I read a paperback version of The Priory of the Orange Tree.
Genre: Epic fantasy, Fantasy
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Originally published: February 26th, 2019
Pages: 848 (paperback)
Audiobook length: 25 Hours 52 Minutes
Blurb by the publisher:
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.
This is an epic fantasy where EPIC is the right word for sure!
I love me a good chunker of a book from time to time, although I do find them a bit intimidating. I love the “The Bone Season” series by Samantha Shannon, and I’m excited about the next book to come in that series. I wasn’t aware that she had published another book until the cover started popping up quite often on my Instagram feed. And what a pretty book it is! Well done Ivan Belikov (illustrator) and David Mann (design) for the gorgeous cover. And I also have to mention that I really liked seeing a fantasy novel that didn’t have the word throne in it, just saying!
Although I kept noticing this beauty on social media, I had no idea that it was an 800+ pages book. That I found out while book browsing at Outland (my favorite bookstore in Oslo), and all of the sudden it was like it was yelling out my name from the shelf that it was standing on. It begged me to take it home, so I did. I had to small of a purse with me (and refusing to use a plastic bag) I ended up carrying the chunker under my arm all the way home. After I started reading it I’m pretty sure I’ve built some solid arm muscle just by bringing this book along with me everywhere.
It’s been a while since I’ve decided to invest time in such an epic fantasy story, but when it was blurbed as “the feminist successor to Lord of the Rings” and “deserves as much attention as Game of Thrones”, I was more than a little intrigued.
The Priory of the Orange Tree would turn out to surprise me more than I ever expected.
For an 800+ book, it’s pretty impressive that the story grabbed me and never let go for a second. I found myself very invested in a very diverse cast of characters. We had characters of different colors and sexuality represented throughout this story, and it was done in a way that made it feel very natural, as it should always be!
I absolutely loved seeing different sexualities in the main characters, and not just the smaller roles. We need more of that, and Shannon has done an amazing job with showing us how easily it can be done in a genre where it isn’t done nearly as often as it should.
We follow a good amount of characters, but all of them have a very distinct voice and personality which makes it easy to know which character we’re following at any given moment. I also really liked that we got to see the viewpoints of some of the male characters in this story even though the focus is very much on the female ones.
It is a perfect mix of different voices and personalities without being confusing and overwhelming.
And my oh my, there are some really strong female characters in this book that I just fell in love with. Ead and Tané are definitely my personal favorites!
The fact that the dragons had voices too, just gave them so much more depth. It made them into characters in the story, more than just monsters or creatures.
The plotline of this story has a lot of twists and turns that I did not see coming, and that’s what made it into a book that keeps you wanting to read just one more chapter, and then one more. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that’s kept me up at night because I couldn’t wait to find out what’s going to happen to the characters, but The Priory of the Orange Tree definitely had me reading way past my bedtime.
I will say that the history and differences of the East and the West were a bit cluttered and confusing at the very beginning of the story, but as I got further into the story all those single threads were woven together into a colorful and complex carpet. It’s got such a well thought out backstory painted into a rich world that Shannon has come to life on the pages.
I’m in awe with this story, and I would highly recommend it to any fantasy lover out there.
Is it a standalone novel? Yes, but Samantha Shannon has hinted to the possibility of more books by saying that “this world has more stories to tell”, and I’m all here for it!
I believe that The Priory of the Orange Tree is a gamechanger in the epic fantasy genre, and it’s one that we needed more than we were even aware of.
It was well worth dragging “a brick” with me every day, and in many ways, I wasn’t ready for it to end when it did.
Thank you Samantha, for taking me as a reader on this epic feminist fantasy journey! I loved it, every step of the way❤️
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