ARC Review: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

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 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.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a Physical copy of the book by Bloomsbury India in exchange for an honest review. However, all the thoughts, feelings and opinions expressed in this review are my own.

When you get a physical ARC of one your most anticipated books of 2019 – you do not slow down, you do not pass; you just frikkin dive into the 800+ pages monstrosity that just know will either destroy your life or that you’ll end lost after you have completed the book.

But if it’s THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE; then the end result would be both and so much more! 

BRILLIANCE. FABULOUS. CAPTIVATING. ENTHRALLING. SPELL BINDING. RIVETING. GRIPPING. 

And these do not even begin to scratch the surface of the amalgamation of feelings that went through me while I was reading the book right through when I closed the book after the end.

When a book is written under the fantasy genre that is more than 800+ pages, a reader assumes that the plot will have fillers, that there will be holes that might not be taken care of by the end arrives but I swear, to everything that I consider precious, 800 pages of this book; and I could have read even more than 1000 pages of this book, and I wouldn’t have been tired of the book even once. To be honest, I could have binge read this humungous book in under a day; if my uninteresting and mundane real life had not gotten in the way!

“All the world is a cage in a young girl’s eyes.”

This book starts off with a single decision made by Tane, an aspiring dragon rider, on the eve of the most important mornings of her life – this decision has a domino effect; the rippling effects of which are seen through till the end. 

The world that Ms. Shannon has created is divided into East and West – In East where dragons are revered, worshiped as wise being and on par with Gods. In west, however, the lesser, violent versions of dragons have always been considered the enemy; and enemy that makes sure that the difference between East and West is clearly demarcated.

Known as Wryns, these lesser draconian creatures are blasphemous creatures and it is believed widely, to the point of religious fanaticism, that the Oueen of Inys, Sabran The Ninth (and her ancestors) have kept their leader, The Nameless One, at bay, by the sheer power of their blood and legacy.

Told in different POVs of some strong characters; Ms. Shannon has done a brilliant job of creating threads and then tying them in ways so perfectly, with little loose ends, that you end up wishing that were in the pages of the books, with these characters.

“No woman should be made to fear that she was not enough.” 

Queen Sabran The Ninth has the royal duty to wed and bear a child (always a daughter) like her ancestors, a duty that she is quite reticent to fulfill; for while she understands her duty to her people; to protect her kingdom from The Nameless One. Sabran, at first, comes off spoiled, arrogant ruler who believes the world and its inhabitants are just here to cater to her wishes and needs. But no other character in this book, showed the character growth that Sabran did; even if she didn’t have her own POV.

Ead is a foreigner, who has climbed the ranks in Queen Sabran’s court to become a lady in waiting and then to lady of the royal bedchamber and lastly to a trusted confidant. But it becomes apparent soon that her real loyalty doesn’t lie with the Queen Sabran but to an ancient and mystical order of women warriors, and that the defense of the Queen is her responsibility by using forbidden powers is her closely guarded secret.

Now, Ead is a strong character in herself; not only because she a badass warrior but because she has this innate sense of right and wrong and justice that she followed through on, even if that meant going on a route that would be hard, full of obstacles but she still took that route; because it was the right thing to do.

Loth, the close confidant of Queen Sabran, is the other POV we get in the book – one who starts off as a secondary characters, but turns out to play a larger role than anyone would have thought possible – it was admirable to see him hold up against betrayals, not against himself but also against his deep seated faith as well.

Tane, is the domino that starts off the cascading set of events; is an aspiring rider, is a little harder to understand – but through everything, she shows courage, honor and stands unwavering in the wake of facing the consequences of her actions and decisions. But what I adored the most (and is honestly, one of the highlights of the book!) is her relationship with her dragon – a nurturing love that is unconditional in the purest sense ever.

Nicolys Roos is probably the only character who started off as someone towards whom I was indifferent; but somehow I ended up actively detesting his character  he is an entitled fool who believes and actively works on the assumption that world is conspiring against him; it is this folly that ends with him making decisions and taking actions that I could never reconcile with.

“In darkness, we are naked. Our truest selves. Night is when fear comes to us at its fullest, when we have no way to fight it. It will do everything it can seep inside you. Sometimes it may succeed – but never think that you are the night.”

Is this book perfect? No. It’s not. 

A second glace through the book, it’s easy to see that there are loose threads in the plot, that make me wish & hope that there will be a sequel to this standalone book (a girl can dream!) but it is an imperfectly amazing book with a plot that sucks the reader in with intrigue, betrayals and secrecy.

I also wished that there were more of dragons in the book, you know? More dragon interactions as well as more of them in the plot itself; because the times we did get to see of the dragons in the book, was magnetic!

“Love and fear do strange things to our souls. They warp the mind. The dreams it brings, those dreams that leaves us drenched in salt water and gasping for breath as if we might dies – those we call unquiet dreams.”

The book itself had vivid plotline and that is remarkably complimented with the writing style of the author – and like the author mentions in the note at the start, it’s easy to see how the multiple characters, with their cultures, traditions and religious practices are fashioned after the ones we have in our world; so it did seem a lot more real than most other fantasy worlds we have read about.

Not to mention, the strong cast of female characters plus the fact there is a fascinating representation of LGBTQ+ – with the main romantic relationship coming between two strong female characters shown with grace but even the most intimate moments are shied away from. Plus, the fact that only straight relationship is relegated to just glances and fleeting touches, which made the complete acceptance of the relationship between the two female characters all the more beautiful.

“My heart knows your songs; as yours knows mine.”

In the end, this a book with whole lot of action, twists, intrigues and betrayals – that makes sure that the reader is never bored, not once even though the book is huge! This is book I would recommend without any reservation, without doubts and without any hesitation.

P.S. I also know it’s hard to believe gushing reviews of one of the most publicized books of 2019 – so I, in end, would suggest that pick this book up if you are interested, truly, and not because this is the most popular book on interweeb right now! 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 

(all the frikkin stars in the world!!)

AMAZON INDIA | AMAZON KINDLE | AMAZON USFLIPKART

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