The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
Publication Date: February 26, 2019
Summary from NetGalley:
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.
ARC provided by Bloomsbury via NetGalley for an honest review.
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.