This is not a small book. I read it on Kindle so I didn’t fully realize it, but The Priory of the Orange Tree is a solid 800 pages. This book could have been a pair of full-size novels. But having been impatiently waiting on George R.R. Martin to finish A Song of Ice and Fire, I’m not entirely mad that Shannon opted to wrap this all up in one go. Priory is standalone epic fantasy and boy is it epic.
The novel covers continents and fills them with magic, dragons, mystical creatures, queendoms, kingdoms, warring religions – everything. Ead is a young woman in the service of Queen Sabran of Virtuedom, tasked with a secret mission. Tané, on the other side of the world, dreams of riding a dragon, not yet grasping the sacrifices she will have to make. These two women drive the story in a battle against an unknowable evil. It’s a lot. It’s also pretty darn good.
It might be too much book, there is some room for paring down. The Big Bad is also a kind of generic great evil that destroys for the sake of destruction, which is less interesting than some of the smaller, more human evils. Our heroes share a lot of personality traits, which is what tells us they’re heroes, but still, I couldn’t put this down. I kept coming back and coming back and coming back. I do love a good non-YA fantasy headlined by women and queer relationships and women in queer relationships. It is well worth the read.
I call this one travel because multiple characters traverse the breadth of their world multiple times. Shannon smartly establishes a series of mystical creatures that can travel much faster than anything natural or man-made, which saves us from any “Varys is a merman” type posturing.
Bingo Square: Travel