Name: The Priory of the Orange Tree
Author: Samantha Shannon
Number of Pages: 827 (Hardback)
Published: February 26th 2019 by Bloomsbury Publishing
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 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.
Wow, talk about epic fantasy. 800+ pages that made me decide as soon as I saw the sheer scope of this book that if it wasn’t brilliant then back to the library it would go. I couldn’t face lugging such a huge tome around with me if I wasn’t really enjoying it.
Fear not – every single page/chapter was warranted. From the moment I began I was totally absorbed in this wonderfully vivid fantasy world. There is so much packed into this tale, and I loved the fact that the whole saga was contained within one beautiful book, rather than breaking off and having to wait anxiously for the next instalment.
The Priory of the Orange Tree is enthralling from beginning to end.
This whole new fantasy world is built in such a way that feels natural – there’s plenty of history, and a Queendom built upon the rule of the Berethnet matriarchs, descendants of the first Queen of Inys who vanquished a powerful and terrifying dragon known as The Nameless One. For a thousand years the threat from dragons has been dormant due to the continuation of the Berethnet bloodline, but in this tale, that thousand years is almost done, and dragons and their offspring are waking from their slumber, threatening the world once more. The current queen, Sabran the Ninth has yet to provide a female heir to guarantee the continued imprisonment of the Nameless One.
As well as the threat from the otherworldly, there are also dangers closer to home, as in the court of Queen Sabran, there is plenty of intrigue, political schemers, those with ambitions beyond their station, and spies with their own agendas and points to put forward.
The story follows several main characters – Ead Duryen is an outsider bought to Sabran’s court who becomes part of her royal household. Tané is a young orphan raised with the dream of becoming a dragon rider in the High Sea Guard, and Niclays Roos is an alchemist whose actions displeased Sabran enough to see him banished from court. Lord Arteloth Beck and his sister Margret also reside at court and are two of Sabran’s closest friends.
Each of these characters face their own challenges, threats, dilemmas and adventures that will take them far from their beginnings, but to go into too much detail about how and why would only ruin the story for you, so I’ll just say that I really enjoyed each of their stories.
With long fantasy novels featuring several viewpoints I tend to find I’ll have a favourite or two, and then always find myself longing to get back to their perspective when reading about other characters. That didn’t happen here at all, especially with the ladies. Each of their stories was wonderfully drawn out, and I didn’t favour one over another; I liked them all and was happy to spend time in each chapter with whichever of them featured.
I loved the friendship that developed between Ead and siblings Loth and Margret, and I liked the secondary characters who appeared in certain narratives.
I couldn’t wait to see how they all came together in the end, united in the seemingly impossible task of stopping the Draconic Army and the Nameless One.
There are dragon riders, mages, knights, pirates, royals, and so many more colourful characters in this amazing story. Fierce dragons and wyrms, legends and quests both old and new, this book really did have it all. It grabbed me right from the opening pages and swept me away.
There was excitement, surprise, magic, romance and enduring friendship, all set against a fantastic backdrop of a world under threat from mythical beasts.
If you’re looking for an epic fantasy, complete in one volume (although I really wouldn’t mind a return visit to this world), with great characters, a rich history and plenty of plot then don’t be intimidated by the size of this book like I almost was. The Priory of the Orange Tree is definitely one you should read.