- my rating: 4 stars
- published by:Bloomsbury Publishing
- genres: epic fantasy, high fantasy, f-f fiction
- content warnings: attempted assassinations, death, miscarriage, hanging, beheadings, animal abuse, death of a loved one, description of incest, incarceration, torture.
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, Tane has trained to be a dragonrider since she was a child, 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.
I FINISHED THIS BIG OL’ BOOK. My wrist is permanently sore and my back hurts from lifting this BUT it was WORTH IT for the epicness, the dragons, the friendships, the SHEER LESBIAN POWER contained within this book. This was one of my most anticipated 2019 releases, and also the book I was really hoping would get me back into adult fantasy and it definitely did all that for me! I’m so happy!
“She had not been human in that final hour. Just a paper lantern, thin and wind-torn, clinging to the flickering remnants of a soul. Yet when there was no more to climb, and she had looked up and seen nothing but the terrible beauty of the sky, she had found the strength to rise.”
The Priory of the Orange Tree lives up to it’s descriptor as an epic fantasy. It’s scope is expansive and rich, covering thousands of years of this worlds history and politics in just 800 pages, and in a way that didn’t seem forced or overly crammed. The scale of this book is enormous, not just in terms of the world but also in the wide range of characters, geography and action it spans.
I really enjoyed the thematic interest in storytelling and history present in this series. Fantasy stories revolving around mythology, lost histories and religious iconography are ones I tend to enjoy and Priory involved a lot of these ideas. The secret society that is central to this story was also a fun addition, and contributed to creating a cast of characters with unique and original backstories. I cannot think of many fantasies that deal with lost history, secret religions and beliefs quite in the way this one does (My closest comparison would be Mistborn, but take that with a grain of salt).
The focus on centring women in this story was also a highlight for me. Shannon deconstructs the patriarchal tropes that underpin a lot of high fantasy, and it was extremely refreshing. Representing Queendoms and matriarchal families as the main political structure, and representing women as leaders, soldiers, villains, warriors and everything in between was so nice. The sapphic romance was also a welcome change from the heterosexual romances that dominate fantasy.
“Pity this house, for here we are cursed,”
Two of my issues – the beginning and the end. This took me a hundred and fifty or so pages to get into. I think the beginning is quite confusing. There is too many characters and places and names thrown at you, so it’s hard to get your head around it all. Although there is a huge glossary, I still found it difficult to situate myself fully in this world at first.
The ending was also a bit of a letdown for me. The major battle happened in just a few chapters, which really killed the tension for me. It also didn’t live up to the epic proportions this book had set up. I also struggled with the writing in the battle scene. I struggled to picture the fighting and what was Actually Happening. I also thought the main villain went down WAY too easily and it kind of cheapened all the build up.
“My heart knows your song, as yours knows mine. And I will always come back to you.”
The Priory of the Orange Tree lived up to it’s enormous hype. Even though it wasn’t a five star read for me, it was still really great. I loved the middle section so much, and I definitely think I will come back to this to reread it sometime. I have heard there will be more books in this world, and I CANNOT. WAIT. Priory is a subversive fantasy that does a lot with it’s 800 page count. I fell in love with the powerful characters, the relationships, and especially the epic worldbuilding that really shines despite the limited page count.