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

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Title: The Priory of the Orange Tree

Author: Samantha Shannon

Genre: Adult Epic Fantasy

Published: 2019

Pages: 848

My Rating: 5/5 stars


Synopsis from Goodreads:

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.


Hello Everyone,

Welcome to my review of The Priory of the Orange Tree, an epic fantasy story by Samantha Shannon. This was the first book I had ever read by her, never delving into her other series. And I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed this book and, interestingly, it is a standalone. We do not often see standalone fantasy stories, and there are pros and cons to them. One of the cons can be that, given the wide scope of world building, characterization might fall to the back burner. This novel was definitely very fast paced and action packed, and even though a little more characterization would have benefitted it, I still grew to love the characters. Overall I gave this book 5 stars, and if you wonder whether or not it is worth reading, my answer is yes, it is worth reading for sure!

Let’s start from the world building. Saying that I was impressed would be an understatement. A loose feminist re-telling of St. George and the Dragon, Shannon drew inspiration from Asian history and folklore, as well as English history to build her world. I thought that she chiseled every single piece of the land and its history to perfection, and one can definitely say that she spent a lot of work building the background for her story. I could not find any flaws. All the stories, fairy tales and legends that she included only added to the depth of the world, and I really appreciated that.

Which brings me to the fact that this is a standalone. The first 150 pages were hard to get into. A lot of info dumping and world building needed to happen early on, since the plot had to pick up and the story go on. I think if it had been a duology at least this problem could have been avoided, however, once I passed the 150-page mark and got to know the world and the characters, I enjoyed it so much more.

Even though it was a plot-driven story, I did grow to like the characters, especially Ead, Margret and Loth. I did not care for Tanè as much as I expected, and I thought that her character arc was the weakest. Let me know if you felt the same. I loved that this book includes some LGBTQ+ representation, I think it needs to be more present in fantasy overall. Niclays was straight-up dislikable to me, which is why I enjoyed him so much. It was an interesting twist to the usual hero, and his view on the western queendom provided a refreshing subplot to the story.

I very much loved Shannon’s writing, which is what made the book so atmospheric. Quite solemn and sometimes pompous, it defined and fit the story at court. It was very succinct and to the point, while never leaving important details out of the story.

Overall I loved this book, and it will probably make it to the best of the year. I really hope that Shannon will have some more stories set in this world, would be a pity if she did not. Please let me know if you have read this book and what you thought of it, I would love to know.

Until next time,

Keky

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