A review by jce
Winter's Orbit, by Everina Maxwell

adventurous hopeful tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Loveable characters? Yes
I'm still not decided on a rating for this one. 4 stars maybe? I certainly enjoyed it. I thought the MC's were endearing, I found Kiem particularly lovable, and the situation they were in was interesting. It had a lot of tropes that I love (give me the "we have to huddle together for warmth" trope forever I cannot resist it), and I'm always here for a slow burn. I felt invested in the characters and eager to see how things resolved between them.
There were times when I felt a little lost as to what was going on plot wise, and when I had trouble keeping track of who various characters were. This is probably an issue with me, rather than the book. My concentration has been at an all time low lately, and I probably just wasn't focused enough on what was happening.
The other issue I had was with how things unfolded between Kiem and Jainan. I do like the whole miscommunication/"I like you but I don't think you like me" trope. But I had some qualms with it here. It went on for SO long. And while there were valid reasons for them to be reading one another wrong, and unable to talk openly, there were also a few times when they were just about to reveal something or seemed ready to talk and then were interrupted. I can handle that once, maybe. But when there has been so little communication between them and they just keep almost opening up or understanding one another only to be interrupted, it becomes frustrating. It got to the point that I skimmed ahead just to see when they might finally actually TALK. 

Minor spoilers ahead*

SpoilerAnd then when they do come to some understanding, I still found it lacking. Kiem tells Jainan he's beautiful, they both sort of realize the other actually wants them, and then it's pretty much fade to black. The interactions we see are sweet, and the chemistry is believable, but there's still so little communication. And it's clear from later events that they still don't really have a clear picture of one another. I have absolutely no problem with fade to black sex scenes, but I did think here it might have been a chance to explore how these characters interact, how they treat one another during a vulnerable, open moment, and how the baggage they bring impacts their experiences. I just wanted to see more intimacy between these characters. Not necessarily in terms of sex, though that would have been one opportunity. Even just more conversation between them when they are alone and actually on the same page would have worked. I just wanted to feel like by the end they really knew one another and felt safe enough with one another to be honest and open. Since it was such a slow burn and there were so many times they didn't really seem to understand one another, I wanted the pay off of really seeing them connect and navigate opening themselves up to one another. We do see some of that, but rarely when they are just alone together without some sort of threat or lack of time. I loved the characters enough that I wanted more for them and I came away a little sad that we didn't really get much of a glimpse of what their relationship would look like once they realize they aren't just in love, but loved in return.