Friday 19 July 2019

Review on The Priory of the Orange Tree

It has been 1000 years since The Nameless One was first defeated, but the time is fast approaching when he will rise once more. According to legend, as long as a Berthenet sits on the throne of Inys, The Nameless One can not return. When Queen Sabran fails to produce an heir, the Berthenet line is in danger of coming to an end. Meanwhile, Ead Duryan, Sabran's Lady of the Bedchamber isn't what she seems. She is loyal to the Priory, a society of mages who have given Ead the task of keeping Sabran safe. It is up to Ead and the dragon rider Tane to slay The Nameless One once and for all.

I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE TO START TALKING ABOUT THIS BOOK OMG. I adore big fantasy books and this one is BIIIIIG! Like most people, I was intimidated by how huge it was, but once I was through the first few chapters, I was so invested in the story that I barely noticed the size. The only bad thing I have to say about the size was that it made it difficult to read on the train, as it literally felt like I was carrying a brick around! It's definitely not a book you can just whip out on the daily commute.

As this is a stand-alone high fantasy, there is a lot of world-building and a lot of characters. It was practically impossible to remember who every character was, but the character glossary at the back of the book was an actual lifesaver. I was constantly referring back to it when I couldn't remember who a character was, and I would have been a confused mess without it! I also always love a good map, and with a book like this, it's pretty essential to have one. I loved tracking the character's journey on the map and was constantly checking it when a new place was mentioned. The description and imagery made it easy to imagine what each location looked like, and I felt that Inys even gave Middle Earth a run for its money!

You'd expect a book like this to be plot-driven, but the characters are just as important as the plot. None of the main characters have the same outlook on life as they did at the start, and most go through major character development. I particularly loved Niclays Roos' journey, as despite losing his home and the people he loved, he continued on and never gave up despite his situation becoming worse and worse. The book is full of brave, selfless characters who will willingly sacrifice themselves, but what I loved about Niclays was he wasn't one of them. To me he was the most realistic character, and he tried to preserve his own life even if it meant doing things he knew were wrong. Something I loved about Niclays was how strongly he loved, and despite being unwilling to risk his own life the majority of the time, he did so when his friend was in danger. Niclays was definitely one of my favourite characters in the book!

I adored the strong female characters in this book, and how Inys was a Queendom rather than a Kingdom. Even though the Berthenet Queens only ever produced female heirs, I loved how in other situations in the book, non of the men seemed to have any sort of advantage over the women. Even though we see things such as Loth's father wanting to tell a family secret to him rather than to his sister, it is only because Loth is the eldest child and not because of his gender. I loved how even though we saw women who were physically strong or powerful such as Tane and Ead, we also had Sabran who was brave and smart. The "damsel in distress" actually turning out to be the heroine was a brilliant twist! Too many fantasy novels are male-oriented, so having a fantasy novel where the majority of the characters were women was a breath of fresh air. There can never be too many fictional badass women!

I have to talk a little about my favourite character, Ead. She was such a complex character and I loved how she came to care for Sabran and her country over her role as a Red Damsel in the Priory, something she has longed for since she was a child. I'm trying not to give anything away but I have to say how much I loved the relationship between Ead and Sabran. Also, Ead secretly protecting Sabran with her magic reminded me of Merlin!

One of my favourite things about the book was the dragons! I loved how the Western fire dragons were the enemies, while the Eastern water dragons were allies. I particularly loved Nayimathun and her relationship with her rider Tane. They had such a strong and trusting bond, and I loved how Nayimathun was always forgiving of Tane's mistakes. Tane and Nayimathun both risked their lives for each other, and honestly, I was jealous that I don't have a dragon friend.

Apart from the dragons, the other big bad was Kalyba, an immortal shapeshifter. I thought she was a brilliant villain, and I loved all the plot twists involving her. There were so many clever things involving Kalyba that I wasn't expecting! I love when a twist happens that I hadn't already worked out before it's revealed. I'm usually good at guessing things in advance, but I always love when I've guessed something completely wrong!

One of the few things that I didn't like about the book was how short the battle with The Nameless One was. One of the main plots of the book is that an ancient fire breathing dragon known only as The Nameless One is set to return after being locked away for a thousand years, and the characters have to search far and wide for the sword and two jewels that will get rid of him for good. The majority of the book is a lead up to his return, but when he does finally return towards the end of the book, the battle lasts only a few pages. I was disappointed that despite reading 800 pages that were leading up to this moment, the actual event lasted about five minutes. For me it would have been more satisfying if The Nameless One had caused more chaos than he did, and if the characters had had to chase him down. Even though Kalyba was a great villain, I can't say the same about The Nameless One.

I overall loved this book and it reminded me why fantasy is my favourite genre. I could talk about this book all day, but with the risk of either spoiling the book or making this review as long as the book, I'm going to stop here. Even though this book is an absolute brick, it is definitely worth the read, and in my opinion, it lives up to it's hype!