The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
Publication date: February 26th 2019
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Genre: High Fantasy / LGBT + Magic and dragons
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, Tane 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.
*** Note: I purchased this book ***
The Priory of the Orange Tree was fantastic high fantasy that revolved around the world fearing the big bad dragon that was stirring from his thousand years long sleep to bring chaos and destruction in the world and characters trying to save the world from him. It was about magic and mages, royal politics, religion and hypocrisy, legends with its truth and lies, love and friendship, good vs bad dragons, and putting away differences to fight the darkness of the world and changing mindset for great good.
Wow! This book is simply awesome. It was 800 page long book and there wasn’t a single page I didn’t enjoy. The writing was beautiful, flawless, and mesmerizing. The author is a brilliant storyteller who chained me to this huge tome from the very beginning and transported me in the world of Virtudom, dragons, dragon lovers and dragon slayers, legends, pirates and outlaws.
The Priory of the Orange Tree was written in third person narrative, divided into six sections with alternative chapters mostly from East and West and some chapters from South, telling the story of main characters living in kingdoms and queendoms in cardinal points of this world. Thank goodness, there was a map or I would have lost directions in this world.
The plot was amazing and it was more complex than I thought. The world and the characters were vast and were equally balanced. The first section was all about world and character building. The story followed Ead and Queen Sabran in West, Tane and Professor Roos in East, and Lord Arteloch Beck (Loth) in South.
“No woman should be made to fear that she was not enough.”
In the west, Ead Duryan was set in Inys court to protect the Queen, Sabran Berethnet. Her duty was to ensure her safety as it was said Berethnet line kept the Nameless One (our bad dragon) tied to the abyss. Ead had secrets. She was a mage of the priory, one of the best handmaiden, born to slay dragons. She kept a watchful eye on the queen for 7 years but she was away from priory for too long, her magic is fading, and to keep queen safe she must get close to the queen. She discovered somebody was trying to harm Sabran. The question was who? And then high western dragons (high-rank dragons of Nameless One’s army and equally dangerous) were rising. I was curious to see how Ead was going to save Sabran from the threat flying towards Inys without revealing her true identity.
I loved every part of this narration. I loved reading western culture and their blind faith in this part. Court of Inys and castle was also described wonderfully. The politics and legend was the heart of this narration and then sizzling f/f romance.
In the East we are introduced to eastern culture and the life of Tane and Professor Roos. Tane’s only dream was to become a dragon rider but arrival of a stranger changed the course of life. She hid him instead of reporting him to officials so her selection ceremony didn’t interrupt. Doctor Roos got involved in this web of hiding stranger and it made things even worse for Tane. I liked how events unfolded. I was curious to find out what role she was going to play in the whole story and what will happen to her dragon.
I loved reading about different islands in the East, the empire of twelve lakes, harsh Eastern law, pirates and their journey, and the story of the second mage in this narration.
In South, Lord Arteloth Beck (Loth) was carrying out a spy mission. But he wasn’t a spy! he was sent away from Inys so he couldn’t be in way of Queen Sabran’s marriage. There were rumors he and Sabran were lovers but actually they were best friends. Night Hawk of Inys court sent him to his doom without notifying the Queen. On arriving in Carscaro, he discovered the reality of the castle and person sitting on the throne and many other secrets. I was curious to see if he could ever find his way back to Inys.
In this I enjoyed reading about wyrms, other creatures of the south, about Priory and the real legend, and customs of the south.
“Piety can turn the power-hungry into monsters,’ Ead said. ‘They can twist any teaching to justify their actions.”
Ead (26 yrs old) was my most favorite character in whole book. She was everything I would want in heroine. Badass, smart, clever, a warrior and a killer. She also had a broader perspective who not just cared for her home but also for Inys and whole humanity. She never feared anything until she fell in love. Lot of things changed and it got really exciting. She was the only person who was unfazed by the appearance of high western and even the Nameless One in the end battle. She found a lot of secrets and truth behind stories and every mystery. The more I read about her, her act and reaction and her adventure, the more I admired and loved her.
“All stories grow from a seed of truth,’ Truyde said. ‘They are knowledge after figuration.”
Sabran (27 yrs old) was headstrong, imperious, and orthodox woman at first. I even said her a fool but once I knew more about her, her secrets and fears, her childhood and her dreams, like Ead, I warmed to her. She had a face of steel and heart filled with compassion and love. She surprised me when she got to know the truth about her religion and legend and later the biggest shocking secret. No one can endure so much but only Sabran. She was one true queen and I loved her at the end.
“I do not sleep because I am not only afraid of the monsters at my door, but also of the monsters my own mind can conjure. The ones that live within.”
Loth (30 yrs old) was another favorite character. It took more than one adventure for him to change his belief. He got so many shocks throughout the book. I loved him for his loyalty and friendship. His sister was braver and broad minded than him. I loved Margret throughout the book.
Tane (19 yrs old) was young and naïve and little flawed. She was ambitious. Her dream and her best friend were only one she cared about and when that was taken away because of her one mistake she became weak and hollow. She kept feeling guilty for breaking law, even when her dragon assured her she didn’t do wrong. It was so sad and tragic to see everything falling apart for her. But I loved her determination and the way she changed things in second half of the book.
I thought at first Doctor Roos (64 yrs old) will not be important character but I was wrong. He was one flawed character and not likable. He was opportunist and selfish. Shadow of the past was seeped deep in him and his exile only served to fester the dead in him. One thing was, he didn’t deny his flaws and who he was. He knew he was not honest and righteous person and what he did was wrong and I liked how his adventure, encounter with pirates and dragons, and hope changed his view.
“I realized, that she had been spoon-fed a story from the day she was born. She had been taught no other way to be. And yet, I saw that despite everything, some part of her was self-made. This part, small as it appeared at first, was forged in the fire of her own strength, and resisted her cage. And I understood…that this part was made of steel. The part who she truly was.”
Mysteries, actions, adventure, and surprises were in abundance. There was so much going on throughout the book.Each chapters and section revealedso many stories, myths, legends and tales of this world that was set in CE 1005. Two legends were center part of the story. One was from west and sounth of Gallian Berethnest and the damsel and another from the east about another mage and dragons that was revealed in second half of the book.
My most favorite part of the book was these legends and the two sides of it, how Ead and other characters found the evidence of the truth in this legend and about magic, about mage of east, and how both legends connected at the end and provided a key to fight the Nameless One.
Climax was exciting and tense. When the final battle started it got even more excited. It was not narrated like battles we read in other fantasy. It was exactly the way it should be, all chaos broke free and all fighting the common enemy. It ended a bit earlier than expected but it was amazing. The end also showed what happened to each character and what they did after the battle. I was bit confused by what happened to Tane, I must admit it was weird and unclear. I had to go to Goodreads and the reader’s discussion about this. The answers were satisfactory and like them I hope this might be a link to other book author is planning to write in this world.
“Some truths are safest buried. Some castles best kept in the sky. There’s promise in tales that are yet to be spoken.”
Overall, The Priory of the Orange Tree was fantastic, mesmerizing, fast-paced, and mind-blowing fantasy with complex world and amazing characters. As said in the praises, “it was epic fantasy at its finest”. Even after reading 800 pages, I didn’t want it to end. It was that good. I highly recommend this book. I’m surely getting other books by Samantha Shannon.
What do you think about the book and my review? Have you read this book already or any books by the same author? Are you going to add it to TBR? Which is your favorite high fantasy or book with dragons?
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