I’m sure you’ve seen a million and one reviews of The Priory of the Orange Tree. It has been everywhere this year. It’s been out for months, and I don’t think I can go a week without seeing it somewhere. Naturally, I was curious. Also, because I own three other Samantha Shannon books that I haven’t read, and I thought it was definitely time (don’t judge me, I’ll get to them eventually). But I put up a poll (a while ago) to see which fantasy book I should read next, and you guys voted for Priory. And then it took me over two months to read. But I did it! So now I can talk about it.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
(From Goodreads) 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.
The Priory of the Orange Tree is a beast of a book. I was excited by the synopsis, and also the fact that it’s a standalone fantasy novel. And then I tried to read it and couldn’t get into it. After my second unsuccessful attempt to force myself to read this, I tried the audiobook. Which was better, but I still just wasn’t excited about this story. I ended up listening to it on 2.5x speed because I’m stubborn and just wanted to finish it.
Like I said, I really wasn’t excited about this book. I didn’t dislike it, but for me to get through eight-hundred pages of fantasy, I want to feel a little invested. And I just never really did. I think my biggest issue was that there are just so many subplots that kind of don’t matter in the scheme of things. At times, it felt like this book was long for the sake of being long. I’ve fantasy novels longer than this one, but they didn’t drag quite so much.
I’m still a little bit conflicted, because I didn’t dislike anything about Priory, it just didn’t work for me. I thought the story was intriguing. I liked the idea of Inys and Sabran, but I also wasn’t upset when bad things happened to them. And, like I said, I need to feel something to get through such a long book, and I just didn’t. I also thought the ending was pretty anticlimactic, and, for such a long book, it happened a little too fast. I’m not sure if I felt that way because I was ready for it to be over at that point, but I did.
There really isn’t anything bad I can say about Priory – even though there are quite a few things that I didn’t personally enjoy – and I can definitely see why so many people love it. It just wasn’t for me, and that’s fine. We can’t all like the same books. I genuinely think if you like YA fantasy, you’ll like this one. Even though it is an adult fantasy novel, the writing felt very young adult, so I think it might be a great bridge into adult fantasy if that’s something you’re looking to get into.
★★★☆☆ – The Priory of the Orange Tree is a solid fantasy novel. Even though I didn’t love it, I can see why so many other people do. I would definitely be open to reading more of Samantha Shannon’s work in the future.
Have you read The Priory of the Orange Tree? What did you think?
The Priory of the Orange Tree is available in bookstores now. You can pick up your copy on Amazon.
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose The Priory of the Orange Tree as one of your two free books.
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