By Samantha Shannon
“You are very lucky to be at this table,” Chassar said. “Few men seek the Priory and live to see it.” Another man poured Loth a cup of pale wine. “The Priory, Your Excellency?” Loth asked, perplexed. “You are in the Priory of the Orange Tree, Lord Arteloth. In Lasia.”
Between The Priory of the Orange Tree and Descendant of the Crane, I don’t know which I was more excited for. I pre-ordered a physical copy of The Priory of the Orange Tree without thinking much into it. This beast of a novel is 800+ pages. The Priory of the Orange Tree is not a book you can carry around with ease, so I bought the ebook.
The Priory of the Orange Tree is a high fantasy novel. It is not the first book in a series, the whole story begins and ends within the 800+ pages. I was left satisfied. If you are looking for a fantasy story that doesn’t extend into a 15 book series The Priory of the Orange Tree is for you! It was refreshing to read an epic novel that ended on the last page.
Would I recommend The Priory of the Orange Tree to you? Yes. I rated Priory 3 stars on Goodreads because I could not give it 3.70 stars. I was impressed with the world building, lord, dragons, and diversity in characters but it was not enough to overcome the few things I did not like about the story.
Queen Sabran the Ninth is bound by her faith and role in leadership to not only wed but birth a daughter to stop the Nameless One, a mighty dragon, from rising. Amongst her court, there are friends and lots of secrets: a relationship, a usurper, and a mage. One of those is Ead, an honest handmaiden who works in the shadows to protect the Queen.
Across the ocean in the East Tané has one dream, one purpose, to be a dragonrider. She is full of surprises. Niclays also lives there in exile from Queen Sabran. The East and the West hold different ideologies, but their differences must be thrown to the side if there are to come to understand the truth and defeat the Nameless One.
The story is told from four characters, Ead, Loth, Tané, Niclays. As the story progresses character move around the world, each chapter is number and titled with one of the cardinal directions.
- Handmaiden to the Queen, Sabran, who has an exciting secret
- A court member and close friend of Queen Sabran
- A girl who has dreamed of being a dragon rider her whole life
- An alchemist living in exile in the East
- He is chasing immortality
- Otherwise, a boring character to follow
I bought this book for two reasons:
- The cover art.
- I fell victim to the hype of a feminist high fantasy tale.
You should skip the first 450 pages. The story really started for me around this point, it was difficult to push through the first half of the book because it was so slow I almost stop reading. If you enjoy kingdom drama and backstory build up, you will like the first half of the book.
In my opinion, The Priory of the Orange Tree would be a perfect five-star novel if it were significantly shorter and told from the characters Ead and Tané. I expected The Priory of the Orange Tree to hook me within the first 50 or so pages, but it didn’t. If not for the hype of this book I would have stopped reading. I was teased with the thought there would be more dragons, there is more talk of dragons and dragon action.
I have four overall complaints.
1. Multiple perspectives
I hate this. It is rare I find a novel written in this style that I enjoy, why do I keep reading them? This is a popular style that is hard to avoid. I struggled more than usual to follow the plot through these multiple perspectives.*sigh* Not only are there various perspectives but some chapters are split between two characters, so it was a double whammy for me. Each chapter focuses on a part of the world and those characters interacting within it, this is cleaver, but not fun for someone who does not enjoy this writing style.
2. The plot
A watched pot never boils. I was waiting and waiting for the action to happen. You experience a very long build-up to what you assumed would be an epic battle…. it is not. Throughout the novel, there are exciting scenes that I could picture perfectly and secrets that kept my interest, but most of the time I was indifferent about the events happening because it was happening so slow.
3. YA or not YA?
The Priory of the Orange Tree reads similar YA but its not. If I had to place Priory in a new genre is, I would say it is New Adult more than an adult fantasy novel. Priory would have been more enjoyable, for me, if it were written as a full-blown YA.
4. The Hype
The hype for this book was unreal. I typically don’t read books/series that have been hyped up, but I broke when I saw the cover for The Priory of the Orange Tree. I do not believe the story lived up to the hype. I was expecting so much more than what I got. If you are buying a copy because everyyyoonneee is talking about how fantastic Priory is, think twice. It is interesting, but not interesting enough for 800+ pages. I most definitely would have stopped reading Priory for a few weeks if I would not have been so curious to know what the hype was about.
Should you read it?
In this world: there are dragons, kingdoms, magic, mages, witches, pirates, LGBTQ romance, different religions, and impressive lore it would be impossible to read The Priory of the Orange Tree and not like something.
I did like the book and loved the ideas behind the dragons and magical trees. That alone is almost worth the 848 pages (ebook edition). The length and pace of the story are major deal breakers for me. I cannot wholeheartedly recommend you read Priory unless you have read this full review to know what you are getting into.
If you are interested in a long story or looking for a high fantasy tale with a diverse cast of character, you will enjoy The Priory of the Orange Tree. If you have had your eye on this book, I recommend checking out an audiobook version from your local library and giving it a go.
Have you read The Priory of the Orange Tree? What did you think? Is it on your TBR list?