The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

I held off reading this for ages because it’s a weighty book and I wasn’t too fond of Shannon’s The Bone Season but OOH BOY I WAS MISSING OUT!

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.

Blurb from goodreads


There. My opening statement. Now to dig in I guess. Look it is about dragons, religion, super badass women, sexuality, DID I MENTION THE DRAGONS, puzzle solving, magic, LESBIANS. It was, in short, a recipe for either disaster or absolute utter amazingness. Given my statement above, I guess you can imagine what camp I fell into.

The writing was incredible, but the world building was immense! There are several different societies and countries and religions all meshing against each other and clashing in a very Elizabethan England kind of way. But what got me was how simple and how utterly subtle the conversion from a patriarchy to a world where women are just treated like people. Ead is not a surprisingly strong woman, she is just strong. Tane isn’t ambitious and determined for a woman, she is just ambitious and determined and fallable. Sabran is buckling under the weight of queenly expectations but no one questions her right to rule. There are women in the Knights of the Body, just offhandedly. Some of the best fighters in the Priory just happen to be pregnant as well. There are Queendoms and High Empresses and the botswain of the pirates is a woman. But the men aren’t lacking, they are just all equal. It’s a world of magic and freaking dragons and they’ve basically got gender equality sussed.

And sexuality is handled really well – it’s not an issue of your companion is a man or a woman, it just matters that you don’t sleep outside of your marriage and or station (even then they’re a bit lax). One of the main men of the book is in a romantic relationship with a married man. Another couple can’t marry because of difference in station.


The magic system makes sense, even if there are an absolute tonne of new words being introduced at the beginning. The magic has a source, and the Priory protects that source. Magic gets treated by Ead as something natural, even if the words of other characters assume otherwise. It was complicated but not too complicated, if that makes sense. Oh, and one side of the world reveres dragons as gods, the other side as abominations.

Incredible world, badass female characters in a world that doesn’t beat them down for being human, lesbian couples, dragons, magic. It may have been some 800 pages long, but I read it on the kindle so I didn’t end up with ripped arms from binge reading. I absolutely, completely and utterly loved this book. 10/10 would recommend.