The Priory of the Orange Tree

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Dec 2018

Member Reviews

This book is truly incredible. Epic fantasy at its finest, but also so unique and fresh in a well-established genre.
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I was familiar with Samantha Shannon from her Bone Season series and was looking forward to seeing what she would do in a new setting. I was not disappointed. The Priory of the Orange Tree delivered on so many elements: lush and complicated world building, believable political intrigue, a complex religious system and (something I deeply appreciated) the many different characters all used in believable and non-confusing ways. Too often an overabundance of characters leads to a muddled plot, but Shannon steered her actors with precision. I also enjoyed the dichotomy between the court environment and the more war oriented experiences of the dragon riders, This was a well crafted and unique book, and though it is a stand alone, it makes me look forward to what else Shannon writes in the future.
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What is not to love about this book?! Epic fantasy? Check! Diverse cast? Check!  LGBTQ+ romance? Check! Talking dragons? Check again! It's 800+ pages but the story never drags, packed full of action, political intrigue and a bit of romance. Highly recommend.

In short: If you like your fantasy epic, with lots of characters, complex world building and DRAGONS, you will love this book!.
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This book took me a while to get into, but once I did, I had to know how all the pieces came together. If you love Jacqueline Carey, Naomi Novik, Anne McCaffery, etc, you will like this feminist bent high fantasy. There is some LGBT representation, but it's not a romance, and sexual content is not explicit at all. I felt the first 30% could have been condensed a bit, but the payoff was worth it.
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This book utterly blew me away. I had read the author's other series and thought her world building was fantastic, although at times a little convoluted. However, The Priory of the Orange Tree shows Her growth as an author in terms of plot, character development, and descriptions. It tell the story of two main women, Ead and Tane, who grow up on opposite sides of the 'known world' and how they will eventually be pushed together to help battle a thousand year old foe. Oh and did I mention talking dragons? And so much representation in terms of gender, sexual orientations, and race. It never felt contrived or like trying to tick boxes (as least to me), but just as a a description of the world they lived in. The part that most stood out to me was the female representation. It isn't until reading a book like this that you are realize how it is such a norm that all extra characters are men in most books. Yes, fantasy novels will have women but they are usually the royals or the servants. Not the warriors, advisors, ambassadors, pirates, rulers! It was just so refreshing, and again felt totally natural. I loved this massive book and even though there are a lot of characters and at first it felt confusing being dropped into this world, I trusted the author and let her lead me through this story, knowing that it would all make sense eventually.  One of my favorites of the year.
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It is very hard to review this book, mostly because of its length and its complexity.  While I did end up liking the book, there were many moments when I struggled to make it through to the end.  This is a very plot driven book, with many, many characters, and not enough action or dragons in it.  It also needs a map.  

The story is told through four characters.  Ead, Tane, Loth and Niclays Roos.  They all spend almost the entire book apart and on their own adventures, which at times I struggled to see how they were going to come together in the end.  Then except for Queen Sabran, there were hardly any other characters that were given much page time.  There were some young ladies of the bedchamber that Ead interacted with that were also around, and some other secondary characters in the other story lines, but for the most part there were many, many other characters that showed up for brief periods and then were gone, never to be seen or heard from again.  Way too many to keep track of, which is why there is a list at the end of the book.  

Ead and Sabran’s story line gets the most attention, and there is a romance between them.  Ead was a good narrator and I liked her story arc.  She kept her assassin skills well hidden but was always there when Sabran needed her.  

Tane was the dragon rider and probably got the least attention.  It was her story that I wanted to keep reading about, as she was the only one interacting with the dragon.  But something happens to her and then she disappeared for a few hundred pages.  And except for her dragon, all of the others that we see are the bad ones.  So, yeah, I was promised dragons and dragon riders and I felt that this was not kept.

Loth and Niclays stories were interesting, but not that interesting.  I liked Loth and despised Niclays.  I was really rooting for Loth to have a romantic interest, but it never happened.  Nicalys was a horrible person most of the time, but  I did sort of feel sorry for him. 

As with most epic fantasies, this plot was very complex.  There was a lot of politics involving many countries which is why I sort of needed that map.  Much of the politics revolved around religion and whether or not that country believed that all dragons were bad.  The Priory of the Orange Tree was a very interesting part of the story, and it would be interesting to see more stories about them.  

