Book Review: The Priory of the Orange Tree

Amazon Cover

The Priory of the Orange Tree by 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.

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.



Read for a book club.
Not my normal reading fare – Fantasy close-to-epic version. The story follows four (well-chosen) POVs; I love the differences in age, gender, and sexual orientation among them. Ms. Shannon has a good range of motivations, and no one is completely good or evil.

My problem with the story is agency. There is none. But that is typical of epic fantasy. While there is no prediction driving the characters to their fates, the unseen hand giving them help is overt: needing a way to cross a desert, the character will run across a horse without a name but with a saddle (not exactly, but, yeah stuff like that). By midway, you know no one is going to actually fail – the fates just aren’t going to allow that to happen. The characters seem to make choices, but they always lead to the right results – no true dark-night-of-soul here. I love happy endings, but I want the characters to work for it. They do some work, but mostly it is in the hands of fate moving the pieces on the board.

Speaking of endings, the book delivers totally during the climax battle – beautiful and brilliant. Plus has a delicious falling action tying up what will happen with the surviving characters – giving a reader a vision into each of their futures – the challenges they will face and the triumphs they might enjoy. Very well-done.

For the main characters, a pleasant read. If you like fantasy, a great story.