Title: The Priory of the Orange Tree
Author: Samantha Shannon
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Publication Date: February 26, 2019
I recieved an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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.
Samantha Shannon crafted The Priory of the Orange Tree in a manner that parallels the beauty and intricacy of a fairyale. Not only is her writing enchanting, but her execution of interweaving three narratives into the main story is brilliant! The Priory of the Orange Tree follows the stories of a heirless Queen in a faith-based empire, a lady-in waiting whose knowledge extends to witchcraft, and an apprentice dreaming of becoming a dragonrider.
One key aspect that I loved– but others may not– is the huge religious influence and focus of The Priory of the Orange Tree. (I say this mainly for people who, like myself, may not have known what a Priory was before googling.) Queen Sabran rules because of her family’s religious influence in history. Ead’s place in court is questioned because of her upbringing in a faithless country. Tané’s people are condemned for being faithless. This dimension of religion, tradition, and faith practices is so achingly beautiful, especially as it shapes so much of the main character’s identities.
Shannon manages to draw enough from history to make this world seem familiar yet crafting mythos and relationships that make it seem completely new. Despite the heavy religious focus, at its heart, The Priory of the Orange Tree seems to be the story of three courageous women who challenge the status quo.
The writing was bewitching. I found myself laying in bed for an hour, immersed in this beautiful world, and disappointed when there was no more to read. Now, I’m left to wait another month before I can pick up where the extract ended. While Priory of the Orange Tree is over 800 pages long, it is so beautiful and rich that you will not want it to end.