Last review of the books I read in December! This was the final book I read in 2019, and in the decade of the 10s. It was a great way to end the decade and the year.
Customary warning: This is a reminder that these are my personal opinions. My thoughts and feelings are not your thoughts and feelings. I may not always be the target audience for a book; sometimes I am. If I do not like a book, that doesn’t mean you’ll dislike it. If I love a book or simply like a book, you may hate it. Take everything I say with this knowledge. If it sounds interesting to you despite what I’ve said, then go ahead and read it. You’ll only know you like something if you read it yourself.
That being said… Spoilers ahead.
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
Synopsis From The Book
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.
Fantasy – Epic | A – PW |Death, Betrayal, Physical and Mental Abuse |Religion, Secrets, What comes with Fear, Altered History
Initial Thoughts Before Reading:
Alright, so I begin this book with mixed anticipation. It’s an epic and as such I have to put myself into a mindset of it being an epic. I won’t get all the answers until later. The character development and world development will take a while. This book is going to take me time to read and is going to take me time to digest. There is 804 pages of text, which is roughly the size of a normal epic. I’m anticipating this taking me three days of reading. However, it could go faster, but from what I know of the book, it will not. This book, from what I have read on the author’s twitter, is long to short. The pacing is very long in the beginning, and gets quicker as we continue towards the end. It’s a stylistic choice and something I know, I will need to remember.
So I go into this book knowing that. That and, that people have loved it and people do not finish it, all the time. Thus, I’m excited and ready to begin. It is a standalone afterall.
Update: after looking at the maps, I am a bit confused on how the two maps go together. I hope that will be explained as we continue. It probably will be.
Day 2: Here we go for day two. I got about 170pgs in the first time and this book is pretty frickin daunting. I feel sort of the same way I did with Evelyn Hugo, with being afraid to keep going. Is it inherently wrong? No, but it is going to keep me a little withheld again from completing the novel.
Day 3: Alright lets do this! ONWARDS
Day 4: This plot synopsis and everything is going to be so long. I’m sorry, but its an epic and me reading epics takes a long time. Just be happy I don’t review ever epic book I read. I suppose. ANYWAY, DIVING BACK IN.
Initial Thoughts After Reading:
Day 1: Well, Sabran drives me up a wall. Tane breaks my heart because I want her to be a rider, and I understand her ambition but if that is destroyed, I will cry. Also the politics of this book are lush, voluminous, and intricate. The ways in which history, and culture are woven, has my heart swooning. It is a difficult book to read, which has me realizing this is going to take many a day to read. This book, in fact, is probably going to take me many days to read. I got through the first 170pages, having to reread parts, today, and that was a bit surprising to me. I thought I would read more. But I have not.
Day 2: Woot okay got all the way to part 2. Now I know where the parts are in the book. I have better goals set for myself now.
Day 3: Holy hell. You’d THINK that if people just listened. UGH. The worst part is, their inability to speak with one another due to prejudice, is 100% accurate. I’m so distraught by the amount of deaths that have already watered the pages for characters that I have cared about. Whyyyy. Then we got more betrayals, and more instances of magic. This story is speeding into itself faster now, and I just want it to slow down but it won’t. I know it won’t. This is what the author intended. Please let people be happy.
Day 4: IM SCREAMING. The entire end third of this book sank in all too quickly. I couldn’t hold on to it and make it go slower. I’m so enthralled. This book was so good.
Why You Should Read:
You should read this novel for the grand scale, as well as the execution of pacing. The book is written in a way that as time begins to run out, everything moves all that much faster. Faster and faster until we reach the end. Additionally, the characters are well developed, as are the cultures and religions. The use of religions and personal beliefs keeps this book moving. For it is not miscommunication that drives characters apart, but rather secrets that come when truths can not be revealed. There is a diversity in characters, relationships, and perspectives, as well as a realistic take on what happens when secrets are revealed, and people are unable to understand others.
The book is told in four perspectives, specifically in multiple different directions. There are six parts.
