Title: The Priory of the Orange Tree
Author: Samantha Shannon
Length: 848 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Release Date: February 26, 2019
Source: Hardcover from personal collection, ebook from library
Recommended for fans of: dragons, slow burns, epic fantasy
Content Warnings: death, violence, miscarriage
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.
The Priory of the Orange Tree is truly epic fantasy. I am astounded at what Samantha Shannon managed to accomplish in a standalone. The expansive world building encompasses a complex global political system with distinct cultures, 1000 years of rich history for each region, mythical creatures such as dragons and ichneumons, and strong complicated characters. I cannot say enough good things about Ead and Sabran.
That being said, sometimes this hefty book was A LOT to handle. There were a ton of side characters to keep track of throughout the entire book. One of the four POV characters was incredibly unlikable and unenjoyable. The plot dragged in certain sections, and this book was definitely longer than it needed to be. I also expected more from the final battle.
Part of the reason the book felt so slow to me was that my buddy read group read 100 pages per week, so it took us two months to finish the book, which was too long. I purchased the hardcover, but the book was so bulky and cumbersome that I ended up borrowing the ebook on Libby and switching back and forth. Just some things to keep in mind if you plan to read this book!
I recommend this book for fans of slow burn epic fantasy with complicated politics, magic, and history. However, if you are someone who reads a lot of YA and NA fantasy like me, the pacing is different from what you are used to.