The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
As a huge Tolkien fan, and one who considers his writing to be the very best fantasy has to offer, I don’t often compare other books to his works (at least not in a positive way.) Simply because there is very rarely a good comparison to be made. Every great work of fantasy has felt somewhat shallow in contrast to the deep pool of imagination he conjured with his words. Nothing cuts it. Nothing competes.
However, with this I do venture to make a comparison. I do venture to concur with the blurb Laura Eve has provided this book with; this is a “feminist successor to The Lord of the Rings” because it is a story told with grace and infused with rich history and lore in its gloriously huge scope: it is magnificent in every regard. It’s all about the girl power here! I recommend this to readers who enjoy female driven fantasy that is also carefully paced like the works of Robin Hobb, Tad Williams and Chris Wooding.
So, what makes this book so excellent and what makes it stand out against a plethora of other fine fantasy novels on the market today? For me, and I do not doubt for many other readers too, this ticks every box. Not only do we have real characters, and by real I mean characters so well-written that they actually begin to leap out of the page as they battle their internal conflicts and self-doubt, but we also have a world with a huge past. And the characters are driven by it as they try to live up to the example their ancestors set. They are trying to be better people, more worthy people. I loved this constant drive, it made the world feel old and like we have only glimpsed but a fraction of its vast timeline that has spanned ages. There so much more here, so much room for more stories. And if I go away from a book this large wanting more, then that’s a very good sign indeed.
The plot rests on the threat of The Nameless One returning. It’s a giant dragon that threatens to destroy the world and all in it if the eastern and western kingdoms cannot put aside their differences and unite in order to destroy the monumental threat. Much of the novel is dedicated to the unification of the two factions, and several characters have many different ideas about how exactly this should be done ranging from assassination to simple negotiation. It’s a colourful story of witchcraft and romance, of dragons and political intrigue, of treachery and love and one that continued to surprise me until the very end.
It’s also worth briefly mentioning here that I did not like the author’s series The Bone Season. It was too young adult for my taste, but I clearly loved this. So, I really do urge other readers to try this regardless of what you thought about Samantha Shannon’s other work. This is completely different, and I don’t hesitate to say that this will be one of the biggest fantasy releases this year. Don’t miss it, it’s incredible.
This The Priory of the Orange Tree book review was written by Sean Barrs
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