PART 1: DIRECTIONS WEST AND EAST
In the West Ead, is hidden within the Queendom of Inys to protect the Queen who might hold the blood that will save the world from the Nameless One (a dragon who almost destroyed the world a thousand years ago). It is her job to keep the Queen alive. She deals with assassins and trying to get on the Queen’s good side, to get closer to protect her. Ead finds difficulty with a girl named Truyde Meanwhile, Loth, a friend of the queen, is sent away by the Master of Spies. He is sent away because he is too close to the queen, for the court’s liking, despite the Queen wanting him there. Loth likes Ead (I think?), but is sent away nonetheless. With his friend Kit, they board a boat and end up seeing one of the Nameless One’s underlings, rise to waken. That being is Fyredel, and he flies to try to kill Inys, who is protected by Ead. Ead uses all her magic and is visited by the Priory to get her magic back. Loth and Kit arrive in the castle of the Draconic kingdom, a probed for diseases and then speak to the queen. In secret Loth and the queen meet and he learns how she is being held hostage. She gives him a path to escape, and in his escape Kit is killed. Sabran is married, and Ead is risen to the station of lady of the bedchamber.
In the East, Tane is working to finish her training to become a dragon rider. She sneaks out the day before Choosing day and finds a man upon a beach Sulyard and sends her to her friend Susa who takes him to another island, all to protect herself. She is chosen to become a Sea knight, and goes to complete the trials to be selected to be a rider. Meanwhile, Niclays is an exiled alchemist who was in love with Truyde’s father. He is given Sulyard to hide, and ends up being caught with the man. He tells the man and the girl to confess who found the man first, and then is transferred to the capitol to be watched as the information from the Sulyard and Susa is found. Tane completes her trials and is selected by one of the largest dragons from the mainland, to be her partner.
PART 2 DIRECTIONS SOUTH, WEST, EAST
In the South, Loth is struggling to survive when he is saved by a sign of the Saint (or the Damsel rather, I think). It is the natural enemy of wyrms, an Ichneumon. Loth makes it safely south but then is kidnapped. He is taken to the Priory and is healed of the plague. He learns the truth of the Priory, and is told he can never leave.
In the west, Ead is helping the queen with all she can and growing closer with the queen. Sabran is pregnant and declares that she and her husband will go on a tour of her country. They go to the people and an assassination attempt breaks out. So many people die, including Sabran’s husband. Truyde is revealed to have been a part of it. Days progress and Sabran deals with the growing child. The castle is attacked again and Ead fends them off as best she can. Sabran loses her baby, and her ability to give birth. In her distress, she and Ead grow closer until she and Ead have sex. Ead reveals that she does care for the queen and requests to stay longer. She is then summoned to the Nighthawk (master of spies and the one who may have been trying to kill Sabran earlier.) He tries to exile her for her closeness to Sabran, and then tries to kill her. She flees and heads back to the Priory.
In the East, Niclays is headed to meet with the Warlord and Tane is learning stories from the dragons. Niclays recognizes Tane and threatens her to get blood and scale from her dragon or else he reports her. She speaks with her dragon and her dragon reveals that they must help the man she saved. Sulyard and Susa both die. Tane is exiled and Niclays is kidnapped by sea pirates. Niclays learns that the Empress of the pirates wants immortality.
PART 3 DIRECTIONS EAST, SOUTH
In the East, Tane is now a scholar and not particularly enjoying life. She has a medical condition that has to be looked at. Niclays is aboard the ship. He speaks to the Empress about Jannart and the prophecy he held. They discover the place of a sacred jewel, on an island and head towards it. Tane learns that the odd medical condition that she had, was a jewel embedded in her body to hide it. It is one of the celestial jewels she learned about from her dragon. She finds it and swears to give it to her dragon when she finds her dragon.
