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Book Review: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

T;LDR: A multiple POV epic fantasy with plenty of girl power, The Priory of the Orange Tree is rich in lore, love… and dragons. What more could a reader want?

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 3/4

This book is all about balance – the East and the West, religion vs monarchy and power, beliefs vs knowledge, and magic vs none. It is a chonker, coming in at 804 pages in hardback, but the journey you go on when reading this book makes the length worth it.

While I found it tricky to be invested in at the beginning, the longer I read, the more I cared and the more it hooked me in. It has fantastic world building, interesting characters and character arcs, and the ultimate Big Bad. For this, I gave it 4.75 stars.

The Plot

Ead Duryan is an outsider at the court of the House of Berethnet, where Queen Sabran the Ninth currently rules. Sabran must birth a female heir to keep the monarchy secure.

But Ead has a secret. She is not there to be a lady-in-waiting to the queen; she is there to protect Sabran, using forbidden magic to do keep her alive. Because if she fails, the Nameless One and his minions will destroy and rule over the entire world.

Across the sea, in the ‘wyrm-worshipping’ East, Tané awaits to see if she is worthy enough to become a dragonrider. She trained for this her entire life, but a choice she makes the morning of her trials may endanger her goal and unravel her life.

Can East and West resolve their differences and come together to face the rising threat? And will Ead’s and Tané’s secrets bring their downfalls while the kingdoms burn?

What I liked & liked less

This book is the first big chonker I’ve read in the fantasy genre in a long time. Its size and its mythology are daunting. Because of that, it took me a bit of time to warm up to it (I’m sensing a theme with the larger books – maybe I need to expect it more). I read it in fifteen minutes increments at the start until I had a better sense of who believed what and where they were.

However, once the basic premises of each faction were made clear, I was hooked. I loved the world building. Not only was it interesting, but I loved seeing how each side – East, West, North and South – saw the same incidences through their own perspectives and worldviews. It shows how much culture, history, tradition and religion can skew the viewpoints of different peoples based on what those aspects discuss.

The balance that is discussed in this book is also something I enjoyed discovering as I read. The author has some pretty distinct viewpoints on religion, beliefs, and ultimately that it must all be well-balanced to keep the world from ending.

There are dragons in this book – wonderfully awesome and intelligent dragons and fearsome and dark dragons. Who can resist a book with dragons? (I can’t. I didn’t think it was a thing and yet, it is a thing for me). What worked best for me was here again, the balance theme shows up and there are reasons why one set of dragons is one way and the other is the other. I love when something is included in the world building and it is explained in a way that fits with the themes of the book and makes sense in the world.

I also loved most of the characters and their arcs. Each of the characters given a POV in the book – and there are four in total: Ead, Tané, Loth, and Nicrosy. They have their own character journeys, discovering different ideas about themselves, opening themselves up from their close-minded positions, and finding their purpose in the world. All of them are good, although I will say I had my favorite.

Ead is a badass and I am here for it. She’s got magic, but also assassin-like stealth. She is intelligent and plays the long game, but she’s also not afraid to be vulnerable when it’s necessary. And she has an unexpected love arc, which had an organic growth to it – all of which I loved!

I did not really like Tané. She had a lovely story arc – a redemption and self-worth theme. Her story also had twists and turns. But for some reason, I just didn’t like the character. This is completely subjective. I found no holes in her story, nor any gaps in her journey. I just wasn’t a fan of her as a human in the story.

To Sum Up (Too Late!)

An epic mythology about balance, beliefs, dragons (!), and purpose, The Priory of the Orange Tree is every bit as good as the hype about it. The characters were interesting, had their own character arcs, and grew in organic ways as the plot progresses. Add to that pirates, smugglers, alchemists, and mages (most of which I didn’t mention in my summary), and you get an engaging fantasy book.

With all of that plus its length and how long it took me to understand it at the front, I’ve given it 4.75 stars.

About the Author 

Samantha Shannon studied English Language and Literature at St. Anne’s College, Oxford. The Bone Season, the first in a seven-book series, was a New York Times bestseller and the inaugural Today Book Club selection. Her next novel, The Priory of the Orange Tree, was published in February 2019 and became a New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller. Her work has been translated into twenty-six languages. She lives in London.

If you wish to purchase this book, pick your vendor of choice here, or just cave to the man and get it from Amazon here.

This book fulfills another square in my Fantasy Bingo Card — the cat squasher square.

Originally published on Feedium.