Review: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

29774026The hype regarding this book was nearly palpable in the air, so when audible credit day rolled around, I could hardly wait to lay one at the feet of this beautiful chonki book.

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 all her life to be a dragonrider, 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.

To be kin to a dragon, you must not only have a soul of water. You must have the blood of the sea, and the sea is not always pure. It is not any one thing. There is darkness in it, and danger, and cruelty. It can raze great cities with its rage. Its depths are unknowable; they do not see the touch of the sun. To be a Miduchi is not to be pure, Tané. It is to be the living sea. That is why I chose you. You have a dragon’s heart.

This is the story of a world of dragons and magic, where a thousand years previously, a dragon known only as the Nameless One was bound in the great abyss.

In the West, where dragons are reviled, Sabran Berethnet, Queen of Inys, is still yet to wed and have children, despite it being said that her royal blood and the blood of her heirs is the only thing that keeps the Nameless One at bay. Ead Duryan is a mage, and a handmaiden of The Mother, and a secret agent of the Priory of the Orange Tree. She has been sent by her Priory to protect Sabran’s life at all costs, and yet to stay secret, for her religion and sorcery are both heresy in the land of Inys.

Across the sea, in the East, where dragons are revered, Tané is a young girl who has dreamed all her life of becoming a dragonrider, and now her dreams are just starting to come true. Niclays is an alchemist and anatomist, an old man, exiled from Inys after he failed to give Queen Sabran the immortality that she craved. He is still trying to make an alchemical cure for mortality.

The kingdoms of the East and West refuse to work together for any reason. When the evil dragons begin to stir, and the Nameless One’s return is nigh, they may just have to work together to save everyone in the entire world.

This book is a very chonki boi, at well over 800 pages, and so I opted for the audiobook, as I didn’t think it would realistically be possible for me to fit an 800 page book in between all the other reading that I’ve got on deck. The audiobook is nearly 26 hours long, which…. actually doesn’t sound that long for an 850 page book.

The writing was quite evocative, and I never found myself bored with the book, although there isn’t necessarily always high energy things happening in it. Much of the book is politics and court intrigue. There are slow parts, and yet there are fast-paced parts with everything from dragon battles to pirate raids. I really liked Ead and Tané as characters, so I felt like their parts kept me well interested in the plotline. We see this story from the POV of 4 characters, 2 on one side of the sea, and 2 on the other. I didn’t find that it was difficult at all to keep them straight, although I did listen to the audiobook, and I find that it’s usually easier to keep track of multiple POV books in audio.

The narration was okay, but not great. Liyah Summers did a lot of accents for this one, and as I said, that helped me keep each of the characters straight. However, some of the accents given to some characters (secondary, thankfully) were often ridiculous. The one that I disliked the most was nearer to the end and that character didn’t make too many appearances. Still… it seemed out of place. There was also a lot of inconsistency with the accents – such as people from the same region having completely different accents, and that sort of thing. There were also a few times that words were mispronounced (someone bowing to someone else with the word bow being pronounced like bow and arrow), and the recording was sometimes irregular in volume for half a paragraph.

So, as a book, it was pretty great, but as an audiobook, it was less stellar than I think that it could have been. On the one hand, I thought that listening to it in audio had pros, such as being able to listen while working, doing chores, and crafting. I managed this 26 hour long book over the course of 3 days, and so, that says something. But I also think that more care could have been taken with the audio recording, and while the narrator was good, I think that perhaps a bit more audio editing could have solved many of the problems that I had with it. 3.5/5 stars total.

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