Review: The Priory of the Orange Tree

4.5 out of 5 stars The Priory of the Orange Tree, by Samantha Shannon

Epic hardly begins to describe The Priory of the Orange Tree. From page one, the reader is completely immersed in one of the biggest and most comprehensive world builds I’ve ever experienced. That Samantha Shannon can create such a thing is a marvel, but to navigate it easily, to keep stories, characters, and timelines all moving seamlessly without confusing me was a miracle. Some reviews cited a lack of complexity in Priory, but I completely disagree. Confusion is not the same as plot. There’s plenty here to weave, and that a reader can follow each thread is an accomplishment, not a failure. I cannot recommend this book enough.

I could never adequately sum up this novel, so…

The only things that left me baffled about Priory are not in the story itself:

Why is this considered YA? Aside from the lead characters being mid- to late-20s, there’s nothing young about this book. It doesn’t flail about in angst or apathy; if anything, Shannon’s characters have singular motivations, equal to each other but unique to their characters. Perhaps there’s a bit too much Arthurian virtue-flogging, but it is a religion here, after all.

Also, how is a standalone novel? It’s so deep and rich and boundless. There are more ideas here than a single writer should hope to have in a lifetime; it seems nuts to spend them all on one book! Perhaps Samantha Shannon has this many ideas all the time? And that’s why I have none? I would easily have read and loved Priory as a series on par with Game of Thrones, The Wheel of Time, and Sword of Truth.

There is an abundance of action, as well as politics, emotion, even science (of a kind), without ever letting one overwhelm the others, or the reader. Strong women abound – practically every lead character is both female and formidable. Hell, there are dragons! Magic! A secret island library! And not a single paragraph is cheesy or overwrought. The clean, sharp prose drives an equally well developed plot that I never wanted to end.

Also, please listen to the audiobook. Narrated by Liyah Summers, it is glorious. And at 25+ hours, it’s more than worth your monthy Audible credit, I promise.

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