Genre: Sci-fi (political space opera) Age Range: Adult Star rating: 5 stars Series: Standalone CW: Historic Domestic Abuse
While the Iskat Empire has long dominated the system through treaties and political alliances, several planets, including Thea, have begun to chafe under Iskat’s rule. When tragedy befalls Imperial Prince Taam, his Thean widower, Jainan, is rushed into an arranged marriage with Taam’s cousin, the disreputable Kiem, in a bid to keep the rising hostilities between the two worlds under control.
But when it comes to light that Prince Taam’s death may not have been an accident, and that Jainan himself may be a suspect, the unlikely pair must overcome their misgivings and learn to trust one another as they navigate the perils of the Iskat court, try to solve a murder, and prevent an interplanetary war… all while dealing with their growing feelings for each other.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
The short way of describing this book is absolutely stunning, and a contender for “best reads of 2021” list. I’ve been slowly getting back into sci-fi these past few years, and it’s books like this that make me reach for another sci-fi.
Let’s start with the politics. No surprises here that I picked up this book because it was described as “political sci-fi”. There’s a treaty in need of signing (treaties are always a weak spot for me – I will buy any book that has politics around a treaty), but obstacle after obstacle are thrown in the way of it. Jainan and Kiem must finding who is obstructing it, and why – then stop them. It was a layered story of intrigue, and I loved how twisty it was, with brilliant information control.
I’m not usually someone who cares much about the romance side of books, but this one was good. Slow build, so much tension, and desire that wasn’t being accurately communicated, leading to much pining. Plus, the communication blockages felt very appropriate to the situation, rather than feeling like it was there for “drama”. I was wanting them to get over it not because I was annoyed they weren’t talking (as it felt right for them to struggle), but because I knew it would be very satisfying when they were able to talk.
Plus there’s a whole sequence where you can feel it building towards a specific trope, and it is very rewarding when that trope plays out (NOT going to spoil the trope – you’ll know when you get there). And, once more, I am not a person who usually cares about romance tropes as they’re not the thing I read for typically.
This book does deal with the fallout of a previous abusive relationship. There’s not much of the actual abuse on page, but I loved that we saw someone processing it, and how it affected life. It’s not something I’ve seen in SFF before, but it was so sensitively handled and made the book stand out. It deals with consent and desire, and the very subtle, but insidious, behavioural patterns that can be markers of abuse.
I will be eagerly awaiting Everina Maxwell’s next book!
Read my reviews of other books by Everina Maxwell:
Winter’s Orbit (this series):
- OCEAN’S ECHO (#2)