Like many people, I was SUPER hyped for this book and ended up buying it not long after release. That was 5 months ago. Despite being excited for it – despite knowing it was an 800 page book – the sheer size and weight of this novel terrified me. But now, almost half a year after its initial release day, I finally found some courage and took this beast on!
The Priory Of The Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
Hardcover | 801 pages | Purchased
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.
The world that Samantha Shannon has created is fascinating. Divided in half, the people of the East worship their dragons as gods and train riders as part of their army, while the folk of the West have turned their backs on all things related to dragons. But the dragons of the East are not like the wyrms of the West – they are gentle creatures, made of air and water – and they may be the only thing that can protect the West in a fiery war.
Centuries ago, an evil wyrm – known only as The Nameless One – wreaked havoc and destruction with his army of Draconic monstrosities. Eventually he was put down, but at a price. The legend says that so long as the Berethnet line remains in tact, The Nameless One will stay trapped, but if any Queen of Inys should die without an heir, hell will be unleashed once more. But now Draconic creatures are awakening all over the world, and there is talk that perhaps House Berethnet is not what keeps The Nameless One at bay.
This book is filled with badass women, and between them, Ead and Tané could take on the world. Ead has been tasked with protecting Queen Sabran by any means, including forbidden magic if necessary. Lately there have been several attempts on Sabran’s life and Ead is determined to figure out who is hiring these cutthroats. We don’t really learn much about Ead and her role within the Priory – nor do we really learn much about the Priory itself – until pretty late into the book, but I still found her to be an interesting character 😍
On the other side of the world, Tané is the opposite of everything the Priory stands for and has trained her whole life to be a dragonrider. But when the chance finally presents itself, she realises that her future may not be as clear cut as she thought. Mistakes are made and Tané pays the price in a steep way, but she never lets it stop her from pursuing her dream.
My biggest gripe with this book is that regardless of the fact that I loved the characters in theory, I didn’t feel connected to a single one of them. This is a highly political, plot-driven story, and that’s great, but I don’t want to read an 800 page tome and not feel a connection. Though we have only four points of view, there are a lot of characters in this book and I guess I just expected to see more development from those characters 😕
On the other hand, something I LOVED about this book was the sheer amount of diverse representation and feminist themes. I love that the sisters of the Priory are dragonslayers and the menfolk are the ones to deal with domestic matters. I love that dragonriders aren’t chosen based on gender. I love that Inys is a Queendom. A feminist world isn’t something we see in fantasy fiction very often, and it was an amazing change from men ruling all 😂
The plot itself I found genuinely fascinating. The idea of a war between humans and dragons is epic and I was so excited for a lot of action and some epic dragon battles between those of the East and the wyrms of the West. Unfortunately, that’s not what I got. I went into this book with such high expectations, but I’m not going to deny that it’s 750 pages of build up for a 30 page battle, followed by 20 pages of life after the “war” has ended. This entire story was leading up to a fight with The Nameless One and I just felt let down by the whole ending.
I think this book could have hugely benefited from being turned into at least a duology, and certainly needed more battles throughout to drive home the point that war is brewing. I just needed more action, slightly less politics, and more of an epic finale. I eventually settled on a 3 star rating just because of how disappointed I felt when all was said and done, but it’s probably closer to a 3.5 if we go with half stars.
Overall, this was an interesting book but I didn’t feel a connection with any of the characters and I was left with a slightly bitter taste in my mouth at the end. I will admit, I read this much quicker than I anticipated despite the slow pace, so it has that going for it, but I have to listen to my gut on this one. There was just SO much potential that fell flat right at the very end 😢