As I said, I did end up liking the book, but I so wanted to love it!  I just found it to be lacking in action and dragons, there were parts that just dragged on,  and some character development would have been nice.  Those of you who enjoy plot driven fantasies are going to love this though.
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What a lovely epic fantasy. Priory is much better than a lot of current fantasy because the political part keeps moving. 
The beginning was a little slow, but that was due to the deep character development. 
Samantha Shannon has a flair for world building; for making a place truly come to life. This is evident throughout Priory, while also not the main focus. The focus is the complex, interesting, maddening, bold characters. 
Definitely worth the read. :)
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If you’re not big into long reads, and you’re perfect novel is roughly 250-300 pages long, uh…you might have a hard time here. But if you’re willing to give it a go, there’s something oh-so-satisfying about a self-contained, one-volume fantasy epic. There’s a beginning, a middle, and an end. There’s no Game of Thrones-esque situation where you’re endlessly waiting for the next book which may or may not be over 1000 pages. The whole story is there, in one big volume, no waiting for sequels. I didn’t realize just how sequel-fatigued I’ve been until I sat down and made my way through this book. No mentally steeling myself for a cliffhanger followed by a two-year-wait. I haven’t felt this way about an epic fantasy novel since Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Who knew you can have an entire world confined to one volume! Hurray!

Priory is nothing less than epic. In one book, Shannon manages to create an entire world, complete with over a thousand years of history, various conflicting religions, generations upon generations of royalty, dozens of nations, and a sea full of pirates. Pirates! There is pirate action in this book! Are you not convinced? I mean, there’s dragons - and not just one sort of dragon, either. Also, did I mention the whole book has a very, very strong feminist bent to it? How much more convincing do you need? If you like dragons, if you like epics, if you can make it through 800 pages, then you need to read Priory of the Orange Tree.
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This book is a masterpiece.  What easily could have been a series of smaller books is instead, a tome of epic proportions.  Dragons, queens, magic and so much more, this book is truly enchanting.
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I loved this book and was still thinking about it two days into my next book. I am sincerely hoping there is a book 2! As I told my husband, it's like Game of Thrones only with less dying and fewer naked people. 

Pros:
Great world building. Everything was beautifully described.
All of the characters are richly built and very interesting
I loved that there were different types of dragons/wyvern 
Good guys turn into bad guys and bad guys are actually good guys and it's all great fun to figure out!
Going to be honest, I don't read a lot of LGBT romance but I feel like this was very well done.

Cons:
The North, East, South, West land and character traits were kind of predictable but it didn't hurt the story.
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Wonderful epic fantasy. Shannon has managed to shrink what is normally extended into a trilogy into a single book, which is a nice change of pace. The world is engaging and interesting, with a good balance of real-world influence and unique fantastical elements. Also, gee its nice to read a book of fantasy that is aware of non-Western cultures, it really is.

Characters are well-rounded and interesting, if not always sympathetic (which is a good thing). As a huge plus, there is a love story in this book that's actually well written and conceived. All of this adds up to a solid, enjoyable epic that keeps the reader guessing and rooting for (at least some of) the leads. A fast-paced epic fantasy, romantic in both senses of the word, recommended for fans of Game of Thrones, Mistborn, or Outlander.
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DNF at 23%

I'm just not feeling this one. With a book this long, I expect to get swept away in the story and at least feel something for one of the characters, but I don't.

It's an interesting premise and the politicking is intriguing, but I just don't like the writing style and I don't care for a single character enough to continue. The writing and characters remind me a bit of The Kingdom of Little Wounds, a book I despised (and finished when I should have DNF'd).

DNF'ing this one is a huge disappointment since this was one of my most anticipated reads of 2019 (that cover! that blurb!), but I'm not enjoying it enough to continue.

I know a lot of other people will love this book, but I don't think it's for me right now. Maybe later, but I'm not sure. I'm not willing to invest the time in it to continue slogging away at something that's not entertaining.

