Review: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

29774026Verdict: Everything I wanted it to be.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Published by Bloomsbury, 2019

Find it on 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.

This book hit me right in my sweet spot when it comes to fantasy. I usually don’t enjoy these super long fantasy tomes but this one really worked for me. This book casually grounds itself in female characters and queer relationships in a way that worked exceedingly well for me. Shannon wrote a book nearly custom-made for me (there is nearly no miscommunication! People actually talk to each other honestly! There is no sexualized violence! The good guys are allowed to be good and are allowed to grow! There are many many wonderful women! Some carry swords, some ride dragons, and some are better suited to diplomacy! And it is ok that they are different! They are not compared to each other!). I adored every second of this 26-hour long audiobook and I am so glad I decided to read it.

This is a fairly traditional high fantasy book focussing of two very different parts of this fictional world: one where dragons are worshipped and one where dragons are reviled. We follow four different characters: Tané who is training to become a dragon rider, Niclays who is an alchemist living in exile, Loth who has been thrust into a dangerous diplomatic mission, and Ead, a handmaiden to the Priory of the Orange Tree, send to protect the Queen of Inys who would have her executed if her real faith was revealed. As a background to this, draconic creatures are stirring again, indicating that the Nameless One who nearly destroyed human society one thousand years ago might be returning. As is hardly ever the case, I enjoyed every single perspective – especially Niclays really grew on me in the course of the book. He is a deeply unhappy, spiteful man filled with regret and hatred – but he is humanized by his deep love for a man he lost many years ago. He is selfish and cruel but also so very lost that I could not help but root for him in the end. Tané is very much a hero with a proper hero’s journey, but I loved her earnest wish to do what is right. Loth worked best for me when put into situations with his sister or his queen – both of whom he loves dearly and honestly. My favourite perspective however was Ead: I do love kickass women who do what is right, no matter how difficult.

My favourite part of this book were the great variety of relationships Shannon depicts: there are romantic relationships and platonic ones, childhood friends and unlikely friends, sibling love and the love between children and their parental figures (biological and otherwise), friendships between humans and fantastical beasts, grudging respect and long-lived hate – I adored this. All to often the main focus of books is romantic love – and to have this facette of human behaviour be only one part of a great kaleidoscope of relationships really worked for me. I also really loved the main romantic relationship at its core: these two women were just wonderful together (skirting spoiler territory here).

I read this book as part of Wyrd & Wonder – a month-long celebration of the fantastic hosted by imyril @ There’s Always Room for One More, Lisa @ Dear Geek Place and Jorie @ Jorie Loves a Story. You can sign up here!

Content warning: Miscarriage, infertility, death.



16 thoughts on “Review: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

  1. Great review, Hannah! I’m surprised this is only 26h, I thought it’d be 40 or so… I have the physical copy and now I’m super excited for it!! I love a good chunky fantasy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 26 hours were definitely manageable. I do wish I had bought the physical copy as well because I really could have used the map. There are so very many places in this book!
      I do hope you’ll love it as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting – I’ve been steering clear of this one because I really didn’t get on with The Bone Season, but I know this is a stand-alone. I really struggle to find fantasy I’ll like, but I do enjoy fantasy when I find the right book – I definitely lean more towards court politics than anything too fantastic, though dragons are good!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t read The Bone Season – but some of my online friends have and said The Priory of the Orange Tree is a lot different and a lot better. I do read a lot of fantasy though, so this was properly up my alley.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You have officially convinced me to place a library hold on this! I’ve got a 7 week wait so it looks like I will still get to it before my summer fantasy mood expires.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You SOLD me with that whole parenthesis bit in the first paragraph–I was nodding furiously through it all! One of the top things I want to see more in fantasy is variety in love and relationships, and it sounds like this has them in spades. I’ll need to set some time to proper read this.Thank you for the lovely review! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great review! This is one I’m really excited for and have in my audio TBR pile, but it’s so long I’m taking a while to get to it, because it feels like such a commitment, lol!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t usually read fantasy like this and I virtually never read doorstoppers, buuuut I almost want to read this just for all those points in brackets you make! Especially ‘nearly no miscommunication’ – miscommunication massively frustrates me (I just want people to communicate plainly and clearly with one another, haha).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was SO great! I am usually of the opinion that no book needs to be longer than 400 pages but this one really really worked for me.
      Miscommunication so often is THE worst. It feels like such an easy way to build tension and I would much rather have anything else be the reason for tension.

      Liked by 1 person

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