Review: ‘The Priory of the Orange Tree’ is a struggle, but it’s worth it

Natalie Langan, Staff Writer

If you’re a book nerd, you’ll know “The Priory of the Orange Tree.” For those of you who don’t know, it’s an eight-hundred page novel by Samantha Shannon. (Eight hundred forty eight to be specific.) The novel follows different characters’ perspectives throughout a fictional world. Some live in the East where dragons are worshiped, while those in the West despise them. As five wyrms start to stir, everyone fears that their ancient enemy, “the nameless one,” is to awake soon. In the East, Tané, a young girl training to be a dragon rider, finds an outsider, Sulyard. Breaking the law, she sends him to the home of Niclays Roos in Orisima. Niclays immediately objects, but is forced to take in the boy. Meanwhile, Ead Duryan resides in the Queendom of Inys further west, where she is a lady in waiting for Queen Sabran. However, the Queen has no knowledge that Ead truly comes from the Priory, and is there to protect Sabran, and prevent the nameless one from returning. Ead’s close friend, Loth, is banished from the Queendom for becoming too close with Sabran, his best friend since childhood. Now he is on a “mission,” that everyone knows is really him being sent to catch the revered plague littered throughout society.

I won’t lie, the only reason I began reading this book was to be able to say that I read an eight hundred page book, but the further I got into it, the more weary I was that it was even worth it. I found the plot to be cautiously slow for nearly three hundred pages until it picked up the pace. Nonetheless, I powered through, and the characters slowly became more interesting and likable.

The feminist anthem was clear from the start in this book (which I’m a big fan of). Tané is powerful and persistent. She’s determined to become a dragon rider, and refuses to let those more fortunate than her conquer that dream. Ead is breathtaking with which she can manipulate those around her. She manages to keep this secret of her upbringing for years, even making some friends and alliances along the way.

That said, I was not a big fan of the writing style used in this book. It reminded me of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. Maybe not as ancient, but I needed to decode every sentence she wrote. That said, Shannon is still a fabulous writer, able to weave a story of four different perspectives with ease. I decided that perhaps the audiobook would make more sense, and it was very helpful. It was easier to distinguish who was speaking and to picture what was happening.

When taking all of this into consideration, I do recommend “The Priory of the Orange Tree.” It’s a painfully slow start, but the action later makes it all worth it. Plus, you can brag that you’ve read an eight hundred page novel.