The Official Description: 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.
Just the facts: M/M relationship, sci-fi, futuristic, political intrigue, mystery
Jainan is ushered into a new marriage with Kiem for diplomatic reasons – their lives become entwined as they uncover deception and intrigue. Kinzie Things
My thoughts bit:
This novel is a mixture of things. Apparently, it was published on AO3 a few years ago and has been picked up by Tor to be published officially. Overall, this is a great “Space Opera”. The writing is great, the characters are well-developed and there is a ton of intrigue.
It all starts when Prince Kiem’s life is completely changed. He is called to a meeting to confirm that he is entering into an arranged marriage with Thea native and Diplomat, Jainan. It’s all about politics and an upcoming renewal of a treaty that is integral to the future of everyone involved. He must play his part and he must play it well. A marriage between Kiem and Jainan should solidify the treaty between Iskat and Thea – only the Auditors of the treaty don’t accept the marriage and the two men are plunged into a spider’s web of treachery.
Jainan is still mourning the loss of his last partner, Prince Taam when he arrives on Iskat, but he is good at “his job” and keeps up appearances. Jainan can’t imagine anyone actually wanting to be his partner… let alone wanting to love him. He’s confident when it comes to science and the diplomatic role, he has always played…but he’s on shaky ground for some reason. Reserved and a bit on the quiet side, it’s difficult for anyone to get to know the real reasons behind Jainan’s lack of confidence.
For his part, Kiem has been a bit of a playboy. He’s good with people but hasn’t always made the best decisions. He’s instantly likeable and has an endearing predilection for mistakes that he covers up with ample charm. I really enjoyed the way that Kiem stuck to his convictions regarding being respectful of Jainan’s mourning. He was gentle and trying desperately to make Jainan feel welcome. Their relationship felt very natural and was well-paced. There was no immediate, magical love between them… and at times, it’s not sure whether their fledgling partnership will survive.
As the relationship between the two men progresses, they uncover a deepening mystery surrounding the death of Jainan’s first partner and the work that is going on behind the treaty. This is a convoluted plotline and runs deep. It all comes to a satisfying conclusion at the end of the novel, but you will have to pay careful attention to names and details! The numerous supporting characters and the variety really goes a long way towards demonstrating the vastness of Iskat and its people.
The only thing that I can’t say that I really understood was the presence of “remnants”. I’m not entirely sure what the purpose of them was, but they certainly seemed to be highly revered by the Auditors. That part of the story certainly could have been fleshed out a bit more.
There is a lot of world-building done in a quite subtle way. I would say that the people and their social hierarchy was more apparent. I loved that the characters chose and expressed their own gender by means of simple symbols they wore. And shout out to the strange “bear” that was scaley and had extra legs! Didn’t expect that. I liked that the author put in some simple reminders every so often that Iskat is definitely a different world.
All in all, a great book. The story was solid and cohesive. The characters were well-rounded and engaging. Definitely a good read.
Things You May Want To Know: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: (SPOILERS) descriptions of domestic violence, descriptions of verbal abuse in a marriage, violence, torture, attempted mind control, coercion, the murder of a supporting character in the past (off-page).
I received an ARC of Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell from Tor Books via Edelweiss in exchange for an unbiased review.