Priory of The Orange Tree Review

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Hardcover, 848 Pages
Epic Fantasy/ Adult/ LGBT
Rating: ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ 1/2
By: Samantha Shannon

โ€œThat is the problem with stories, child. The truth in them cannot be weighed.โ€

๐ŸŒŸ I have read this a while ago and I initially rated it 4 stars (on GR) although I was not convinced of that rating 100%, after a couple of weeks of thinking and after having to explain to my class what this book is about (More on this later) I think that I should not overthink my rating and go with 3.5 stars which I feel most comfortable with.

๐ŸŒŸ I am going to review this from the outside to the inside and I am saying this because I think the outside of this book played a major role in its success! The outside is 2 things in this case: The cover and the number of pages. This book is thick and the author herself was afraid readers won’t read it because of that. In the adult fantasy world, the number of pages of this is not unheard of, there are many books this large and so readers who are comfortable with the genre will have no problems with this one. The cover design is awesome with the colors and Dragon and it being shiny! It even has a catchy name, all of which made it famous in the bookstagram world.

๐ŸŒŸ Now another thing that I noticed is that this is mostly read by younger readers and most of my adult-fantasy expert friends have not read it (yet). I think that is explained by Samantha’s previous books belonging to the YA genre. I think that is why the author too was keen on assuring readers of it being readable and that it is not intimidating as it looks, younger readers are not used to this!

๐ŸŒŸ Now let’s jump into the inside and talk about the writing which per se was a good thing about this book! If I am going to be objective here and talk about the prose itself, then yeah, it was good, it was very easy to read and it made sense! I have a criticism of Samantha’s introduction of characters, putting the hard names aside, the problem is that the characters are introduced by their name, with their connections and their job which is too much info-dumping and could have been better. I forgot to add an example from the book but for it is something like: This is A, he is the servant of B which is son of C and he works as D in the city of E, but he originally comes from F!!!

โ€œReading,’ Ead said lightly. ‘A dangerous pastime.โ€

๐ŸŒŸ The characters were diverse and the book changed POV among three kingdoms so we had many characters. Unfortunately, I can not say that I was a big fan of any of them, I don’t think I will remember them for a long time, to be fair I liked Ead, I felt she was well fleshed and her actions, choices, and powers all made sense to me. This book is feminist for sure and it has LGBT characters so I think readers looking for that will enjoy it!

๐ŸŒŸ Plot-wise, the books heavily focus on Politics that it even forgets the fantasy part. I like politics in books because I can see everything and decide which side to take. The problem is that it was kind of black vs white here and I prefer morally grey characters. I am learning a language for my job and my teacher knows I read and so she asked me to come in front of the class and to explain the plot of the book that I am reading to the class! Since I am not fluent in the language, I had to simplify it as most as I can to be able to say it and for my friends to be able to understand it and that’s when I thought: oh, this is like the good guys vs bad guys trope and I am not a huge fan of that! I am quoting my friend Helena who said:

This preference of politics over dragons just made it seem like a feminist ASOIAF retelling, which it really isnโ€™t. The dragons here were only interesting because they spoke in this book.

And I think this is a very accurate description of the book!

๐ŸŒŸ The book is very slow-paced and I have a confession: I almost DNF the book at first, but around page 120, I read a scene that I really liked -It was the scene on the cover with the huge dragon on the tower- and I decided if we are moving slowly toward more of that then yeah, I am in, and I will push through those pages! Fans of the books confirmed that it gets better. It improved slightly the more I read to be honest. I was waiting for that great war and action that 800 pages were preparing me for except that it never came! Let me tell you about the ending: I was disappointed and it was the main reason I am rounding this one down and not up! The final war was so rushed, my friend Azrah asked me what I thought of it immediately when I was done and we had the exact thought: “Is that it?

๐ŸŒŸ I saw a thread on twitter where the author talked about this criticism because apparently many readers thought the same (So not only Azrah and I), the author said that it was longer but her editor suggested cutting it down! The problem was not with the length to be precise, but the book ignores the fantasy elements so we expect to get more of that at the end but we don’t! I am not a fan of very long fighting scenes because they lose their spark and it may be boring and repetitive and even confusing! The real problem was the balance that was never struck in this book. The author could have used multiple short fights in the book rather than a final long one that she had to cut! Also, the ending was kind of open to a continuation which I think is not a good idea, this should stay a standalone!

โ€œLet us not think of the future this night. It is not yet dawn. We still have time for airy hopes.โ€

๐ŸŒŸ Summary: I am kind of disappointed with this book and the more I think about it, the more I am upset! It surely had potential but that was lost with the slow pacing, average characters and with the focus on politics! The writing was easy to read and the book has a gorgeous cover but if you are looking for fantasy with dragons and wars then this is not what you are looking for and there are better books for that! If you love politics in a fantasy world then go for this feminist story of one!

7 Comments

  1. Very fantastic review! Agreed with all of your points from what I had read of this book (about the first 110 pages or so, DNF’d shortly before you decided not to DNF. Now am curious if that moment on page 120 would’ve swayed me too.) This book has one of the prettiest and best covers this year IMO. Just couldn’t deal with the emphasis on slow political stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Itโ€™s reassuring to see someone else with the same viewpoint. I just did not love this book. I never shy away from a larger fantasy book, as it usually means the world building is more complete… but to have one that accomplished so little in that time frame, where I also didnโ€™t LOVE following any characterโ€™s storyline, makes that length redundant.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s such a shame this was so disappointing- I love that cover, but I’m hearing quite lukewarm things (and having not been a fan of the author’s other work, I’m in no rush to pick it up). I think it’s good to know there are better fantast books out there!

    Liked by 1 person

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