[Review] The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

*I received a copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Title: The Priory of the Orange Tree
Author: Samantha Shannon
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: February 26, 2019

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.divider_line (1)
Review: I was not prepared for how much this book was going to destroy me—in all the best ways of course. The struggle with reading such a massive book is trying to do it justice in a review. Especially when the book is so amazing that you’re left in complete awe. This story is a spin on the classic hero tale, with powerful women paving the way. It revolves around three women living three separate lives who come together to defeat the Nameless One. There are so many times where I thought I knew where the book was headed but then the foundations cracked as new things were revealed.

The beginning of the book was a lot to take in at first (especially considering I haven’t read much high fantasy), but after reading The Bone Season I felt I was prepared for Shannon’s incredible worldbuilding. It took a hot minute for me to digest the information and history of Priory, but once I was in, I was consumed by this beautiful behemoth. While the beginning was a little overwhelming because there are a lot of places and people and history to know, Samantha makes it so easy to fall into the world.

So, how best to sum up this beautiful tome? Well I’m going to point out some highlights of things I loved:

-three incredible female protagonists including a dragonrider, a mage, and a queen who are all completely badass in their own ways
-all the DRAGONS including wyrms, wyverns, and various draconic creatures
-dragons can TALK (at least, the wyrms can)
-good dragons AND bad dragons
-various other awesome creatures including ichneumon (google it, then picture it big enough to ride) and giant birds
-pirates, mages, and witches
-multiple queer relationships/characters
-ALL the connections and layers
-murders, plots, betrayals, bloodshed
-forbidden romance
-religious divides (beliefs and origin stories play a huge role in the book)
-political intrigue (literally everyone is out for my poor girl Sabran)
-epic romances AND platonic friendships
-TWISTS (because who doesn’t love a good shock to the core?)

Priory might seem overwhelming but once you’re invested in the story it’s like nothing else exists. The passage of time seems non-existent because Samantha Shannon transitions effortlessly and everything is seamless. For those that are intimidated by large books, I recommend giving this one a shot! It’s divided into parts which makes it easier to read. There is also a character list, map, glossary, and timeline to guide you. Also, at the beginning of each chapter it indicates whether the chapter takes place in the East or West. Personally, I became so invested in the story that I couldn’t stop reading, but to each their own. This book is all-consuming and it’s easy to get lost in the wonderfully crafted world. The author definitely knows how to kill it with the worldbuilding.

Samantha Shannon has woven a beautifully timeless tale featuring fierce women. It has the political intrigue of Game of Thrones and the quest aspects of Lord of the Rings.  Basically if you love a fantasy with dragons, magic, politics, war, twists, history, and romance then Priory needs to be on your list. I’m also just going to say that I would LOVE to see a prequel for this story because I think it could be fabulous!

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