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Review: The Priory Of The Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

on March 14, 2019

The Priory Of The Orange Tree 
Samantha Shannon
Bloomsbury ANZ
2019, 830p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

From the internationally bestselling author of The Bone Season, a trailblazing, epic high fantasy about a world on the brink of war with dragons–and the women who must lead the fight to save it.

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.

I remember my excitement around The Bone Season when it was released and how much I enjoyed it. I bought the second book but I’m yet to read it. There’s probably more books released in that series, who knows. One day I’ll catch up on it, maybe when it’s all been released. I’ve decided that sometimes, that’s the best way to go with series’.

But here we have a stand alone release from Samantha Shannon and it is a whopper, coming in at well over 800p in large paperback form. It’s a beautiful cover on a large, often unwieldy book which was, on occasion, hard to read because of its enormousness. Luckily, it’s a pretty engrossing story to keep you returning to it time and time again. I also had the added motivation of buddy reading this with Theresa from Theresa Smith Writes, otherwise this might’ve sat on my TBR shelf for a very long time! Thank you for keeping me accountable and pushing me to read this right away 😉

There are multiple narrators, mostly divided between east and west of a world split by differing faiths. One of the main players is Ead, lady-in-waiting to Queen Sabran the Ninth but who is really a mage sent to court under an alias in order to keep the Queen safe. Ead thwarts assassination attempt after assassination attempt on the Queen with no one’s knowledge as the powers at court attempt to get Sabran to finally choose a man to wed in order to conceive a daughter so that the line of her House might continue. It’s widely believed that the House of Berethnet keeps something called the ‘Nameless One’ from rising and that if Sabran does not further the line, destruction awaits.

Tané has risen from peasant to train to be a dragonrider but she makes a decision on the day of the ceremony that will come back and find her. All she wants is to be paired up with a dragon, to prove herself. There are plenty out there who would see her fail – she doesn’t come from a line of dragonriders, she’s pulled her way up through sheer grit and skill.

I really enjoyed this. It’s a complex but not confusing read, if that makes sense. There are multiple narrators but it’s quite easy to keep all of the different ones straight and their locations as well. Most of the narrators are women and strong women at that, creators of their own destinies, breakers of rules and traditions. Sabran the Ninth, Queen of Inys was for me, probably the most difficult of the characters to get a handle on – she’s portrayed mostly through the eyes of Ead and because she’s a Queen raised to be a Queen, she tends to brook no dissent in her ranks (except from Ead, who doesn’t tell her what she wants to hear but rather what she should be told). Sabran has long lived with the belief hanging over her head that the rule of the House of Berethnet, nearly a thousand years strong, is what keeps the realm safe. In order to continue that, she must marry, which is not something that excites her. The women of Berethnet produce only daughters, each one looking like their mother and given one of a handful of names, ensuring a rule of consistency in pretty much all manners. Sabran’s mother was still murdered though, despite the numerous protections around her, so the safety of Sabran is placed above all else with people tasting her food, trying on her clothes, sweeping her chambers, even sleeping by her side. I enjoyed the way her relationship with Ead developed in that Ead was an outsider and had to work her way up through cunning and correct behaviour (but also through her personality of not necessarily pandering to Sabran) to get to the position where she was able to enjoy the favour of the Queen and also be in a better position to keep her safe and help her. The discoveries mean that Sabran has to really go through quite an evolution of faith, let go of things she’s held as true her entire life and without Ead I don’t think she would’ve been able to do that.

I love books with dragons and this has honestly made me realise that I don’t read enough of them! Surely there must be loads of books with dragons out there, I’m definitely going to have to try and find some more. In this there are different types of dragons – and some areas don’t distinguish this, believing them to be all evil servants of the Nameless one. However where Tané is from, dragons are revered and to be paired with one is the ultimate honour. The riders develop a deep bond with their dragon – and I absolutely loved the way that Tané and her dragon interacted. The devotion from Tané towards her dragon was limitless and she was willing to put herself in peril and sacrifice herself time and time again.

There’s no denying the size of this story and at times, it does feel a little bogged down, with characters needing to travel between places for information or by way of getting back to somewhere else. But at times I think this is a logistics issue, in that characters need to get to places and it takes them time to get there, it’s not necessarily a plot issue. But for most of the time, my attention was riveted to this story and I think that’s high praise for an over-800p book. It was the sort of story were I could put it down if I needed to and when I picked it up, I slipped right back into the story again, without missing a beat. It was also the sort of story where you could probably power through it in a sitting or two, if that’s your thing. A few years ago, I could’ve easily slogged through this in a day but with kids and stuff to get done, it’s a rare event that I can get through something of this size in that short a time these days!

I also appreciated the conciseness of the ending, which makes it a complete story but also leaves a few things open in that I guess you can speculate on the character’s futures. It’s not super perfect with everyone all tied up and there’s more a ‘happy in the future, when things are done’ rather than happy forever, right this second onwards at the end. I liked that. It felt real.


Book #46 of 2019

4 responses to “Review: The Priory Of The Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

  1. […] for a buddy read (it might be too big of a commitment for a book club). I read it with Brooke from 1girl2manybooks, which was a lot of fun. The Priory of the Orange Tree deserves to get a big following which will […]

  2. This sounds like a fun read though big books intimidate me lol! Great review! 🙂

  3. Great review! And I love this cover! The hardcopy is a monster though. So glad I have it on my Kindle.

  4. […] Bought/borrowed in 2019 – The Priory Of The Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon. My review. […]

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