The Chit Chat: hey, y’all! Welcome back to another episode of the Raccoon Awards, where I wrangle grizzly bears into submission and ride them through towns on alien planets yelling YOU SHOULD THIS READ THIS! Today, you should read WINTER’S ORBIT. Let’s taco bout it.
The Synopsis: In a sentence, WINTER’S ORBIT is about these two adorably wonderful gay men in an arranged marriage trying to figure out how that all works while a coup is going on around them, right? There are two major players here: Kiem, sweetheart jock partyboy who’s charismatic as hell but kind of a blockhead, and Jainan, a super anxious but professional diplomat who hates peopling but is super intelligent and put together. The problem? Jainan’s late husband Taam might have, uh… he might have tried some wildly Bad Idea political maneuvering, and then he might have possibly been murdered, and Jainan (sweet boy that he is, probably would not kill a fly) might possibly be blamed for it. A time is had, ladies, gentlemen, and other esteemed audience members. A time is had.
The Misc: I’m switching up the “misc” section here because before we get into it, WINTER’S ORBIT needs to come with a CW for domestic abuse. A major part of the plot hinges on how Jainan’s douchey dead husband, Taam, treated him. This isn’t a topic I’m super up to date on in terms of do’s/don’ts, but I’m also not sure that this abuse was handled in the most sensitive way possible. While Jainan isn’t actively abused in the book, tackling his healing process, having him resubjected to that trauma, and eventually (spoiler) going public with it is, so if this is a trigger for you, proceed with caution.
Also, there’s a bear in this book (no not like those bears) and while I am bound not to give any details about the bear because of spoilers, OH MY GOD. THE BEAR.
The Hot Takes: THE ROMANCE IN THIS BOOK IS SO FREAKING CUTE! It slowburns to a fever pitch with the amount of tiny little miscommunications, awkward blunders, and social faux pas. This is the kind of book where you want to shake the characters and yell “just kiss already!”
The world building is also astonishingly awesome. One of the things I loved was that gender in the book is defined only by what jewelry a person’s wearing, not by how they’re physically presenting in any other way. Even if someone is “female” in every “normal” sense, if they wear a certain type of jewelry, they’re considered “male”, and vice versa. While it’s still a flawed system because of it’s two gender binary, I thought it was really cool.
Even apart from the fascinating gender distinction, the world building is legit. The world of Winter’s Orbit is one of complex, multi-layered politics, intricate social codes and expectations, figurehead and non-figurehead diplomatic relations, and more. It’s a delightful trip to sort out the layers of meaning and code in political situations, the changing of power structure each reveal brings, and see how things are twisted around. Absolutely marvelous.
Does it get a star? I am tickled to award a starred review to Winter’s Orbit!
Can I buy it? Everyone say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Winter’s Orbit, which released today!! Click here to order a copy from Copperfish Books, and remember to submit a proof of purchase by 2/16/21 to Tor Books for your free Space is Gay pin here.