A year ago today I reviewed Priory of the Orange Tree! You can check out my original post here. I absolutely adored this book and ended up doing a standalone video review for it too!! Not something I do all that often! (you can watch that here)
So, do my thoughts hold up?
Well I have to admit, I’ve not re-read the book yet. At 800 pages it’s a bit big and I still have so many other big books on my tbr that I’ve not read yet! I think the glamour has worn off slightly, in that I’m separated from the story. So without my infatuation would I still rate this highly? Yes! I love the world that Samantha Shannon built. I still adore Ead and Sabran, and Tane is such an interesting character to read about along with all of the dragon lore.
This might be a tome but I still definitely recommend it to fantasy lovers!!
This was a shitshow of a year, let’s be honest. But I read some absolutely amazing books! In total I had 21 five star reads (out of a total of 78 books) which isn’t too shabby! I spent some time trying to pick my favourite of the year but I really just couldn’t. These four all stood out above the rest but I couldn’t pick between them all. So instead, you get all of them, along with why I loved them and a link to my full review of them if you wanna delve more into my thoughts. Also, these are in no particular order. Well they are, but it’s just date order from which one I read first in the year to last. But I honestly cannot pick between them. So let’s get into the list!
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
This book took me so long to get through, and given that it comes in at over 800 pages I don’t think anyone blames me. But oh. My. God. Did I LOVE this book!!! I have a blog review of it here, but I also ended up making a standalone video for this book (which you can watch here). That’s how much I loved it!
We follow multiple pov from different countries across this world as they discover more about dragons and about the other nations in their world. My favourite pov has to be Ead who is located in a royal court as a spy for a religious group as also as a protectorate of the Queen, but I loved reading from everyone’s perspective.
With dragons, Sapphic love, fighting and feminism (and Shannon’s gorgeous writing), well what more could you be looking for?!
The Deep by Rivers Solomon
This book is one I kept seeing recommended through the end of 2019/beginning of 2020 and it sounded so utterly fascinating that eventually I just had to pick it up .
We follow Yetu, who holds all of the long term memories for her race of mermaids who live in Atlantic Ocean, descendants of enslaved Africans who had been tossed overboard on their passage to the United States. These traumatic memories would be too much for the populace to bare, so instead they allocate a historian to remember. This is Yetu. But these memories are traumatic for her too, and in trying to escape the pain they cause her, she flees to the surface.
This is an incredible book that I flew through and never wanted to put down. Check out my full review here.
Before the Coffee Gets Cold: Tales from the Cafe by Toshikazu Kawaguchi and translated by Geoffrey Trousselot
The second book in the renowned series, we all knew I would be picking this one up in 2020 after having loved the first book in 2019 (my review of book 1). And unsurprisingly I adored this book.
The main setting of this book is a coffee shop where there’s rumours you can travel back in time. But you have to drink the coffee before it gets cold, or you’ll never come back. Following on from the first book, we follow some new characters, but also some familiar faces from the coffee shop as we learn more about the café and it’s history. (full review)
Trousselot does a beautiful job as this book is absolutely gorgeous in its prose and I’m so excited for them to translate book 3!
Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
The wonderful Kari from Kari-ng for Books sent me this as a gift and I am so so grateful, she’s gifted me the entire series and I’m so excited to get to the rest of the trilogy!
Following Mia as she enters the Red Church, an unusual school for an unusual student. Already skilled in various disciplines from her time with a tutor, she is now up against the best. Only some of them will survive, and she’s determined one of them will be her. She must avenge her family.
This is an incredibly dark book filled with so much intrigue and magic that you’re gripped the whole way through. Every page is saturated with knowledge and I adored the footnotes from our narrator! Full review here.
And these were my four favourites of 2020, I really couldn’t pick between them in the slightest but I adored them all. One thing I did notice was that they are all fantasy books, I’m really delving back into my fantasy roots at the moment after having a few years of reading more widely round the genres and to be honest? I’m loving it! I’m hoping there are some absolutely amazing 5* fantasy reads waiting for me in 2021!
Samantha Shannon’s latest book, The Priory of the Orange Tree, comes in at a whopping 804 pages and that’s not including the section at the end which gives you a timeline, a glossary and an explanation of characters. This is a BIG book. And it’s amazing. I gave it 5 stars and it is 100% a new favourite of mine!
