running throughout the novel which although I found a little confusing, it did make sense and I really appreciated the detail involved.

Also – that cover! The US cover is a little different – I much prefer the UK choice – it reminds me of fairytales and folklore which is perfect!

Goodreads Rating: 4 / 5 stars!