The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
Publication date: 26 February 2019
Page count: 830 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
This review is spoiler-free
I had been desperately waiting to get hold of a copy of The Priory of the Orange Tree, and it finally landed in my hands in February. It’s a chunky 800-page fantasy tome that is packed with cool dragons, mighty queens, fierce warriors, and enough court intrigue and conspiracy to warm my heart. I was fully expecting this to be my favourite book of the year, so what did I think of it?
A world divided.
A queendom without an heir.
An ancient enemy awakens.
The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction—but assassins are getting closer to her door.
Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.
Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.
Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.
I’m a longtime lover of large fantasy books, so I was thrilled to have The Priory of the Orange Tree in my hands. I think a lot of people will be intimidated by the size of this book, but it’s honestly such a quick read once you get into the story. The world building is absolutely exquisite and is one of the reasons that I fell into the story so quickly. As with The Bone Season, Shannon shows that she has an incredible talent for building lush, gorgeous worlds down to the tiny details — she really paints a picture in your mind. In addition, the magic and mythology in this book were just perfect. I am not somoeone who likes dragons much — I find that they get incredibly boring and same-y after awhile — but I really loved the way Shannon incorporates different dragons inspired by different cultures from our own world.
In terms of characters, we get four points of view. As per usual with my, I found some of those POVs much more interesting than others. For me, Ead was the best POV character — she’s now one of my all-time favourites and I just adore her so much. Not only was she incredibly capable and completely badass, she was extremely well-written. I would have been very happy if this book only followed her. I also really enjoyed Loth, the queen’s best friend, and his journeys far from home. Niclays and Tané were a little bit of a struggle for me, especially Tané. It took me a long time to become invested in Niclays, although I did warm to him by the end, but Tané was just not the kind of character for me. I found her self-righteousness incredibly tedious and discovered I was setting the book down every time I got to one of her chapters. I think the book would have been stronger if Tané was given more of a personality, but also if her and Niclays’ chapters were more balanced in terms of screen time. We spend so much time with Ead and Loth that it really felt like our other POV characters were an afterthought.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Priory of the Orange Tree, however it wasn’t as explosive and incredible as I had hoped. If the book only focused on Ead, Sabran, and Loth, or if a better balance had been struck with the Eastern and Western characters. Regardless, I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. Don’t be intimidated by its size, non-fantasy readers.
Want to give The Priory of the Orange Tree for yourself? You can pick up a copy at the following sites (affiliate links):