The Priory of the Orange Tree | Book Review
I usually plan my reviews for the upcoming month and, honestly, this wasn't one I had expected to make. But while reading this book I knew I needed to talk about it as in-depth as I could without giving away any spoilers and thus, this review was born.
I started reading The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon back in April during a readathon, but after 50 pages I had to put it down and prioritise other reads. I was only able to pick it back up from the start this past week, and I am so happy I devoted proper time to reading this, as I felt completely immersed in the story throughout.
Priory is an epic adult fantasy set in a world divided by religion and politics, and hunted by the possible return of the Nameless One, a mighty fire-breathing dragon that nearly destroyed this world a thousand years ago. The main regions in this universe are the West, worshippers of the Saint, and the East, worshippers of water dragons. But when the Nameless One's followers start rising again, some start to believe that the West and the East will need to put their ages-long rivalry aside and join in on banishing him once and for all.
This is one of the richest worlds I've ever read, from its intricacies to the sheer detail that's put into it. The religion aspect was one of the things that fascinated me the most, as there are different religions throughout this world that not only dictate the politics and bring a great dynamic to the story but also pave how each of the characters act, bringing tension to their relationships with each other.
In this, we follow four perspectives: Ead, sent from the South to the West to protect Sabran Berethnet, the Queen of Inys. Loth, a loyal friend of the Queen. Tané, an Eastern girl training to become a dragon rider. And Niclays, banished from the West to the East after failing Queen Sabran. Every character (and all the other supporting characters) are incredibly fleshed out and you're able to connect and root for every one of them. We also have beautiful queer representation and, the f/f romance on this is the perfect slow-burner, making me fall more in love with a couple than I have in a long while.
Although this is a very complex world, the writing sucked me right in and I was constantly thinking about what was going to happen next. This was my first book by Samantha and I'm not only desperate to read The Bone Season now but also dying for the eventual release of everything Priory related (prequel and sequel supposed to happen eventually, although this reads as a standalone).
One of the few problems I had with this book was that every battle is really detailed but the final one felt rushed and how quickly it happened didn't make sense with how it was set up. We have this incredible villain that we've grown to fear throughout the whole book but when we finally get to fight it, the development fell a bit short compared to what I was expecting. Another thing that nagged on me was that again, in the way this world was set up, I simply expected more deaths to have occurred by the end, but I see how that's a completely personal thing.
That said, this was still one of my favourite books I've read this year and I definitely see myself recommending it and rereading it at some point. I obviously gave this 5/5 ⭐️, although I did think about whether or not how the final battle happened diminished my enjoyment of this book (I decided it didn't). The dragons, the same-sex relationships, the brilliant brilliant characters, the political intrigue and the pure richness of this world made me fall in love and I urge any fantasy lover out there to not be intimidated by this 800-page beast and pick it up as soon as you can.