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“The Priory of the Orange Tree” by Samantha Shannon

priory of the orange tree

Overall I did enjoy this, although it did have some weaknesses. It is a long book at over 800 pages and although it's nice that it is a standalone that wraps up all its plot threads it did feel like something that might more commonly have been split into multiple books. Mostly the pacing is good but despite the length there were times when the plot felt a bit rushed. I'm sure if this had been published in the 90s it would have been an epic fantasy trilogies. It does have many of the traditional epic fantasy aspects - several quests, court intrigue, a plot that manages to cover the entire map, a coming-of-age story for Tané, a dark lord ("The Nameless One") prophesied to rise again and lots and lots of dragons. Most of the book is spent into 'West' and 'East' sections, the former has the more traditional epic fantasy setting reminiscent of medieval Europe while the 'East' is fairly clearly inspired by Shogunate Japan (complete with traditional Japanese dragons who are the ancient enemies of the western dragons). It's definitely got a more modern outlook than many of the older epic fantasies, one of the cover blurbs describes it as 'a feminist Lord of the Rings' and I think it lives up to the first part of the description although it doesn't have the depth of history or world-building seen in Tolkien.

I liked the characters, I think Sabran probably got the most interesting character development despite not being a point-of-view character - perhaps because it takes some time to really get a good impression of her character. The two protagonists in the East probably have more obvious flaws than Ead and Loth in the West, which gave them a bit more depth. It is one of those fantasy series where the main antagonist is mostly off screen, although out of the supporting cast Kalyba was probably more interesting as someone with more ambiguous intentions towards the protagonists.

It was a consistently entertaining read, and although I think some aspects could have been done better I think I'd probably be interested in reading more by Samantha Shannon in the future.

Rating : 7 / 10

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