A tale of intertwining fates in a world where magic and mystique run rampant, The Priory of the Orange Tree is a testament to the beauty of diversity. A dragon rider from the East, a queen from the West, and a mage from the South all take center stage in a battle for survival against an ancient, malevolent force of wyverns, all the while unraveling the web of misunderstandings and cultural norms around them.
I read a thing! An 800-and-some-odd-paged thing!
The Priory of the Orange Tree is hardcore fantasy, my friends. Intense world-building, religiosity, rich cultures- readers are in for a doozy.
Nevertheless, this book is so worth reading. It’s compelling, it’s vivid, and I am a sucker for dragons. Dragon choosing ceremonies, dragon/human bonding, dragons being dragons. How To Train Your Dragon definitely did this to me, I’m sure of it.
Now that I’ve made the word ‘dragon’ meaningless in your heads, let’s get into my thoughts.
The Priory of the Orange Tree: Review
Because The Priory of the Orange Tree was so massive, I’m going to be divvying up my review by the plot-lines of each main character, and then finish it off with a general review on the resolution.
First up, we have the character we meet upon reading the first page: Tané.
SHE HAS A DRAGON. The dragon can SPEAK.
Tané’s storyline follows her through her promotion to become a dragon rider, her rise in the field, and her subsequent fall as she faces the consequences to a dangerous choice she made in the first chapter. Basically, there’s this really nasty plague going around that resulted from the first time this gang of nasty wvyerns took over everything, so contact from the outside world is limited. Each region is totally ignorant of what’s going on outside of their own, and both resent the other on the basis of religious differences. It’s a time.
Anyway, an outsider shows up on shore- and Tané was not supposed to be where she was, so her options were pretty limited in how she could deal with this random guy in way that wouldn’t irrevocably jack up her life.
Spoiler alert: it jacks up her life.
I didn’t have too many complaints about her. She’s ambitious, to be sure, and dangerously hard on herself, but she’s not someone easily endeared to. She loves her dragon, man. I can’t blame her.
She’s a really important character, but much more solemn. She spends more time angry than anything, which is fair enough, and she’s a BADDIE. She’s who I wanted to be at ten when I pretended I was Black Widow on the school playground.
But her more rigid personality is more than made up for by her DRAGON. There’s a cooler version of that Rainbow Hufflepuff quest on Club Penguin- you know, the whole, “your puffle chooses you,” kind of shtick, and it’s AWESOME.
Ead is a mage. As she should be.
I LOVE her. Fantastic content. 10/10. My girl was just trying to protect the queen from being killed every two seconds, all the while pretending like they weren’t VERY OBVIOUSLY IN LOVE.
OH, YES, FOLKS. We get pining, we get an arranged marriage that comes between them, we get that whole ‘honor and duty’ high horse that royal characters always get on because rich people SUCK. MORE THAN THAT, we get the very lovely, “I promised I would always be by your side so I’m going to cross heaven and earth to get back to you,” storyline that I VERY much enjoyed.
Happy pickings. There’s a lot going on here.
In The Priory of the Orange Tree, the people believe that while the Berethnet line (the royal line in the West) stood, the Nameless One- who is objectively the worst- wouldn’t rise from the mysterious slumber all of the bad critters had fallen under 1,000 years before the start of the story. So, Ead was supplanted by the Priory (the mages) to protect Sabran (the queen) without letting anyone know that she was a hErEtiCaL WiTcH.
Ead is my favorite. She’s loyal, a literal secret wrym-slayer/magic-user, and a general treasure. Everyone likes Ead. Except the people who don’t and want to kill her. Eek. Vibe killer.
She’s the best. Enough said.
Sabran’s best friend, Ead’s best friend, and the emotional support hetero of the CENTURY, Loth is a noble who was secretly sent away by Sabran’s court because they thought that he would deter marriage prospects from foreign nations.
So, now he’s stuck in Yscalin, which has pledged itself to the Nameless One, with his golden retriever friend who just wants to write poetry to the girl he likes.
Loth and Kit were comedic legends. Two bros vibing in a plague-infested, fatally dangerous nation where they really get the short end of the stick. Dear God, time and time again, these boys just had the worst time. Loth deserves some form of compensation. Or therapy program.
I think Loth is the one that sees the most of the world on his travels- travels, I say, like he wasn’t forcibly transported everywhere on the brink of death. Give my boy a BREAK. He is FRAGILE.
Then again, I think the characters took shifts as to who would be actively dying, so none of them are off the hook.
This poor old man was passed like a hot potato around the cast of characters and then cast off. Sabran exiled him, Tané forced a foreigner on him, and everyone else just doesn’t really like him lmao.
An alchemist, Niclays spends the story trying to unlock the secret to immortality. As one might imagine, this goes awry.
While being imprisoned for basically all of the book, he mostly gets on everyone’s nerves by throwing anyone he can under the bus. I thought he was hilarious.
But we get a lot of character growth from him, and for that, I’d say he’s alright.
The Priory of the Orange Tree: Resolution and Final Thoughts
Alright, here’s the deal.
This book is beautiful. Please read it. I loved it. However.
The final battle was a bit underwhelming. I think I preferred the sequence where Sabran and Aubrecht were jumped on their visit to town.
Everything comes to fruition, which is awesome, but it’s surprisingly straight-forward.
It’s just hard, because most of the hard-hitting revelations came earlier in the story. Because of this, the battle starts quickly and is reconciled with relative ease. You know what’s going to happen by the time you get to the end, which is totally fine, but just don’t expect one final twist.
It wasn’t a disappointment, per se, but I found the build-up to the climax of the novel more compelling.
The point of contention with a lot of the conflict in the novel comes in the form of their mythology. The West believes that the “Saint” defeated the Nameless One and wed the Damsel, while the South believes that the Damsel- not so much a damsel- turned down the Saint’s hand in marriage and took down the Nameless one when the Saint pissed his pants. The East believes in the divinity of the Eastern dragons, while the West and South think all wyrms are villainous.
Throughout the story, the characters come to grip with the fact that none of them had the real truth, and the story is very carefully told to bring the real narrative into fruition. It’s amazing. We love the intrigue.
Despite the climax’s misgivings, the aftermath of the battle is wonderfully written. I LOVE these characters. And their exhausted, cognitive, lovingly annoyed animal companions.
Read it read it read it.