I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.
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If you're looking for an original epic fantasy with dragons, political intrigue, magic, and a group of great mostly female main characters then this is the book for you. "The Priory of the Orange Tree" isn't perfect, but it is a huge STANDALONE fantasy that is stuffed full of great world building and character details. I know other reviewers have commented that they wish that this had been split into two or three books, but I actually loved that this was a complete story. There are definitely places where the story could have been expanded, and places where I wanted to know more, but it was just so refreshing to read a gigantic fantasy novel and know that I wasn't going to have to wait years and years and read thousands more pages to get to the end. I also appreciated that while serious at times, this is not a dark gritty fantasy. I've gotten tired of the style of dark fantasy where you end up not sure any of the characters are worth rooting for. "Priory" is a welcome return to a less cynical tone, with a refreshingly diverse cast of characters.

(In tone this actually reminded me a lot of the type of fantasy novel that I liked when I was younger--so, things published before 2000--in that it's full of lots of adventure, clear good and evil characters, and fantasy trappings like dragons. The major difference with this book is that many of the main characters and major powers in the book are either female, lgbt, or both. It was really refreshing to see a traditional epic fantasy with a vastly different character set).
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Brilliant world building; multi-dimensional characters; magic; friendship; plots; secrets; romance; and battles between good and evil.... this book has it all.   
The Priory of the Orange Tree is the best new fantasy to be written in years, which is a statement I do not lightly make.
I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment in this series.
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Exactly what I expected from a Samantha Shannon book.  Great world building, complex characters and a kick-ass plot.
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I was dying to get my hands on this book and unfortunately it's just not doing much for me. I read a lot of fantasy and this sounded like something I would really enjoy. The plot moves very slowly and there's little indication of what's going on besides assassination attempts on the queen. The queen herself isn't particularly likable. There are four different points of view, and after 150 pages, we haven't spent enough time with any of them for me to get a feel for them or what's going on. I've tried to read this for the last five weeks and have only made it 150 in. I'm disappointed with this one. I'll probably still order it, since I think some of my students will enjoy it, but the slow moving plot just isn't for me.
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I could not get into this book! I am not big on sci-fi or fantasy at all but I thought I would give this a shot! I mean look at all the hype! I am not saying it was the books fault at all because of how I am! Thank you to the publisher for giving me the opportunity to read this!
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I almost didn't finish this one. I enjoyed it in the beginning and then fell out of it. I did wind up finishing it.
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3.5 
So this book is 850 pages and I believe it is meant to be a stand alone. It had an ending so I'm assuming this is the case. On to my review.

There are four main characters and they are all in different parts of this fantastic world (I wish a had a map.) I really enjoyed this because you didn't have to spend too much time with one character before you were transported into a different landscape with a different character. Our four characters were well developed and had a complete arc but there were no new voices among the group. Essentially, I've read all of these characters in other books and while that didn't affect me too much, a fresh voice would have raised my rating and enjoyment. This book was also missing a really good villain. Shannon created villains in the Flesh King, a woodsy witch, and one of the main dragons but they were on the page 1% which means that the author didn't intend them to be major characters-that's unfortunate. 

The world was vast and quite clear. The mythology and religion was different than I've read before and that was refreshing. Shannon added an interesting detail to her story but I wish there was more development. (Minor spoiler in the link.) (view spoiler) I would have liked to see more of this because it was nuanced.

The story was great up until 60% and it went from a 4.5 to a 4.0. Than at 80% it went from 4.0 to a 3.5 and here's why:

I LOVE Game of Thrones. What GOT does really well is that it follows several characters in different locations and they all have a common goal, the Iron Throne, but they also have their own stories going on. Their separate stories are all very interesting and full of treachery and villains and strategy and great supporting characters. That's where Priory fell short. Yes I know GOT is several 800+ page books and this is only one 850 page book but at different points of Priory, I slowly lost interest in each of the characters. Ead was the last character that maintained my interest until about 75% and I stopped caring and the book went downhill for me. For other readers, they may like most or all the characters throughout but not for me and here's why:

I prefer character driven books to plot driven books. I could give a shit about fight scenes and action sequences. I loved Passion of Dolssa and the Kiss of Deception Series and the The Reader Series because it's slow and all about the character development. I like the meet new characters with a fresh voice. I like a really good villain who is relentless yet sympathetic. I like a slow burn. Priory jumped to many locations and introducing new characters for brief periods of time and people were getting captured and escaping and magic fighting and I lost interest.

But once again, that's me. If you like a plot driven story, Priory will be your jam.
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