In the South, Ead has returned to the country that is her home. She speaks to the Prioress, who says they will give up on Inys. She then eats and Orange from the Orange Tree to regain her magic. Later she follows a bird into the crypts and finds a sacred jewel, and a letter depicting the truth of the Nameless One. She goes into a fever and wakes, knowing she must go to the exiled Witch to learn more. Ead goes to Kalyba and learns of the two types of magic. She returns and becomes a Red Damsel, finding that Loth is alive. Ead is then given the choice between having a child or going on another long mission. Ead decides to go to the Virtudom instead and fights with the Prioress, who she realized killed her mother. She and Loth escape with Aralaq, the Ichemon who saved Loth before. They make it from the priory safely or as safely as possible, with Ead injured from her fight with the prioress and getting shot by an arrow.
PART 4 DIRECTIONS WEST, EAST
In the West, Loth and Ead return to Inys. Disguised they make their way to the castle, Ead burning ships in their path, and learning all they can on what happened since Ead left. Ead believes that Ingrain Crest (an important person in Sabran’s life) is behind the assasination attempts for Sabran, and other things. Loth is not sure, but begins to believe. The two do not talk about their differing views on religion. The approach the castle and see Truyde’s head on a pike. They arrive at the castle to find out that Ingrain Crest has taken over and only Roslain can attend to the queen. The Queen’s guard is imprisoned. Loth and Ead get Margaret and release the guard. then they fight to get to the queen who Rosalin is fighting to protect. Ead finds Roslain with broken fingers and Sabran a mess from trying to stay out of Ingrain’s grasp, and Sabran collapses to Ead in anguish knowing she is safe. Ead, Loth, and Sabran catch each other up on what happened and Ead reveals the truth of her people (that Sabran does not believe). Loth is then given the task of Justice, to find out all truths of those who wished the Queen harm. There is a party where Ead is declared a knight. She and Sabran speak with each other and sleep with each other. Loth continues his investigation. Ead and Margaret go to Magaret’s home to find the sword, which they do, but are intercepted by Kaybla who reveals that she has been alive since the sealing of the Ancient One. She is the mother of Sabran’s line, and the first queen of Inys. She is the true Damsel, not Cleolind who is the Mother and called the damsel. The witch is also the sixth High Western who took Sabran’s baby from her. Ead loses the sword to the witch and returns to Sabran to demand that they make peace with the East. Ead and Sabran agree to send Ead to the east but she is poisoned by a sister of the Priory, and nearly killed, leaving Loth to have to make the journey on his own.
In the East, Tane begins her research into the jewel and learns more on the queen who held one from the east and what their names are. Niclays continues on the ship to the island to find the ingredients for immortality.
PART 5 DIRECTIONS WEST, EAST, SOUTH
In the West, Loth heads to the east with Sabran’s true (?) father.
In the East, After a storm, Loth’s crew lands on Feather island. Tane moves to escape the island and runs into him. Tane kidnaps Loth and sails after her dragon. Niclays is almost at the island. Niclays takes to land and finds the broken tree. Loth and Tane make it to her dragon, but the dragon tells her to find the keys who are with the Golden Empress. Tane gets the keys, and the golden empress kills Niclays. A High Western come and burns the island, and Tane and Loth escape on her dragon. They make it to the Unceasing Emperor and convince him of the pact with Inys. Tane travels to the west and Loth stays behind.
In the South, She and her dragon are shot down by the Priory. She is captured by the Prioress who steals her jewel, and then is released by Ead’s “father.” She goes to the orange tree to get magic. She watches as the prioress and Kalyba fight. Kalyba recognizes Tane as Neporo and calls her sister. Tane escapes with an orange for Ead and makes her way to Inys.
PART 6 DIRECTIONS WEST, EAST, ABYSS
In the West, Ead awakens and speaks to Sabran and Tane. Tane is given magic and the councils of the continent meet. Sabran reveals that she will tell the world the truth of the Mother. Ead and Tane practice with their Jewels. Ead, Tane, and Sabran meet with Niclays who lived, thanks to Kalyba, and he tells them of the weakness of the Nameless One. He betrays Kalyba in that way, and is pardoned by Sabran.
