Review : The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

“ᴡᴇ ᴍᴀʏ ʙᴇ ꜱᴍᴀʟʟ, ᴀɴᴅ ᴡᴇ ᴍᴀʏ ʙᴇ ʏᴏᴜɴɢ, ʙᴜᴛ ᴡᴇ ᴡɪʟʟ ꜱʜᴀᴋᴇ ᴛʜᴇ ᴡᴏʀʟᴅ ꜰᴏʀ ᴏᴜʀ ʙᴇʟɪᴇꜰꜱ.”

The Priory of the Orange Tree

Released at the end of February 2019, Samantha Shannon’s standalone book The Priory of the Orange Tree is 804 pages long. It is published by Bloomsbury Publishing.

The Priory of the Orange Tree Carte
The Priory of the Orange Tree Carte

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 to be a dragonrider since she was a child, 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.

Characters :

Ead Duryan (du Zāla uq-Nāra) and Sabran IX : They were my favourite ! Their relationship grows little by little throughout the book and we see that both of them care (deeply) for the other. From the unknown lady-in-waiting playing a dangerous game to being the queen’s lover, Ead went through a lot of hardships. A lot of things stand between them : their positions at court, their beliefs and their personalities. However contrary their personalities may be, one complements the other. Both of them alleviate the other growing fears and doubts. When they are together, we come to see Sabran in a new light. She is gentle and caring while keeping her strong personality.

You remember the first day we walked together. You told me about the lovejay, and how it always knows it’s partner’s song, even if they have been long apart, Ead whispered to her. My heart knows your song, as yours knows mine. And I will always come back to you.

Tané : Training since she was young to ride a dragon, she now has a purpose, something which keeps her flame burning. She is as fragile and stubborn as Sabran. She thinks that no dragon will choose her and that she isn’t cut out for that. Riding a dragon, being part of the elite is something she has trained hard for but one of her actions will somewhat shatter her dream. She is lucky not to be killed because of her status and is instead banished. But for now, she must put her dream aside because the biggest threat the world has ever known is coming and they must be ready to greet it.

All along the story, Tané brings her position, her life and her dragon’s into play in order to save the world from The Nameless One. Even if her beliefs are put to the test, she put them aside to collaborate with the others to kill the threat. Her relationship with her dragon is quite touching. We can see that both of them care for the other.

Miduchi Tané died when her dragon was taken. Since then, you have been her ghost. A vengeful ghost – restless, unable to move forward.

Niclays Roos : poor Niclays, he was banished during seven long years from his country because he had tried to trick Sabran into thinking that he could make her immortal. He has been living since then on Orisima Island. His lover is dead, he is far away from his loved ones but wine isn’t. Everything is done to take pity on him. But beyond this pity and this sadness that we feel for him, our friend is self-centred. He doesn’t hesitate to blackmail Tané into asking her to give him a part of her dragon to make the potion. That way, he may be able to come back home. A lot of his other actions are disgusting but all he wants is to relive his lost past. Madness gains on him until Kaliba also tries to blackmail him into killing Sabran by shapeshifting into his lover. But upon seeing him, it triggers something in his mind and refuses to obey her commands.

You are a servant of the Nameless One.

Oh, nothing as exciting as that, Lady Tané. Just a lonely old man, trying to get off this island so I can die in my own country.

Arteloth « Loth » Beck : Sabran’s bosom friend, he is also banished by Seyton Combe because he thinks that he is too close to her. He sends him and his friend on a suicidal mission to go to the kingdom revering The Nameless One. What he sees over there is going to move him deeply : the king is under the dragons’ control. The king’s daughter is going to help him fight against them by asking him to take an artefact to the Priory of the Orange Tree. From then on, everything is going to escalate as his beliefs will be shaken to the core. He will discover that his faith is based on lies and that what he was taught isn’t always right. But his capacity to adapt to any situation is going to be very useful as he will have an important role to play.

Would the world be any better if we were all the same ?

The Story :

Samantha Shannon succeeded in creating a lifelike world inside which languages, inhabitants, characters, religions and disagreements clash. All along the book we discover more about each culture. However different they are, countries have to band together in order to destroy once and for all The Nameless One. Alliances are struck, links are forged and countries put aside their differences thanks to several characters who lost their dreams and friends to achieve this. The book goes crescendo until the final fight. I really loved how each character’s story was intertwined with the others, everyone meets at the end.

She took her inspiration from many known and unknown stories from all over the world. The story is a rewriting of Saint George and the Dragon. The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spencer or Hoori/Hikohohodemi‘s stories are a few of her inspirations. The first one is about several knights embodying a moral virtue who fight monsters. The other one tells the story of three brothers. One day, Hohodemi asks his brothers if they could trade their magical objects. Unfortunately, he lost his brother’s hook. Later on, a kami (Japanese divinity or spirit) took him to their palace where he eventually married the daughter of the sea god. Afterwards her father found the hook back and gave it back to Hoori along with some magical spells and two jewels : both make him able to control whether the tide is low or high.

However, I have one critic to say about the book. The last part of the book is a bit too short. Everything feels too crammed together. We can’t really understand their fears (except thanks to what was written the first time they fought it)

Note : 4.5 sur 5.

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