Rating - ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
"A world divided. A queendom without an heir. An ancient enemy awakens.
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 to be a dragonrider since she was a child, 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."
Spanning multiple regions and perspectives, The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon is an adult fantasy of epic proportions.
If you want to read a complete story but don't want to make your way through a multi-book series, look no further than this. Shannon creates an absolutely stunning book that captivates you from beginning to end.
Clocking in at over 800 pages, it is well worth the long read as the plot, the world, the magic system, and the characters are all meticulously crafted. The book unfolded things at a good enough pace that it keeps you in the story. The characters are dynamic and are developed very well. I found that characters I liked in the beginning I hated in the end and vice versa. This also includes a sapphic romance which I absolutely loved.
This book is not without faults, however. While the world and magic system were built up enough to hold the story, I wish it was explored just a bit more. I can't fault Shannon for not doing so, as there is only so much you can focus on in a standalone, but should she release future installments, I would like to learn more about the magic and belief systems. I also wish that we were given more time with other characters that were put in the back seat to make room for all the main characters.
The other issue I had with the book was the ending. The majority of the book building up to an epic battle in the end is common for fantasy books. I found that this climax, however, was resolved way too quickly. While I can appreciate that Shannon didn't drag out the ending and make the book even longer, I wish that we just got a bit more action and interaction between the main characters and the big bad.
Overall though, you will not be disappointed with this book. It is an entire well developed fantasy story contained into a single book, albeit a rather long one. If she puts out more books in this universe, I will 100% pick them up.