Review: The Priory of the Orange Tree

[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 to be a dragonrider since she was a child, 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 will be a long review and it’s partially just me trying to explain the basic concept of this novel’s massively complex world – and only then do I talk about how I felt about it. But you can tell from that rating that I really enjoyed it and it only took like 4 days to read!

I gave it 4 stars.

The Priory of The Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon is one of the largest books I’ve ever read and although it was quite intimidating and complex, it was also incredible. Surprisingly, I think I enjoyed it more as an ebook than as I would as a physical book since I couldn’t tell how much I still had to go and therefore wasn’t really intimidated while reading.

In this story, the peoples of this world are strongly divided by their religious beliefs. In the West, there is an alliance of nations, Virtudom, and these people are very obsessed with tradition, piety/sin and they are quite intolerant with anyone who believes in anything different (most similar to medieval ages’ Christianity). I wasn’t a huge fan of these people, though I think it made for an interesting plot/type of characters especially since it’s clear from the start that it might be a religion built on lies.

I loved the different concept of dragons in this book.

  • In the West, there are the creatures of the Draconic Army (mostly referred to as wyrms or fire-breathers) that physically resemble the dragons in GOT. These are all evil and basically just animals except for like six of them.
  • The Eastern Dragons are highly-intelligent, wise and long-lived creatures with assorted powers/attributes of air, sea and even starlight. They resemble the dragons in Chinese mythology. Overall with very different personalities and inclinations much like people.

It was unique to see dragons not as the usual beautiful, powerful creatures to be admired or avoided but as actually evil, irrational animals that are the villain’s minions. I also want to read more books with chinese-mythology inspired dragons, I just don’t read enough of them!

The story follows a few different main characters and the chapters are divided by location. This was a difficult to follow at first since it took so many pages to even just properly introduce them. My favorite was Tané, and it took me a while but I eventually liked Ead (who are from the East and West chapters, respectively).

Tané is training to become one of the most esteemed and honorable warriors of her land and a dragon rider. She’s incredibly driven, motivated, clever and skilled – but she lacked in social skills a bit, and had this deep-rooted inferiority complex/obsessiveness with the classes. She felt apart from her peers and she couldn’t really understand why. Part of why I loved her? Yes, I obviously just loved her immediately and it always really pissed me off that her chapters were shorter than Ead’s!

Ead is a mage of the Priory of the Orange Tree* working undercover to protect Queen Sabran who may or may not be actually descended from their Saint. She’s a very level-headed, patient and adamant person from the start, and I respected her but she was also frequently infuriating. Her chapters are filled with interactions with the most annoying characters (and this is part of the reason why I didn’t like them as much as Tané’s) and it is through her critical, open-minded self that we get to know the cunning court of Inys. She grew on me, though. Ead is selfless, humble and she loves fiercely. (A bit disappointed that it was she who used the sword…)

*The Priory is only properly introduced halfway into the book so I’m not going to talk about it and just let you all find out for yourselves.

I really like the kind of plot of this book. It brings together all the main characters that are scattered throughout the world to fight the big evil thing. In this case, it was the Nameless One. I was disappointed with this aspect of the book and with the reveal at the end. There wasn’t enough development of this Nameless One, all we get to know is its history and how it came to be but it’s such a weak villain to be honest (it’s evil because it’s evil, basically).

Plus, I always knew they were going to succeed. I can’t believe Shannon could pull off a 800+ page book and then have her main characters die and fail to save the world at the end (not everyone can be GRRM).

I’m writing this review about a month after reading it and now I can say that there might’ve been some unnecessary moments to this very large book. (Like the majority if not all of Niclays’ POV for the entire damn book.)

The writing was good, I think? I honestly can’t really recall if I liked it or even noticed since I was so engrossed in the story but I guess that just says it all about how much I enjoyed this book. (I usually get really annoyed with bad writing so this must’ve been good enough for me anyway.)

Something that is really cool about this book is that in the end, the white society’s religion/beliefs get turned upside down, the chosen ones are POC who have other religious beliefs and actually know and accept the truth about the secrets of the world instead of branding it all heresy (and there’s also an unexpected same sex couple). This book is positively diverse and original.

Overall, The Priory of the Orange Tree is very much worth reading and I strongly recommend it. One of the few books that leaves you satisfied and not really wanting a sequel!

3 thoughts on “Review: The Priory of the Orange Tree

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