Title: The Priory of the Orange Tree
Author: Samantha Shannon
Source: ARC (Gifted, thanks to Bloomsbury)
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.
‘If the sun burned out tomorrow, your flame would light the world.’
The Priory of the Orange Tree has been one of my anticipated reads since I first heard about it so I was absolutely thrilled when Bloomsbury sent me a copy. Admittedly, though I’ve wanted to read it ever since I received it, I had been putting it off because of the size of it. Let’s be honest, it’s the size of 2/3 books so I wouldn’t say it’s a particularly quick read. I also planned fairly badly.
The intention to read it before the end of 2018 was there, but wanting to reach my Goodreads goal before 2018 ended got the better off me and so I opted for shorter books instead. Really, I should have been starting this beast of a book as it took me a month to read it and I finished the last 30 pages the day it came out. I think that it can be a little daunting when you first face this book as it is 800 pages. I know I definitely felt a little intimidated by it and like I may struggle, but it was such a fantastic book that I’m glad I finally read it.
I’m going to try and write this without spoiling anything as I want everyone to go into this book with no spoilers, so if this review is quite vague, now you know why!
In Priory, we follow four characters PoVs as Virtudom is on the brink of war. These characters are Ead, Tané, Niclays and Loth as they all navigate through the South, East and West. The world building in this book was just fantastic. It was so rich and descriptive that I found it easy to imagine the settings. Of course, rich world building in an 800-page book is something you would expect but Samantha really delivered. I didn’t find it at all confusing like I was first expecting. It was incredibly easy to follow because the settings were all so different. You can really tell that Samantha did so much for this book, not just because of the size but because of the sheer amount of detail throughout Priory.
Out of the four PoVs that we follow in this book, I think that my favourite was Ead but I also liked Tané. Both were prominent and were the primary focus out of the four characters we follow. I really liked Ead because of how there were so many layers to her and because she wasn’t afraid to do what was right. Tané was similar in that respect but she was also focused on herself and making sure she was the best dragon rider she could be. I liked Loth as a character but we didn’t go to his PoV as often as Ead and Tané’s. I felt that Niclays really went on a journey during this book, but I personally liked his chapters least out of the four as I just wasn’t as invested in his story as the others.
Other than the 4 main characters that we follow, there are plenty of other characters throughout this book and all are fully fleshed out with backgrounds. Two of my favourite characters were Sabran and Meg. Although I did think Sabran could be a little cold at times, I did quite like her. Meg was such a good friend to Ead and I loved her attitude throughout the book. She was quite a badass as and when she needed to be.
Relating to characters, there was LGBT representation of f/f and m/m relationships and exploration of sexuality in this book which was good to see.
The dragons are quite a prominent feature in this book, or perhaps I should say wyrms. There are good dragons and bad wyrms which is different There were quite a few different creatures featured throughout, but my favourite was perhaps the ichneumon called Arlaq who is kind of like Ead’s pet.
Although I found the pacing a little slow for the first 400-450 pages, as everything started to fall into place I found that it really picked up and the last 350-400 pages went by much faster than the first half. One thing that did slow the book down for me was the long chapters which is why I have given Priory 4.5 stars as I did feel like the long chapters did slow down the first half for me alongside the slower pacing.
I have read all books in Samantha’s The Bone Season series so far and I know that those books also have long chapters. This isn’t necessarily a criticism of Samantha’s books or her writing but I find that for me, long chapters slow the pace down meaning it takes me longer to read which is exactly what happened with this book. Despite the fact it did have long chapters, I was still interested in the book and was left wanting to read more whenever I put it down.
I found The Priory of the Orange Tree to be an enjoyable read that was incredibly well thought out. The character development was great, the world building was incredible and the plot was easy to follow. Despite the fact that the first half of the book was slower than the second half and the long chapters, I did find this to be a satisfying read and a really fantastic standalone book. I would absolutely recommend this book.