The Priory of the Orange Tree: Novel or novelty?

The Priory of the Orange Tree: Novel or novelty?
Photo courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing.

I have read a variety of fantasy books throughout my life — from deadly heists to wielding magic against one’s enemy. Never in my life have I come across a more beautiful story than that within “The Priory of the Orange Tree” by Samantha Shannon.

The story opens up with one of the most ambitious characters in the novel, Tané Miducchi. Located in the West, Tané is a student of the House of Learning with the prospect of becoming a dragon rider for the High Sea Guard. Dragons in the East are praised as gods, center their power through water and have chosen ones as riders.

On the other side of the world is the country of Inys. Queen Sabran Berethnet is the 37th queen of a long lineage of women that pertain to one role, providing a female heir to protect the city and keep the Nameless One locked in the abyss. The Nameless One is a creation of an evil fire-breathing dragon that feeds off of chaos and imbalance. If Sabran fails her role as queen, it will cause the Nameless One to arise and wreak havoc on humankind.

Sent from the South, Ead Duryan is a mage from a society called the Priory that believes Sabran does not hold the Nameless One at bay and is undercover as a lady-in-waiting to protect Sabran. With the fear of the Nameless One on the rise in all corners of the world, it drives them to reconcile and unite relationships to fight their common enemy. Through these classic pairings of earth and sky, fire and water, day and night, etc., Shannon is able to open up a new and addicting tale of adventure.

When I first heard about this book, the synopsis of a world divided with an ancient enemy on the rise quickly captured my interest. Leading up to when I was going to start it, my friends mentioned how the world-building is very slow, the story is dense and overall daunting. I have never been one to deny reading a book due to its length, but it gave me pause. This book was at the top of my anticipated to-read list for a long time. I was nervous that with such high regards to it and a beautiful idea to a story, it would drag for an eternity. I am so glad that it did not turn out that way.

This 800-page standalone novel captured me from the beginning all the way to the end. A multitude of characters and storylines build off of each other for one climactic final moment. It felt like multiple novels were carefully knitted together to become whole. The writing left no detail out, and the description was just the right amount to pull me in and leave me in wonder when I had to put it down.

I love sitting down for months on one book that keeps me interested. Reading it for about a month and a half made me feel connected to the characters and the relationships that were made throughout the story. Watching them build up their story on their own and then at the end come together and interact was thrilling to witness.

I love the ambition of Tané and her fiery heart for the ones that wronged her, Ead and her loving heart to protect the ones she loves, Sabran with her strong mind for the ones close, her city and the dragons. The dragons as a whole were amazing to see. The connections they have with their riders is a strong bond that can never be broken. My only wish was that we got to learn more about them.

The portrayal of politics, plot twists and the hidden secrets alongside the world building are connected to the characters and their story. The world is as large as Tolkien’s Middle-earth, being so vast and broad that at the end I was still craving more of the world to see.

This book is at the top of my favorites list, and I highly recommend it for fans of fantasy to get a glimpse of the impressive storytelling inside.

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