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Review: The Priory of the Orange Tree

The Priory of the Orange Tree

Title: The Priory of the Orange Tree
Author: Samantha Shannon
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Page Count: 848
Published by: Bloomsbury Publishing
Date Published: February 26, 2019
You can find it here: Bookshop.org


For 1000 years the citizens of the Eastern Queendom of Inys have been protected from the Nameless One – an evil, murderous dragon-like creature set upon destroying and enslaving humanity. As long as a Queen from the House of the Berethnet sits on the throne, the Nameless One remains banished in the fiery depths of the Earth… or so they thought.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court with a powerful secret – she is a lethally trained, elite bodyguard from the mythical group of female mages known as The Priory. With assassins set on murdering the Queen of Inys before she can produce a female heir, Ead’s position is critical.

Across the sea to the East, Tane is about to become a legendary dragon rider, a feat she has trained and dedicated her whole life towards. However, the night before the naming ceremony, a mysterious stranger appears that may threaten everything.

The Queendom of Inys and the entirety of the human race is in danger as dragons, evil wyrms, and powerful political foes swirl. The fate of humankind is held in the hands of a few, but very powerful, women.


Let’s Talk Characters, Inclusion, Diversity:

Ok, straight up, this book takes about 150 pages to sort out all the characters, places, spaces, kingdoms, wyrms, dragons and magic systems.

But it is very worth it when it all clicks together.

I have argued before that I find it exceptionally rare to read a well developed fantasy less than 400 pages, there just isn’t enough room to create strong worlds, characters, and originality. Samantha Shannon has definitely delivered a plethora of fantastic, fully realized characters here.

In fact, this is truly the stand out feature of this massive novel – every single character is interesting and fantastically developed. There isn’t one character that is half drawn, and I honestly cannot say that about any other book I’ve read! This chunk of a book is split between 4 main voices: Ead, (the elite mage from The Priory of the Orange Tree), Tane (the elite dragon rider from Seiki), Niclays Roos (the bumbling anatomist & chemist banished from Inys to Seiki) and Loth Beck (wealthy lord of Inys and best friend of Queen Sabran and Ead).

Each character has a strong voice, individuality, complexity and a host of supporting characters that encircle them that are also surprisingly well developed. Amazing.

And feminisim? This is true feminism here, friends. Powerful women, intelligent women, supportive, empathetic women that lift each other up and do so without stomping on men … it was fantastically done. My brand of feminism does not included bashing men in order to be strong, but rather a collective support from both sides.

Finally, the inclusivity is so subtly flawless, it actually didn’t dawn on me right away just how much diversity and representation is here – race, sexuality, stereotypical roles … it’s all in there without ever falling into tokenism.

Let’s Talk Worlds:

Just as the characters were incredibly drawn so to were the worlds. Pulling on various mythologies and cultures, The Priory of the Orange Tree, weaves a very unique tapestry of world development.

Priory takes us on a journey through deserts, enchanted caves with a magic-granting orange tree, pirate ships, flying & talking dragons, haunted woods, talking dragons, Asian inspired castles, talking dragons, epic love stories and friendships, and talking dragons.

I will say, the plethora of worlds, the plethora of characters, the plethora of pages did get a tiny bit tiresome – after 600 pages of reading you are still being introduced to new places, spaces and characters, which was mentally grating at times. For some this may be a positive, but my tired brain was getting pretty exhausted!

Let’s Talk The Burning Question: Is it worth reading this 800+ page tome?

Yeah, I think most definitely.

If you are looking for an epic fantasy and are prepared to do a little bit of mental work to sort out the characters and worlds, you are going to find yourself immersed in a story that just gets better and better with each turn of the page. Samantha Shannon has such a unique way of storytelling – that I’m still trying to put my finger on – but it keeps you engaged, while slowly revealing its secrets and building to a dramatic, Lord of the Rings-styled epic battle.

Overall Thoughts:

An epic undertaking of expansive fantasy, truly amazing characters, diverse worlds, flawless inclusivity, true feminism, and epic talking dragons. It takes some mental work to sort out the characters and worlds, but the effort more than pays off in a novel that builds and builds becoming more and more engaging with each page. Come for the dragons, stay for the amazing friendships, love story, and truly epic work of imagination. I’m glad I read this one.

TBR Ranking: High

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