I listened to the audiobook of The Priory of the Orange Tree back in 2020 – see my review – and have never forgotten the sweep of the story. I hoped that Shannon would write another book in the series, so I was delighted when I saw this arc on Netgalley and even more delighted when I was approved to read it.
BLURB: Tunuva Melim is a sister of the Priory. For fifty years, she has trained to slay wyrms – but none have appeared since the Nameless One, and the younger generation is starting to question the Priory’s purpose.
To the north, in the Queendom of Inys, Sabran the Ambitious has married the new King of Hróth, narrowly saving both realms from ruin. Their daughter, Glorian, trails in their shadow – exactly where she wants to be.
The dragons of the East have slept for centuries. Dumai has spent her life in a Seiikinese mountain temple, trying to wake the gods from their long slumber. Now someone from her mother’s past is coming to upend her fate.
When the Dreadmount erupts, bringing with it an age of terror and violence, these women must find the strength to protect humankind from a devastating threat.
REVIEW: Firstly, let’s get to the business of which way around you should read these books. Obviously, I came to this one having already read The Priory of the Orange Tree – but if you haven’t, then it certainly isn’t a problem. In fact, given the relatively slow, steady build-up of this doorstopper, I think it might be an easier introduction to the sheer scope and power of the world. That said, as the books are set five hundred years apart, each one can also be treated as a standalone.
The pacing is certainly tighter in this offering – I recall there were moments in TPOTOT when after a big build-up, the keynote scene was delivered at a bit of a gallop. There wasn’t any such unevenness that stood out for me this time around. And the other issue I had with TPOTOT was the manner in which significant character deaths were treated – Shannon clearly hated killing off any of her cast and so we mostly learnt of their demise second-hand, instead of having a ringside seat to the event. Not so in ADOFN – there are several notable deaths, but two in particular stood out as I didn’t see them coming. But they were movingly written and left me with a lump in my throat – which is what you want when someone is tragically and unexpectedly killed.
Once again, I’m left awed at the sheer scale of this book, which comes in at 850+ pages. Epic fantasy tales tend to deal with the political, religious and social pressures caused by major happenings – and this one is no exception. I liked how a particular historic event has been interpreted entirely differently by various cultures, causing friction and religious persecution that fractures the response to the rise of the monsters. I also enjoyed the tenderness and love demonstrated within the same sex relationships, which Shannon writes very well.
Indeed, the characters all sing off the page as each one is clearly nuanced, with strengths and weaknesses that sometimes define them – fatally so, in a few instances – and always made me want to turn the page to learn more. Perhaps the one theme that stood out for me in this book is the treatment of motherhood. In a lot of Fantasy, mothers are often idealised and there is rarely a hint that any mother is anything other than thrilled with their offspring. So I was struck by Shannon’s more nuanced approach – particularly the feelings of poor, trapped Glorian. And given her plight is one that reflected the fate of queens and princesses through History, I found it both poignant and utterly relatable. I also loved the fact that three main protagonists in this book are all at different stages in their lives.
And I haven’t yet mentioned the dragons… the monsters… the battles… the double-crossings and the redemptions. All in all, this is an impressive effort – and since I stopped reading it, it has stayed with me. I’ve even dreamt about it. Highly recommended for fans of epic fantasy tales that provide an insight into a detailed, plausible world through a cast of charismatic and nuanced characters. While I obtained an arc of A Day of Fallen Night from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.