Book Review: The Priory of the Orange Tree (2019)

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The Priory of the Orange Tree (The Roots of Chaos, #1) by Samantha Shannon


‘Even as Cleolind wondered at the miracle, the orange tree yielded its fruit. When she ate of it, she was healed – not only healed but changed. She could hear the whispers in the earth. The dance of the wind. She was reborn as a living flame.’

This was my second attempt at cracking open this tome, but I managed to get through two books of The Wheel of Time this year, so why not give Priory another go! I absolutely adored The Bone Season, so I know I’ll love this one, but it’s JUST SO BIG that I’ve put it off and off and off! And I’m so glad I can finally say I’ve read this one! It’s definitely going to become a classic of the dragon/fantasy genre.

I will say, Shannon’s writing is so layered and complex that it took me a few chapters to sink into this one (same thing happened with The Bone Season). I keep seeing it compared to A Game of Thrones, but I don’t think that comparison is quite on point. The similarity seems to be the dragons, but Shannon’s dragons are there from the start, talking to their riders and very much a part of the story. Throughout reading the book, I actually thought that Priory was more like The Wheel of Time. The Priory reminded me of the Aes Sedai and the magic split of sterren and siden reminded me of Jordan’s saidin and saidar; there’s also a whole lot of journeying of the characters, but that’s really where I’d say the comparisons end. Priory is very much it’s own setting and with influences from multiple cultures and histories. I thought Shannon did an incredible job of worldbuilding here.

By the end, Loth, Niclays, Tané, Lintley, Margret and Marosa were my favourite characters. I also adored Nayimathun!!! And Aralaq!!!! (And of course Kit!!) I did appreciate Ead’s storyline and wanted to learn more about the Priory and all that it was doing/aimed to do. Sabran is definitely a character I wanted to like, but I just never quite got there. Her and Ead’s love for each was endearing and I appreciated them looking out for each other and being all cute, but I struggled with Sabran.

‘How much suffering might have been avoided if they had felt safe enough to broach their ideas with you, Sabran, rather than take matters into their own hands.’


Sorry, Sabran, I know you got your shit together at the end, but you still drove me up a wall for at least 5/6ths of the story. And, honestly, I don’t even know if I liked her at the end, but I do think she’s going in a better direction politically, at least. And while I think she does make a very believable character – she’s a rich, spoiled queen raised in ignorance and she’s arrogant and thick-headed up until the very end. So, I dunno. That’s not a complaint, though! I loved plenty of books where the characters frustrated me. This is one. I got mega teary eyed on more than one occasion near the end for sure.

And for all my frustration with Sabran, I adored most of the rest of the cast. The Tané and Nayimathun and Loth riding scenes were great and I really want more of them! I thought they had a great dynamic. I love Tané and Nayimathun’s battle scenes and wish we’d had a bit more of them.

I think I also would have preferred this to be two or three books? All the way up to the point where Ead’s cured and Tané comes to the main court, I thought the pacing was perfect, but the final battle(s) just happened so fast that I felt like we didn’t get to see enough of Sabran knowing the truth and being a decent ruler; of Ead learning about her mother and all the secrets of the Priory; of Loth finding out what happened to Marosa. Like we only got a vague hint that she might still be alive but it was so fast!! I just really wanted more of the ending scenes, but it felt like it wrapped up so quickly. I really hope there’s a second book that expands on all this because it felt like there was still so much I wanted to know!! I’m left with a lot of questions and I’m definitely going to be diving into the prequel when I get a chance, but I hope we get a second book with these characters, too!

Thoughts as I read [SPOILERS]:

– I feel really bad for Niclays so far. And his heartbreak over Jan is gutting.
– Ead is a great character to read about and I love seeing her work her magic so far. Not sure if I actually like her yet, but I love her sections. (Also, how do you say Ead? E-add or Aid???)
– Loth and Kit are fun and I hope their journey doesn’t end in tragedy. (I also can’t help but wonder if Kit’s name is an ode to Kit Marlowe??)
– Tané is probably my favourite in terms of likeability. I love reading about her water trials and the dragons are SO COOL.
– Not remotely a fan of the West/Virtudom thus far. I understand that they’re superstitious and worried about the returning wyrms, but the whole NO YOU CANNOT LEARN ABOUT THE OTHER CONTINENT rankles every fibre of my being. I cannot stand their whole ‘ignorance is best’ attitude. No, bros, it’s really not.
– On that note, Sabran is driving me up a tree. She’s got courage, I’ll give her that, and it’s clear that she’s crushing on Ead, but she’s so up herself and so obnoxious. I really cannot stand her yet. I’m hope she has a character growth moment but as of right now, I cannot understand what Ead’s fascination is with her. She’s a twit (so far, but I hold out hope …).
– The dragons/wyverns/wyrms/draconic crossbreeds are so freaking interesting and I love how Shannon’s written them and set them up. I can’t wait to read more about the dragons!! I’m gonna guess we’ll get water v fire dragons towards the end.
– Lowkey shipping Loth/Marosa. Poor thing.
– Marosa >>>> Sabran. Seriously. Marosa is such a good queen and trying her best. All Sabran does is whinge. I do feel bad for her that she has to secure an heir she clearly doesn’t really want, but she’s just not a likeable person at all. I don’t get why Ead likes her. She’s just someone who always gets what she wants and then pitches a fit when it doesn’t happen. Oi vey.
– I don’t trust Lievelyn at all. I feel like he’s going to try something nefarious.
– I’m so glad Niclays finally got a break and found some friends. I really do feel for him.
– I really like Tané’s relationship with her dragon. So cute (and now I want a dragon to cuddle with!!!!).
– Okay, so I was wrong about Lievelyn. Poor homie.
– Loth, my dude, I’m worried about you.
– I love all the close bonds with animals the characters have. I really like that addition!!
– Still not feeling the Sabran/Ead romance, alas.
– I want to learn more about the Priory!!! I’m 300~ pages in and all we know so far is that they’re secretly protecting Sabran and want Ead to come home.
– I have some questions about how relationships work inside the Priory. Like, Ead was born there, her mother was a sister – okay, and??? How are these mages meeting outsiders? I got vibes of the Aes Sedai from the Priory of the Orange Tree. I also thought the split in the magic kinda vibed like saidin and saidar in the Wheel of Time. Although where the Priory’s magic splits across firelight and starlight (I think?) WOT magic splits between genders.

Overall very much looking forwards to A Day of Fallen Night!

Anyone else read Priory? Or its prequel? I’d love to know your thoughts!

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