The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon #bookreview #20booksofsummer20

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 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.

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Hi and welcome to my review of The Priory of the Orange Tree!

I’m sure you know, and if you didn’t then the dragon on the cover is dead giveaway, The Priory of the Orange Tree falls neatly into the epic fantasy category. I always feel a pull towards this genre, and said dragon convinced me to buy Priory as soon as it came out. However, not only its cover and content are epic, its size is too, and so I kept pushing it back, its sheer number of pages always feeling too daunting, and I not brave enough. This is why I put it on my 20 books of summer list, as I knew that would give me the little kick I needed to finally pick it up.

I will admit, Priory and I got off on the wrong foot but I’m sure I’m the one to blame. For one I’m much more accustomed to YA fantasy these days, which tends to be easier to get wrapped up in. Add in a few real-life problems robbing me of what little concentration I had, and there I was, feeling lost at sea, trying to keep all the characters (So. Many. Characters.) and events sorted. Had my copy been a print version and not an eBook, I might have noticed the list of characters at the back of the book…

I usually give a book about fifty pages to convince me it’s worth my time. Priory took a little longer, but then again, it’s twice the size of the average book, and as there have been books I had difficulty with at first, only to end up loving them (looking at you, We Need to Talk about Kevin!), and I wasn’t quite ready to throw in the towel (cos I really REALLY wanted to love Priory), I decided to stick with it. I’m happy that I did, it was totally worth it!

I felt Priory get under my skin. The intricacies that troubled me at first became assets and I started to hop effortlessly from one storyline to another, urged on by the need to know how all the threads would come together (instead of the need to conquer this behemoth and be done with it) and I was glued to my Kobo for the last nerve-wracking 100 or so pages. The epic final battle made me forgot all about my initial doubts.

Priory is a tale of queens and kings, of vicious fire-breathing wyrms and gentle Lacustrine dragons, of war and peace and sacrifice and it has the most beautiful love story, without ever becoming cheesy or too explicit. But Priory is more than an entertaining story. There’s this underlying message to the reader to look beyond sex, race, culture and religion that I very much appreciated, and there is definitely a feminist ring to it (but fortunately without depicting all men like either fools or bastards).

Despite my own rocky start with it, I cannot not recommend The Priory of the Orange Tree. It is an epic piece of epic fantasy, there’s no denying that. If this is a genre you enjoy and you haven’t read it yet, I’d say give it a go!

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