readalong, SciFiMonth

Winter’s Orbit – SciFiMonth Readalong Week 1

Header courtesy of imyril at One More

I love a readalong, and this year’s choice for SciFiMonth – Winter’s Orbit by Evarina Maxwell – made me very happy, since I’d been meaning to pick it up and now have an excuse. And what better way to read a book than with other people, and questions to prompt your thinking? If you want to find out more, and join in the fun you can find all the information with Lisa at Dear Geek Place – the master schedule, the current discussion questions, and more! And now, I shall actually look at what I thought of this week’s reading, which includes Chapter One – Chapter Six, so beware of spoilers for that section!

(I have a pretty terrible headache so do forgive me if some of my sentences don’t make sense, I may come back and rewrite them at some point, but I wanted to get this post out before the end of the weekend).

First up, introductions! What are your first impressions of Kiem and Jainan (and any other character who’s caught your eye)?

I really like both of them! Kiem was immediately likeable to me, especially with his being the first POV chapter with such a gripping opening scene. Kiem is a young man who enjoys having fun and doesn’t let his position as one of the Emperor’s grandchildren stop him from going out and living his best life, which the media of Iskat have taken great advantage of. Now, though, he needs to step up, and I like that we come into his narrative at this crucial point: we can infer a lot of his personality and history based on the snippets we get of his past misadventures, but we’ve caught him at a time when he is trying to be better, and is also finally asked to hold some responsibility for the Empire. I really love how he is both incredibly confident and smooth talking, whose instinct is also to keep talking and saying stupid things when nervous. Top tier character.

Jainan is a lot more guarded, both for the reader and the other characters around him, but I liked him very quickly too. I love his quiet energy and really feel for him in his situation: he is away from his home planet, has just lost his partner, and he definitely is not respected as a person by the rest of Iskat – he just represents an alliance, and is not seen as an actual person, except by Kiem. I definitely want to know more about Jainan, especially with all these hints we get about his and Taam’s relationship, because while it’s clear that he’s been upset by the death of his partner I still don’t see any evidence of Jainan having loved Taam, which makes me thing there’s something there to find out.

As for other characters, I do want to know more about the Empress, and whether she has anything shifty going on, and how she got to the position she’s in. Bel is also a good character, and I’ve enjoyed her and Kiem’s interactions . Hopefully she has a bigger role!

How’s the setting/the cultural detail so far working for you? Anything in particular that grabs your attention?

There are so many details thrown at us in these six chapters, and I want them to be expanded on! It took me a little while to get the hang of the vocabulary and such, but now I think I’m settled into the feel of this world and I want to know more. My favourite detail is the gender-signifiers, and how each planet has their own ways to alert others of the gender they identify as. Very cool. This might be intentional, but I definitely am reminded somewhat of Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness; the title Winter’s Orbit definitely recalls the planet of Winter, there is a inter-planetary organisation that has a few issues, and Maxwell is also playing with gender, albeit in a different way to what Le Guin.

I actually have more to say here, but my headache is getting the best of me so I may come back and add things later – but for now I will say that, having read Mayri’s post on this week’s readings, I agree with her about there being so much hinted at but not a lot of substance. I also hope the hints develop further.

Not much time is being wasted when it comes to romantic tropes. How do you feel about romance in your SF? Yay, nay or maybe? And specifically, how do you feel about the use of those tropes here?

I do enjoy some romance in my SF, as long as there is still a lot of interesting plot and world-building stuff going on, so I think I’m pretty happy with the balance of Winter’s Orbit so far. I am really enjoying the whole misunderstanding going on between Kiem and Jainan, though I think I can only take so much of the somewhat cringe-worthy miscommunications and lost-in-translation situation, so I am hoping they get on the same page soon and we can enjoy some other romance tropes. I do really like the arranged-marriage-to-lovers thing, especially when it’s political; I like watching as a sense of duty slowly blossoms into affection, and I really like how both of them are immediately like, “oh no, he’s hot” and then assume they aren’t each other’s type so they try and hide their feelings. Bonus points for the scene of Jainan doing martial arts in Kiem’s garden. Good stuff.

Plot twist – and it comes on the heels of the Auditor interview… Are you intrigued by either of these developments? And what do you think of the Auditor? Impartial, or up to something?

Taam’s murder was expected, given that it’s in the blurb of the book, but I liked how it came to a head here. We’d seen hints of it in Jainan’s first sections, where he is shut out of the investigation, and then finds encrypted files of Taam’s on his device. I did internally shout at him to try and open them, but he didn’t seem to hear me, so I guess I’ll have to wait to find out their significance.

The Auditor is also an incredibly interesting presence – very unsettling, but also comfortingly bureaucratic…? I think the Auditor is impartial, but I can see that they mights get in the way and make things difficult for our protagonists exactly because of this impartiality. Ah, politics!

Again, I might come back and add more thoughts later, but for now I shall post this and then go and rest my poor eyes – I’ve enjoyed the thoughts of those who have posted so far, but feel free to link your response post in the comments in case I miss anything!

10 thoughts on “Winter’s Orbit – SciFiMonth Readalong Week 1”

  1. Sorry to hear you’ve been having headaches – all the pained sympathy as my past couple of weeks have been lousy with them (to the extent I couldn’t read for quite a bit of it, boo). Here’s hoping we both have a better week this week.

    I hadn’t thought about it quite like that, but you’re spot on that this is the right time to meet Kiem. Playboy princes aren’t actually all that interesting unless they’ve got something going on beyond parties and dares; although the contrast between that and his interactions with Bel might go a long way. I’m fascinated by Bel – I can’t wait to see more of her.

    I’m 100% with you in finding the Auditor sort of comforting. Unlike everybody else, it doesn’t feel like he has an agenda here beyond doing his bureaucratic duty. But I do want to find out more about everyone else’s agendas!


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