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Review: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

the priory of the orange tree by samantha shannon

The Priory of the Orange Tree

Samantha Shannon

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…more.

My Rating:

Filled with rich lore and cultures, The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon offers readers a luxurious tapestry to explore. Following four characters, coinciding with four corners of the world are coming together, the depth of this novel unfurls from multiple perspectives, each one building upon the other to create a lush landscape of feminist fantasy. The main conflict and ultimate climax of this hefty 848 page saga are unfortunately the only vastly important areas of the book that are not fully explored.

What is most splendid about this novel is the reveal of each culture’s beliefs. The myths and history built by following each character; sorceress Ead, dragon rider Tané, aged apothecarist Niclays, and humble but courageous Lord Arteloth, Samantha Shannon expertly uses them to weave a web with their layered narratives that builds the characters and the world while also keeping the reader firmly grounded. There is a clear indication of East and West (very much mimicking England and Japan) with the other directions making a few appearances, and this strict geographical divide does feel a bit simplistic given the otherwise lucrative dimension that lies at the core of this massive tale.

There is no true antagonist, rather a one true evil. But this ‘Nameless One’ is not given the character building or purpose that every other character, even smaller ones, seem to have developed. Putting evil in for evil’s sake also drags this otherwise intriguing and engaging novel down, as if this dark dragon was added purely for the sake of conflict. With the story already spending much of its time developing such depth of character, this lack of explaining what the Nameless One wants is a glaring hole in the plot. Why not give him some more backstory, thereby giving the reader more reason to fear, despise and appreciate him?

Thus, when investing so much into the trials of our interesting and deep characters (who have been crafted full of affections, thoughts, history, family and intent), by the time the great battle arrives, we can’t fully appreciate our feelings because we don’t know the purpose behind the Nameless One’s actions. The gaping question of, ‘why’, seems answered simply: because he wants to. That means that while this book is remarkable, it is somewhat hard to recommend, as the ending only plays out passably well.

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