The blood of a single family is all that protects Inys from the Nameless One. As long as a queen descended from the house of Berethnet is on the Inysh throne, the people of Virtudom are protected from the return of the fierce dragon, banished a thousand years before. However, the longer Queen Sabran the Ninth rules unwed, and without an heir, the more urgent is the need for a daughter in order to continue to ensure her people’s safety.
Despite the presence of the Knights of the Body, cutthroats are inching ever closer to the queen. Ead Duryan, a lady of the court despite her foreign nationality, has been sent to protect Sabran from forces and fates older than the land she rules. As Ead watches over Sabran and protects her from the shadows, she hopes that no one will discover the true reason for her presence at court, nor the magic which keeps her there.
Fantasy can be such a minefield to navigate – entire worlds and political orders built from nothing but the delicate pen strokes of an author. New languages, cultures and systems can come at the high costs of confusion, tedious prose and a need for constant paging back to check names or events. Not so in The Priory of the Orange Tree. Even as a fantasy novice, I was enthralled from the first page, and immensely impressed with the world Shannon has created. Think Game of Thrones, but with powerful females leads and written by someone not hell-bent on killing all of the best characters. Or think Lord of the Rings, but at a faster pace and with a far more fluid narrative. Basically, this book is like your favourite fantasy, but better, and with a touch of feminism.
In addition, Shannon has employed various well-crafted skills to keep the reader riveted; romances, power struggles, myths and magic all vie for the reader’s attention in a buffet of tasty morsels. As impressive as the sheer size of the stories between the covers of this book is the fact that each is carefully weighted to add to the main storyline; no subplot is tiresome or too distracting. To read this book is to be transported into another world, the kind that the best and most elaborate dreams are made from, and it is glorious.
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon is published by Bloomsbury and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.