In the East, An army forms. Loth speaks with the emperor.
In the Abyss, the east and west meet, as well as the leaders and then war breaks out. Sabran is chastized by the dragons and Tane fights Kalyba. Sabran and Ead go to help her. Kalyba and Sabran fight. Sabran and Ead kill the witch, get the sword, and the Nameless One rises. Tane takes the sword of Ascalon and is taken by the Sea Guard to the Nameless One. She loses the sword and falls but is caught by her dragon who finally arrives. She climbs the Nameless one’s body and tears of the damaged scale. Her dragon protects her from the Nameless One. Ead gets the sword and thrusts it into the Nameless One. Then Tane and Ead banish him to the Abyss once more.
Loth finds his sisters in the ruins of the battle of the west, alive with her living lover as well. Niclays is alive back at home, with only one hand. Margaret gets married. Niclays visits his love’s grave and speaks to the man’s wife who tells Niclays to come back to the family. Ead and Sabran talk and Ead will become the Prioress and Sabran will remain queen for ten more years before she abdicates and reveals all the truths. Tane visits the land of her birth and blood line, as a restored Sea Guardian. Loth continues his duties and Ead sails for the Priory.
What I Liked:
Wyrm v Dragons; Like all things, I like dragons. In this book we get a sharp distinction between the different types of dragons. How they live, what they feed on, why they exist, and how. We see how they interact with the world and how they can either leave a wake of fear or hope. There were two distinct different breeds. Those, Wyrms, of fire and destruction and those, Dragons, of water and peace. They were part of two different branches of magic, and survived based off of those magics. I also just love dragons and I loved their integeral part of the story.
Sabran; Drove me up a wall for the first part of the novel. By the time I understood how stubborn she was, I was already caring for her all too much. She was blinded by the beliefs of her own country, but she was able to open her mind to the possibility that she was wrong and for that I am proud of her. I appreciated having such a strong willed character as a queen but not as a POV.
Ead; I feel like we got the most of her POV out of everyone. I don’t hate that. We learned a lot with her perspective and I did care for her story the most out of anyones (probably because of how much of it we got).
Tane; My beautiful Sea Guardian. I liked her as a character the most. While I cared for Ead’s story more, I liked her character more. We learned much about the East through her eyes and I cared about her dreams. I’m happy she got them.
Loth; He was an entertaining character, and got us a few valuable pieces of information, but I felt that otherwise, his perspective was pretty dry. What he was, was a good character for drama and how the rest of the world viewed female and male friendships. Loth was a good guy.
Niclays; I was fascinated by his character, even if I didn’t give much to read about it. Everything about him was tense and intricate, which added a new layer to the story, especially in the east. His perspective was equal time with Tane, and that did not bother me. Because I thought it added much to the world that hers could not.
Deaths; This caught me off guard. Oh. Man. I knew people were going to die. But not named characters. Not immediately in the first part. We had all these named characters, who I thought were going to be important, dying left and right. This was amazing because it was so accurate to the fear of the world. Ultimately their deaths did mean something but they still died and to that, I am sad.
Pacing; Before reading the novel, I had see the author tweet about how the plot was paced. I was prepared for it, and I liked the pacing in particular. It got the plot across well, and helped keep me engaged. The plot went from super long and detailed to faster and quick paced as the novel progressed.
What I Would Have Liked or Changed:
A Better Map; Upon opening the map I was so confused on how the map was laid out. This was what confused me the most at first. All the arrows had me spinning the map all over to try to figure it out. Once I did, I was set. It just took me a while. I think a full world map would have suited the pages better, but that’s just me.
“Reading is a dangerous pastime. There is great power in stories.” – pg 21
“Art is not one great act of creation, but small ones… All you see, in the end, is what I want you to see.” – pg 50
“Night is when fear comes to us at its fullest, when we have no way to fight it. It will do everything it can to seep inside you. Sometimes it may succeed – but never think that you are night.” – pg 203
“Love and fear do strange things to the soul.” – pg 416