Mar 192022

Winter’s Orbit, by Everina Maxwell

Synopsis:  A gay(?) teen romance in spaaaaaaace

Book Review: This is basically wish-fulfillment fanfic with original charecters, and I am so here for it. It’s adorable and twee and they are so fumbling and flustered I could just die. I grinned the whole way through.

You have to know what you’re in for, of course. If you get annoyed by teens constantly being self-conscious, misreading obvious cues, and tripping all over themselves, you’ll hate this. But they just love each other so much, and are so perfect for each other, and we know they’re gonna end up together, that it’s unironically a treat to read. The whole novel could be summed up with:


Every now and then some plot stuff happens, which diverts word-count from the romance, which is kinda annoying. But it’s easy enough to skim until you get back to the adorable romance. :)

Two things!

First, my synopsis says this is a gay(?) romance. The (?) is because these charecters use he/him pronouns, but pronouns aren’t related to sex or presentation in this book’s universe, and there are no gender roles or expectations. It is literally a description of their jewelry preference (stone/wood/glass), and has nothing to do with sex. So they could, in fact, be a male/female couple. Honestly, since they both act a lot like teen girls, I pictured them as a lesbian couple the whole time I was reading. XD (Yes, I know that’s a common portrayal of male gay lovers in slashfic). Once I started down that road, I swapped a lot of characters in my mind. The ultra-competant assistant became Batman’s Alfred in my mind, for example.

Once you start reading it this way, you begin looking for counter-evidence, just to see how long you can keep it up. And the thing is, it lasts through the whole book! The author conspicuosly avoids using descriptions that are sex-specific. Even during the freakin’ sex scene there isn’t any mention of any thing that would rule out either sex! I think Maxwell was in on it, and did this on purpose. :) There are a couple references to one having a “solidity” to him, which is male-coded, and a couple mentions of “chests” without any reference to “breasts,” which also implies male. However neither one is definitive, and is exactly the sort of thing you’d do if you were trying to preserve deniability! So, if you want, they can be a straight, gay, or lesbian couple.

Second, my synopsis says this is a teen romance. The book explicitly puts both lovers in their 20s. However, this is a society where gender is based on jewelry preference and has nothing to do with sexual charecteristics. It’s entirely possible that age is equally fluid, and has nothing to do with chronology. It’s sorta hinted at, when one of the lovers is talking about his past, and gets kinda flustered about the ages and yadda-yadda’s past the details. And it’s STRONGLY hinted at by the fact that they act like goofy teenagers the whole damn time. I’m confident enough in the teenage thing that I didn’t even bother to append a (?) their ages in my synopsis.

In summary, this is a fantastic book if you want to read a heartfelt and cheerful bumbling romance of the type I just described. It has the heart of a Chuck Tingle work, but is far longer, and doesn’t have any explicit sex. If you’re as chuffed by this sort of thing as I am, Recommended!

Book Club Review: The only problem with this book for book clubs is that not everyone wants to read a cheerful bumbling romance. If you’re in a romance book club, maybe this is a good fit? I dunno, I’m not in one of those, I don’t know what their standards or expectations are. I admit, it doesn’t really fit into an SF book club. So, if you’re looking for an SF novel rather than a romance, Not Recommended.

(But hey, every now and then it’s good to streach a bit and read other stuff, right? This was so fun!)

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