Winter’s Orbit came on to my radar through Cannonballers and then I noticed my independent bookstore featuring it as a staff pick for Pride month. It went on my book wish list and I got it for my birthday!
In the far distant future there are multiple galactic civilizations and they are all connected through ‘the link network’ governed by the Resolution. Trade happens through the link and having the Resolution in place means that no invading force can use the link to attack another empire. Auditors assess an empire’s affairs, all colonies, vassal planets, etc. must have signed treaties within themselves and be in a state of internal stability for the Auditor to sign off on the Resolution. The Iskat empire oversees seven planets and they have a deadline of a month to get their affairs in order. Unfortunately, Prince Taam of the empire has died in a flight accident, he was married to Count Jainan of the planet Thea, and they were ambassadors for the planet. Currently there is no treaty between Iskat and Thea and without it the Iskat empire will not have access to the link.
The Emperor of Iskat decides part of the solution is to get Jainan remarried to a member of the royal household pronto to secure ties with Thea. Prince Kiem is grandson to the Emeror and she feels it’s time for him to pick up slack and have royal duties. As he is single and of age with Jainan, Kiem is swiftly married to a man he has only met in passing at state functions. One thing I found interesting was that titles were always male, regardless of the title holder’s gender. Another is that on Iskat, and pushed onto the rest of the system in an example of colonialism, is a method of identifiers for how a person presents their gender. Flint ornamentation for female, wood for male, and glass for non-binary.
Jainan is a haunted man, suspicious of his husband’s death and the military’s unwillingness to give him the flight recorder information of what happened when Taam’s flier went down. Anxious over the state of affairs regarding his planet and the Resolution, and baffled by his new husband, Jainan is constantly on edge. When the Auditors refuse to sign off it is because they believe Prince Taam was murdered, Jainan and Kiem start digging into what exactly happened.
Part space opera, part mystery, and also a story about abuse as we learn the depths of control Taam had over Jainan, and it’s last effects. It is also part love story. Kiem and Jainan are opposites thrown into a political marriage that starts off in turmoil but as they investigate the crash and overcome obstacles together, respect and attraction begin to bloom and they even get a happily ever after. I quite enjoyed Winter’s Orbit and found it difficult to put down.