Should You Read This 800-Page Beast? The Priory Of The Orange Tree By Samantha Shannon Review
Title: The Priory Of The Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
Genre: High Fantasy, Adult Fantasy
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.
Rating: 5 Stars!
I have long been intrigued by this 848-page monster by Samantha Shannon.
There are three things that we need to unpack from the get-go:
First, can we just all agree that the cover is gorgeous? I know I’m a sucker for coverbuys, but this one is especially entrancing for any dragon-loving nerd out there.
Next, the title. Succinct and yet so very intriguing. It rolls off the tongue beautifully and is mysterious enough to make you wonder what the heck the story is all about.
And finally, the sheer length of this book. It’s a feat in itself! 848 pages of high-fantasy, with dragons and secret societies of warriors and queendoms? Sign me up! It’s been a while since I took on something more than 500 pages and boy, I was more than willing to slowly devour this mountain of a book. The fact that this was a standalone made me so much happier, too, since I’m really not in the mood to wait a year and a half for a sequel, if there was one.
Okay now that we got those parts down pat, let’s pick this bad girl apart.
It took me almost a month to finish The Priory Of The Orange Tree, and I think it’s safe to say that this is one of my best reads for this year.
Samantha Shannon is pretty much a genius for crafting a sweeping fantasy that did not skimp on beautiful details. This here author, ladies, and gentlemen is no lazybones. She took her time researching the language of the time, and it shows. I really appreciate writers who really do their homework, careful of word usage and the history of the terms that they use throughout the book. She didn’t simply use language as a vehicle to tell the story; her language became a story unto itself, too.
Okay, I know I’m nerding out.
To describe the book’s scope as amazing is quite an understatement.
It truly set the world-building bar way, way up, so much so that I began to question ‘how on earth did the writer manage to pull this off so beautifully’? High fantasy lovers would adore the various settings so vividly described, the complex magic system, the mythology, the religions, the nuance of the peoples, the politics and mechanisms, the creatures, and of course, the dragons.
Boy, oh boy, here be freaking dragons.
Good dragons, evil dragons, awe-inspiring dragons, dragons from the depths of the earth, dragons borne out of stardust. It’s here. They’re here. And they’re fantastic.
Despite having so many overarching narratives, the characters and subplots don’t feel suffocating at all.
The story of the book revolves around four different points of view: on one corner we have Ead, handmaid to Queen Sabran the Ninth, whose bloodline has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Ead appears meek and dependable on the outside, but there’s actually so much more to her than what meets the eye.
On another corner, we have Tane, a dragon-rider from the East. Coming from an impoverished family, Tane must prove to the Miduchi that she is a worthy dragon-rider.
The other chapters are told from the perspective of Lord Arteloth Beck of the West—heir to a rich estate and best friend to the Queen— and of Niclays Roos, an exiled courtier who has motives of his own.
What’s really exciting about these POVs is that they seem to be independent of each other, so I really was excited to see how all of their paths would converge as the story progresses. I love how each character has a motivation of their own, and you kind of see these little choices affect the bigger picture. It’s like a perfectly executed Butterfly Effect.
The Priory Of The Orange Tree is one heck of a feminist manifesto.
One of the things that I love most about this book is that it saw an opportunity to build a world where women are respected, honored, and even feared. It successfully subverted patriarchy and celebrated the power of women. And I’m not only talking about it having a lot of “strong, independent women” archetypes. It celebrates all kinds of women: women who are quiet, women who are gentle, women who are cunning, women who would rather nurture than fight in wars— again, it’s all in here and it’s executed beautifully.
And if you haven’t heard the buzz already, The Priory’s main love plot is sapphic, so if you want a beautiful F/F love story, this book is definitely for you.
The action scenes left a bit to be desired, though.
I guess I was expecting a bit more action, this being a fantasy novel and all. Don’t get me wrong, the action scenes in this book were good, but I kind of wanted more BOOM! BANG! KAPOW! during the fight scenes.
Still, this didn’t stop the book from being a terrific read. The Priory Of The Orange Tree is a beautifully executed work and a very satisfying book for people who love high fantasy, intricate story lines, and solid world building.
Take all of my 5 stars!