The Priory of the Orange Tree
by Samantha Shannon
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.
No, really, without even knowing much about the books, the one thing that made me pre-order it was the fact that there were queendoms and there were dragons. I was sold. I had it on My Most Anticipated Book Releases (Jan-Jun) as well! Then the reviews started pouring in and I was a bit intimidated by them because everyone seemed to love this one and rarely did anyone have anything truly bad to say about it.
I finally started the book with these fears in my mind and I needn’t have. I really needn’t have. There’s something about the writing, quick moving plots and multiple narratives throughout the book that really helped me love it. It’s very clear as you read along that Shannon had her canon done to a T. There wasn’t a lot left to wonder about and there weren’t a lot of glaringly obvious plot holes scattered in the book and with a book this size, I was very worried about that. Especially considering the fact that this is a standalone.
So, let’s dive into this one. Let’s go with dragons first because let’s be honest, a lot of the people probably put it on tbr just for the dragons. There’s such a good variety of dragons and what constitutes as a dragon. The different regions having different and polarizing opinions of said creatures. With east and west having such vastly different outlooks (with a somewhat valid reason), it was absolutely amazing to read and learn more about them as the pages flew by.
World-building. If you know me at all, you know I am weak for world-building in a fantasy novel/ series. So, I was very worried about it with this one because how much of it can you really stuff into one novel? Well, on this front, Samantha Shannon absolutely floored me. With people of different faiths, different geography and different traditions and lore, Priory still managed to make me feel very much as if I was living all of those and that was victory for the author, I think. It is so hard to make up a whole new world with its societies and religions and traditions and even though she doesn’t go too deep into them, there’s still enough to make me feel satisfied about it.
Pacing and plot! With a book that is almost 900 pages, I did wonder about the pace and the plot meeting that golden ratio. And admittedly, the first 150 pages do take a bit of a time but once you cross that, it all settles into a nice pace that is easy and exciting at the same time because things don’t stop happening in the book. It is also a multi-perspective so you are reading things that happening in multiple parts of the world with such distinct characters. That’s always a plus for me, multi-perspective when done right can be phenomenal and here, it is.
Characters! Gosh. Okay, so, first of all, I am trying to contain myself here because this one is already too long a review but I just have to talk about the characters. From Ead, who’s from the south and has tried to climb her way to become Queen Sabran’s close friends and learning something about herself as well as the queen to Sabran who has such a heavy legacy to carry on, who’s caustic and remote and cold but also insecure and in need of love. From Tane, a commoner who becomes a dragon rider but who’s one action could bring about her downfall to Loth who’s such a dear friend of Queen Sabran and who has had to face far more than his station in the court might have hinted at. Then there’s Roos, who’s absolutely not likeable but at the same time, he’s suffered enough in life to warrant some pity. He sometimes tries to be better but almost always the results end in disasters.
Relationships. This book has some of the best friendships I have seen in a while. They are not perfect but they are solid, they just are. There’s sisterhood that is almost enviable if I am being honest because these women, while they do have their own ambitions, they try to raise each other up and that was so good to read about. Then there’s the opposite sex friendships which are just that, friendships. I am afraid that I haven’t read enough books where opposite sex friendships are pure friendships so when I do stumble into them, I am just absolutely in love with them. There’s also a really touching lgbt romance in there as well which feels so organic and natural that I was almost surprised by it.
Overall, I would like to say that this is entirely enjoyable and immersive book and frankly, I couldn’t have expected anything better. I do have a couple of things I was bothered by. I wanted more Tane POV and I wish there was more expanded to cover the north as well. But those are tiny complaints compared to the rest of the positive points and frankly, if you are at all a fantasy fan, or someone who’d love to see some badass women being badass or if you wanna read about friendships and relationships in general then this is the book for you. Don’t be intimidated by the size, the pace of the book takes care of the fear.