readalong, SciFiMonth

Winter’s Orbit – SciFiMonth Readalong Week 2

Header courtesy of imyril at One More

Right, last week’s post was a bit rubbish on my part but I’m setting out to talk about week two’s reading ahead of time, so hopefully I offer something a little more insightful and do justice to the brilliant questions that, this week, have been posted by imyril over on the Goodreads page for the readalong. Things are getting more interesting after the introductory section of last week, and I want to take this moment to say that this post will contain spoilers for Winter’s Orbit up until the end of chapter 15, so if you aren’t there yet and don’t like to know, please don’t read ahead!

In week one we met Kiem – an Iskaran prince with a carefree attitude – and Jainan – a representative of Thea, recently widowed – who are pushed into a political marriage to ensure that the upcoming Resolution goes over smoothly and the Iskat Empire remains as it is. Kiem and Jainan do their duty but certainly don’t get off on the right foot with one another, being so different in personality, and each expecting certain reactions from the other. So ensues a comedy of errors (sort of) while politically, things get more complicated. Last week, I wanted to see more of the world building and understand a bit more of the politics, and I was also hoping that our two main characters would get their communication lines open soon, because I can only take so much of the conflict being cause by misunderstandings. At the end of week one we left Kiem and Jainan right after the discovery that Taam – Jainan’s deceased partner – did not simply die in an accident, but rather was murdered, and that the new couple cannot be confirmed to stand in for the Iskat-Thea treaty. Let’s see what we’ve learned since…

Now we have a better grasp of the political and diplomatic context, where do your sympathies lie? Any thoughts on Gairad or the Thean ‘intervention’ at the embassy do?

There’s still a lot we don’t know, especially because everything we hear about Thea is second-hand, with our main Thean character Jainan suppressing a lot of his thoughts and opinions about his home world, so I’m a little frustrated by that; it makes me less invested because the conflict and the riots we hear about seem very distant and unreal. Having said that, I definitely think the Empire is doing some shady stuff and the Theans are right to be protesting, and the scenes we have that involve other Theans have been interesting. I like Gairad, and the way she brings Jainan a little bit of home, and I found the intervention scene at the embassy fascinating. It felt a little bit like a big family gathering, and the way the other Theans softened a bit after learning of Jainan’s limit on communications was touching – though, of course, nothing is ever solved that simply. They weren’t exactly a support system to Jainan so they can’t really blame him for neglecting clan duties when they didn’t do much to try and reach out to him… I really like the concept of the clans, though, and the clan obligations, and would definitely read a book set on Thea that delves deeper into all of that. (So Evarina Maxwell, if you’re reading this…)

Although we still don’t know that much about Iskat either, and though I understand the basics I’m still slightly confused at how the Empire fits with the Resolution; this may just be me being dumb, but is there a bigger power than the Empire, or are there multiple Empires overseen by one larger ruler, or is the Auditor completely impartial and only related to the trade routs through the galaxy? And if so, who appointed them? If I missed something, please someone let me know!

Having got to know Jainan – and Taam – better, how successful do you think his first marriage was? What do you make of his chances at happiness with Kiem? 

Jainan’s first few pages gave the impression of a perfect, balanced marriage but as we get further into his head things definitely start falling apart. Some bloggers mentioned last week that from Jainan’s body language and thought patters it sounded as if Taam was abusive, and while I didn’t fully pick up on that until they said it, I definitely got that from this week’s chapters. The way Jainan is always looking over his shoulder, especially when reading things he think he shouldn’t, the way Taam’s voice and presence keep mocking him, the way he asks Kiem for permission on the smallest things. I think Jainan’s first marriage was only successful insofar as it needed to be a political alliance to underpin a treaty, but as a marriage it certainly did not work. It just makes me so sad to realise how isolated he was – Jainan clearly did not leave the house unless going to an event with Taam, and then being cut off from his own people on top of that isolated him further. I wish Taam were still alive so I could strangle him!

As for Jainan’s chances with Kiem, I’m not sure – this being a slow-burn story I suspect they will get some form of a happily ever after, but as of right now, it’s difficult. The two of them have had some very sweet moments – their first heated moment (which turned to failure very quickly), their time flying through the mountains, and a few other little things here and there, but they still fundamentally don’t understand each other. Kiem has now opened up a little bit to Jainan, and isn’t really hiding anything, but he still operates under the assumption that he’s second best to Taam, the perfect partner, and that Jainan finds him boring and inadequate. Jainan has done nothing to dissipate these assumptions, though he’s operating with the understanding that Kiem will expect the same sort of thing as Taam did, and that Kiem finds him boring and inadequate. As I said, there’s only so much of this circling that I can take and if the next few chapters don’t get these boys talking to each other I will be very annoyed! I do know, though, that learning to trust after being gaslighted and isolated takes time, but it’s just that this isn’t the longest book and I feel that halfway through would be a good time to already be on a similar page, if not completely open and trusting of one another. Ah well!

Any ideas why Jainan’s security access was flagged? What do you make of his response to it?

