The Priory of the Orange Tree
I really love this book. The fantasy world it explores is huge, intricate and enthralling, and the characters kept me completely engaged.
The story is told from the perspective of four characters from different parts of the world and with a variety of backgrounds, but their actions and the movement of the plot brings them together, their decisions impacting on each other in interesting ways. The characters felt very real and distinct so it was enjoyable to spend time with each of them.
The book does complex things with themes of self worth in the face of failure, and many of the characters I had the most sympathy with make choices that are morally grey – or downright despicable! The story questions whether redemption and forgiveness are possible in these extreme situations. Author Samantha Shannon (who also wrote The Bone Season series) does a great job showing the consequences one person’s selfish actions have on others, while also presenting the motivations that make the character understandable.
Characters are faced with an event that, in their world, is a momentous disaster, but dealing with it forces them to consider aspects of themselves that are completely integral to their worldview, faith, morality … There’s real weight to the decisions so I was always wondering what would happen next.
This book is fantastic in terms of diversity and has a wonderful LGBTQ+ romance. This world doesn’t have the same gender hang ups as ours, and it felt like a breath of fresh air to see women in traditionally male fantasy jobs (knights etc.), and vice versa, with it treated as no big deal in universe.
I felt really connected to the magical places this book explores and I enjoyed spending time there from start to finish (which is good considering the length!).
Rebecca Sutherland, WHSmith Australia