If you’re a fan of epic fantasy novels like Game of Thrones, then you need to check out The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon. This chunky 848-page standalone novel is one of the most immersive and thrilling fantasy books I’ve read in a long time.
|Title||The Priory of the Orange Tree|
|Genre||Fantasy, Fiction, Romance|
|Publication Date||February 26, 2019|
Where to Purchase
Introduction to the Book
The Priory of the Orange Tree was published in 2019 and is set in a fictional world that draws inspiration from the Renaissance era. The story follows several main characters across multiple lands as they become embroiled in an impending war against evil forces. At the heart of this conflict lies the legend of the Nameless One, an ancient dragon who was slain a thousand years ago but now threatens to return. Only the power of the Orange Tree that grew from the Nameless One’s blood can stop this terror from descending upon the world once more.
There are three main storylines that converge: the quest of Tané, a young dragonrider training to be one of the Aegis who protect the House of Berethnet; the journey of Ead, lady-in-waiting to the queen who gets sent on a secret political mission; and the tale of Sabran IX, the devout and isolated Queen of Inys herself.
An Immersive Reading Experience I Couldn’t Put Down
From the very first chapter, I was completely absorbed in the world of The Priory of the Orange Tree. Shannon’s writing style is incredibly vivid, with detailed descriptions that make the settings and characters leap off the page. The book switches between multiple character perspectives, giving you insights into backgrounds and motivations that really add depth. At over 800 pages, this novel is a serious time investment, but I found myself racing through it because I just had to know what happened next.
The richness and originality of Shannon’s fantasy world rival classics like The Lord of the Rings. There are layers of religion, mythology, culture, and politics that all feel real and fully developed. I was fascinated by the dragonlore, the history of the House of Berethnet, the seaside city of Hróth, the powerful Abbey, and much more. The worldbuilding is just top-notch and had me wanting a guidebook so I could keep exploring this universe.
Complex Characters You Root For
While the plot spans continents and has suitably epic stakes, what makes The Priory of the Orange Tree truly compelling are the characters. I loved following determined Tané, brilliant Ead, and isolated Sabran as they navigate dangerous threats and mysteries. All three women are complex, fully-realized, and easy to root for. The relationships between the characters are equally nuanced, especially the romance between Ead and Sabran which unfolds with care.
The villains also stand out for having depth beyond just being evil overlords. Figures like High Priestess Yulan and the ambitious Lord Arteloth have unique perspectives that add moral complexity. I appreciated that Shannon crafted antagonists who seem human rather than one-dimensional big bads.
My Criticisms: Pacing Issues at Times
My main criticism with The Priory of the Orange Tree is that the pacing feels uneven in places. There are segments that lag, especially earlier on when the three storylines are still disconnected. I almost set the book aside during a sloggy section around 200 pages in.
However, once the narrative threads begin interweaving around the 400 page mark, the pace picks up considerably. The climax is incredibly action-packed and kept me on the edge of my seat. If you do pick up this book, I’d recommend pushing through any slow parts—the payoff of the second half is worth it!
I’d also advise settling in somewhere comfy while reading this book. Given its length and dense writing, it’s not a light beach read. This is an immersive novel for a cozy reading nook, not breezing through on your commute.
A New Fantasy Epic I’d Recommend
Minor pacing issues aside, I found The Priory of the Orange Tree to be an engrossing and masterful fantasy novel. Samantha Shannon has created a richly imagined world with compelling characters that I didn’t want to leave behind when I turned the last page. I’d recommend this book to any fan of fantasy looking for an original epic. Just be prepared to block out a good chunk of time—you won’t want to put this one down!