Absolute perfection. I was about 200 pages in before I started immediately recommending this book to everyone. Less than 25% of the way through The Priory of the Orange Tree, I just knew that Shannon wouldn’t let me down. I believe ‘A Game of Thrones, but written by a woman, so the female characters have actual personalities and are described by more than their looks’ was the exact phrase I used several times. And after reaching the end, I stand by this description.
There is something so wonderful about starting this book and already looking forward to rereading it. I love epic high fantasy like this, where the author is building off of existing folklore and developing their own mythopoeia. Of course, you’re not sure how these initial details are going to end up being important, but you can’t wait to start over again to be able to add nuance and pick out all the spoilers and Easter eggs and foreshadowing you missed the first time around. It makes me actually giddy just thinking about it.
I know everyone has their favourites in this book, and it would be difficult not to, but it is very easy to read every perspective and love something about each character. Because Shannon represents all of humanity in The Priory of the Orange Tree. There are the righteous and the wicked, lovers and fighters, brilliant and dense (but still loveable – poor Loth), just like there’s east and west, dragons and wyrms, religion and magic. I love that Shannon didn’t shy away from the complexities of religion, and The Priory of the Orange Tree could almost be a guidebook for how to unite against a common foe – something which seems almost more impossible than dragons in our modern world. I love that while aspects of this story seem so familiar – royal marriage as strategy, power passing through blood, religion hiding the truth – some refreshing twists breathe some life and fresh air into what could have been a dusty tome.
It seems crazy to say, but after almost 850 pages, I was left wanting more. I’m so glad there’s a prequel already out, while also feeling so disappointed to be going backwards rather than forward. Fingers crossed that Shannon isn’t ready to give up on these characters or their descendants.