Review Blog

May 18 2020

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

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Bloomsbury, 2019. ISBN: 9781408883358.
(Age: Young Adult/Adult) Highly recommended. Fans of Samantha Shannon's The Bone Season series will be both delighted and surprised at her latest offering; fantasy epic The Priory of the Orange Tree. A stark departure from the supernatural dystopia of her previous series, Priory is a confident and ambitious entry into the rarefied world of high fantasy. The book alternates between multiple characters: Ead, lady-in-waiting to the powerful Queen Sabran, charged to secretly protect the royal from increasing danger; Tane, an orphan who has trained from birth to ride dragons and defend her people; Loth, a privileged noble sent to a dangerous land to achieve an impossible task; Dr Niclays Roos, a disgraced alchemist banished to the ends of the earth, who finds himself caught up in the political machinations of entire nations. Tying all these compelling characters together is the whisper that after one thousand years of peace and prosperity an ancient and dangerous race of dragons, led by the Nameless One, is about to reawaken from its forced slumber.
Priory is a story of East vs West, good vs evil, religion vs history and deceit vs truth. In this respect, it fits in comfortably with the well-established tropes of high fantasy. However, Priory is also a story for contemporary times. It is an epic with a feminist and queer twist. Characters are of diverse backgrounds and religions and relationships are varied and complex. While mythical creatures and perilous journeys abound, Priory is also a product of its time, in an era when writing cannot help but be influenced by the world it was created in. This book is highly recommended for both established fantasy fans and those seeking an entry into a genre that might have previously seemed distant or irrelevant to modern life. Themes: Feminism, War, Religion, Love, Friendship, Dragons, Mythical Creatures.
Rose Tabeni

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