Review of AUDIOBOOK of The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon #Brainfluffbookreview #ReviewofAUDIOBOOKThePrioryoftheOrangeTree


This one kept coming up on other book blogging sites – that it was a beast of a book… that it was a single-book epic fantasy adventure featuring dragons and pirates… that it was beautifully written… So I scooped it up to lighten those boring household chores I hate doing. I can’t deny the pull of that cover, either.

BLURB: 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.

REVIEW: This is a hugely ambitious book and hats off to Shannon for even attempting it. In many ways, it follows many of the classic tropes within epic fantasy – political fragility at a time of increasing threat… historical accretion that messes with the people and objects destined to help deal with said threat… a handful of chosen heroes whose lives have been given over to step up and deal with this threat, when it finally emerges… So good, so familiar. But Shannon nicely shakes it up – I particularly enjoyed the storyline around Queen Sabran, which was the most successful narrative throughout the book, both in terms of coherence and pacing. I also liked how Shannon plays with reader expectations, and then upends them. The romance was particularly well developed, with a convincing depth of emotion – yet there were still edges as two powerful women specifically raised to fulfil entirely different roles grappled to try and come to terms with their responsibilities without also sacrificing their personal happiness. But I was also very relieved to see that Shannon didn’t push the facile trope that true lurve solves everything – the storyline of one of the main characters is a vivid demonstration of what happens when someone loves too hard and cannot let go.

The characterisation was the main strength of this wide-ranging story and certainly held me, when the pacing – the weakest aspect – either flagged, suddenly dropping away, or speeded up and rushed through a scene which had been given a big build-up. My other irritation is that Shannon clearly felt, or was told, some of her major supporting cast, should die. She also clearly hated doing it. This manifested itself in these deaths either occurring off-stage, or being glossed over. And while their nearest and dearest did mourn their going, there wasn’t really a sufficient sense of loss, which given how effective Shannon’s writing is in depicting her main characters’ emotions, I found rather frustrating.

However, neither of these niggles are dealbreakers. Nor is the fact that while Liyah Summers’ narration very ably depicted the wide cast of characters with an impressive range of different voices – she also misprounced the word bow throughout, along with one or two odd examples that momentarily yanked me out of the story. Overall, I loved the world and the complex, nuanced story Shannon laid out for me and would recommend it to any fan of epic fantasy, who appreciates reading the whole story in one large volume, rather than having it broken up into instalments spanning years.

20 responses »

    • Yes… I wasn’t completely convinced by The Bone Season, although I think I liked it more than you did. But there were a lot of positive reviews for this one – and I found the prospect of dragons and pirates couldn’t be ignored:)).

  1. Hi Sarah! As you know, this is not my preferred reading preference. But ooooooooooe, that cover… Isn’t it just sooo gorgeous.

    After reading your review, I think I am going to see if I can get my hands on this. I might actually like it!

    Keep well. Elza Reads

    • Oh, I enjoyed it, too. Just not as much as I’d expected. This one, though, really delivered, especially when you take into account what a very long book it is.

    • I think this would be a good starting point – it’s a great read and apart from a couple of odd mispronounciations, the narration is excellent, so I’d recommend the audiobook.

  2. Oh, I enjoyed this one too! I think things could have been tightened up here and there, but considering this was her first crack at epic fantasy, it was really impressive. You could tell she was really passionate about the project too.

  3. This book received some mixed reviews, and that’s one of the reasons I have held off from reading it – so far – although the core concept of the story sounds fascinating. So it’s encouraging to read your review and learn that there is more to be appreciated than critiqued…
    Thank you so much for sharing! 🙂

    • You’re very welcome – I’m aware that some people were underwhelmed by it. But I am really glad I read it – given I listened to it for nearly a month while I did my chores, it provided me with a raft of happy memories.

  4. Oh, character death. Nothing grinds me like off-screen deaths. Important characters deserve to die on stage, don’t you think? Yes, whether we want to kill them or not. But I don’t like killing characters for the sake of pulling heart strings or just to have something happening in the moment. A death has to matter, or it shouldn’t have to happen.

    Sorry for sounding all crochety there, but the way I see it, reality’s got enough needless death as it is. ANYway, I’ll end on a lighter note–Bash is next to me, for he almost always gets up as early as I do, only today it’s to study the latest Lego magazine with lazer focus. “Mom, I want the Elf House for Christmas! It has toys, and Santa, and triple bunks, and–” “How much is it, dude?” “Only 100 dollars.” “BWA HA HA HA HA HA HA! No.” “But it’s for Christmas!” “No.”

    ah, the joys of Christmas wish lists 🙂 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    • Urg! Lego is always insanely expensive! We’ve still got all the Lego from my son (he’s now in his 30s) plus the stuff that Oscar has collected with pocket money since he’s been here, so there is quite an impressive collection… We’ve put it in a set of drawers and sorted it into all the colours – which took quite a lot of time! But hopefully it makes it easier when following the instruction leaflets!

      And yes! The annoying thing is that the deaths DID matter and they were important – I just got the sense that she absolutely hated killing off the characters, so that she downplayed it. And you’re right – if you are going to kill somebody major then it has to COUNT.

  5. I’m forcing myself to continue listening, at least for now. The narration is not great; it’s amateur. Her mottled accent is wrong for this book; it sounds like someone from Brixton trying to speak RP, and then there’s the faux West Indian accent. Also, her voice itself isn’t clear. In general, it’s hard to follow the story.

    • Ah – and that’s the issue with audiobooks… If you dislike, or are annoyed by the narrator, then I think you’re better off reading it! There are books that I have DNF’d because the narration grated, so I feel your pain.

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