I’m struggling to understand the underpinning suggestion – was Jainan’s security access flagged because of a specific event he is refusing to think or talk about, or was it simply discrimination because of where he comes from? I think I’ve understood correctly that as far as Jainan knows – or as far as he’s letting on – it was just restricted for no real reason. I suspect Taam’s involvement since he was a horrible man and a worse husband, but the military in general seems to be determined to ruin relations between Iskat and Thea. Jainan’s reaction is incredibly saddening, the way he’s resigned to being so cut off!

Lunver is awfully keen not to share the textbook perfect crash data, and insists the issue with the Auditor is the speed of Kiem’s appointment. She wants him to step down and let someone else marry Jainan. Thoughts?

Lunver is definitely a suspicious character, and I’m not so sure I trust Aren either… he’s way too eager and Jainan kept flinching whenever Aren walked into a room or addressed him, so that doesn’t bode well. Lunver doesn’t necessarily strike me as the villainous type, and I think what she’s hiding is only what the military as a whole is hiding, but it’s definitely weird that she suggested changing the match with Kiem. This, to me, points even more to Taam’s controlling nature, and suggests the military knew how he was treating Jainan and was happy to have such an intelligent, *foreign* person on a leash and out of the way.

Who do you think is responsible for all these mysterious malfunctions? Who do you trust?

I don’t trust that many people to be honest… As far as I’m concerned Professor Audel is not off the hook yet. Sure, she had her resignation form, but she had it there very readily for something that transpired a long time ago… Although, since I just said I don’t trust Aren either he could be framing her, so what do I know? But there are definitely a lot of players in this, and I’m now very keen to push on in the story to unravel that. Especially with that final moment of the last chapter of this week, with Kiem and Jainan’s crash. I suspect that was done either by the military compound they just left, but it could be anyone…

How about those mysterious remnants? Why do you think the Resolution wants them back? What do you make of the timing of the Empire returning the remnant that powered the notorious Tau field device?

The remnants are incredibly fascinating and are yet another thing I’d love to read more about – from the glimpses and mentions we’ve had they sound almost radioactive or atomic, and I’m curious as to the name itself. Does it hint to an older society that used to populate the galaxy? This is one of my favourite tropes in SF (and fantasy too, when done well), with two of my recent favourite SF reads having various planets with excavations sites around ruins of a civilisation that no longer exists – but they could still be out there…? In Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Shards of Earth there is alien technology that still somehow has power (a bit like the remnants) and in Miles Cameron’s Artifact Space there are strange architectural structures that have some kind of pattern that just isn’t discernible to the human eye. Anyway, we’re not here to talk about those books, we’re here to talk about Winter’s Orbit.

And in Winter’s Orbit the remnants are collected by the Resolution and put… where, exactly? It seems that a large number of them in the same location have strange effects on the mind, so I don’t think I want to be wherever they all get stored. And what exactly does the Resolution want with them anyway? Is it just benevolent an ensuring no one power uses them to obliterate another, or do they have other motives? And it is very interesting that Iskat has suddenly “found” a rather large amount of remnants, and I’m curious about the Tau field device. Seems textbook empire to me, and I wonder why they’re even returning it if they’ve managed to keep it so long. What I do find curious is the way everyone who isn’t from Iskat is like, ‘oh yeah, the torture device’ whereas Kiem seemed shocked at the suggestion. I’m inclined to think this is just another thing Kiem doesn’t know about the politics and history of his planet, and I want to know more about the Tau field device. What does it look like? How does it torture people? How do the constructs power something anyway?

Hopefully some of the questions I’ve asked along the way in this post will be answered in Week 3, so all that’s left now is to plough ahead and find out who is trying to harm the galaxy’s cutest (and most frustrating – I do agree with imyril here – just kiss already!) couple. I’ll be posting the questions for this coming week in a few days, so keep your eye on the Goodreads page!

6 thoughts on “Winter’s Orbit – SciFiMonth Readalong Week 2”

  1. YES I too would like MORE Thea and MORE Resolution, I’m fascinated by the hints and I don’t know that this book is their story; but maybe a future story? That would be awesome, please and thank you Everina Maxwell.

    On the relationship between Resolution and Empire: it’s not super clear, but my understanding of it is that the Resolution is effectively an intergalactic UN of sorts – a confederation of empires and systems and planets that have contact with one another and that agree to trade not invade. Losing the Resolution treaty means the Iskaran Empire may get invaded by one of the bigger, more powerful members of the Resolution (so have they found some remnants so powerful that doesn’t worry them? Or do they just have that mindset of We Will Win that infects empires?)

    The Resolution doesn’t seem to meddle with local law or governance (or government) – except where remnants are concerned – and in so far that the Resolution treaty considers all OTHER treaties held by a government: if you can’t keep peace in your empire, you don’t get a Resolution treaty because they’re not here for your disruption. They’ll just come disrupt you instead.

    So no UN peacekeepers! Just trading partners who will take those powerful old objects, thank you.

    …and I hadn’t considered where they might store those. That’s a really good question. Maybe they don’t have the same discomforting effect on everybody?


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