Sadly this took me far longer than I wanted to get through it, for a variety of reasons that boiled down to being nervous about its size. If you’re the same I can tell you right now that if you sit and read 100 pages of this book each day, not only will you finish it in just over a week but you’ll be completely and utterly absorbed into the story.
Let’s start not with the story itself but with what Samantha Shannon included within her book. First things first, this is a f/f novel, this romance is written with such care and emotion that I was routing for it from the moment its possibility was conceived. In the interests of staying spoiler free I won’t mention who the ladies are, but I immediately routed for them as individuals and this really translated beautifully into routing for their romantic relationship. It flows naturally and you can tell that the two of them were always supposed to be together.
Keeping with the diverse theme, there is also a genuinely healthy mix of races in this book. Of course this is a fantasy world, but this is something that is sadly not as prevelant as it should be amongst fantasy. So many authors, often unconciously due to their own internal biases will include 90% (or more) white characters within their fantasy books. Not here! With the POV switching to people from various places around this world, as well as having multiple races living in one realm, we read from the POV of white, Black and Asian people with what I took to be complete equality (but I recommend taking this with a grain of salt as I am white myself and therefore live with inherent biases that I am still working to overcome).
Lastly in the amazing diversity that has been written in this book is the feminism. Now many books will have strong female characters, that thankfully is nothing new. But not only do we have strong women from every race (which is sadly still something of note) but these women have power. They are respected. In this fantasy realm, they are treated as equals. I thought I had read books like that before. No. I had multiple jolts as I read through this book where a leader of a Guard (or another similar position) turns out to be female and I had assumed they were male. One of the elder characters mentions his old tutor at one point. I didn’t realise I was automatically assuming they were male until he said “she”. This is all through the book and has really made me think about how women are portrayed in fiction. Even when they’re the “strong female character” they are often the exception, in many books men are still the teachers, the leaders, the ones with power. This book has really opened my eyes to what I was accepting from other books as equality, and how it really really wasn’t.
Now. Onto the actual book! This is a beautiful slow burner of a fantasy that follows various regions of this world as an ancient enemy awakens and threatens them all. 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. Samantha Shannon has described this as a feminist retelling of Saint George and the Dragon, and although I hadn’t seen that until after I had read the book, it does mean that I can say I 100% agree!
All of these regions and realms have beautiful world building around them, really fleshing them out and I was left feeling like I had an intimate knowledge of them all, whilst wanting to know more! When these different groups interacted with each other I really got to feel like I understood the political tension and the reason for each groups actions. Whilst I had my favourite narrators and locations I found myself never really agreeing with one side over another, their reasoning and way of life was explained so beautifully that I had complete empathy with all the variations.
By the time I was reaching the end of this book, I was wishing there were more pages! And I really did not expect that from an 800+ page tome that I had originally struggled to get through! I’ve found myself really sad that this is a standalone work and I do hope for at least some titbits from Samantha Shannon in the future about this beautiful world she has created. This is a new favourite book, one I recommend to anyone who enjoys fantasy. It will be sticking with me in my thoughts for a long time yet.
I’m a bit tentative in publishing this, as I don’t want to set a solid TBR in my second month back and one in which I’m starting a new full-time job. But there are a few books that I’d love to get to this month, so let’s get on with it! There is a readathon I’m wanting to take part in this month (comment and guess which one!) so those won’t be shown in this tbr as they’ll get one of their own later on. So that also reduces this tbr. I only actually have 2 books left.
First up is The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon. This is a big boi fantasy read which honestly is kind of intimidating, but I am definitely going to at least make more of a dent in this book in November! I’m not exactly very far through it right now, but from what I can tell we follow various people around this world who all have varying views on dragons, religion and rulers. I already have my favourite person to read from, and I fly through their sections! But I’m also interested in everyone within the story so overall I’m looking forward to reading some more throughout November.
And secondly, another book which I’ve already started but am nowhere near close to finishing is The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys. A historical fiction set in post-civil war Spain, this is not a time in history which I’m familiar with so I’m finding it really interesting to delve into that aspect of the book and to learn more about this time. There are already, despite me being barely into it, plot lines which are full of secrets and have me intrigued as to how they came to be and what impact they’re going to have on the story overall. This is another really big book, although it’s a smidge smaller than Priory.
Despite the fact that I’m loving them both, I’m not getting through them… as you’ll know if you saw my last post. I think it is, very stupidly, being worried about the pressure. I tend to baulk and not do things when there’s a lot of pressure on me to complete the task until the very last minute of the deadline. And of course there is no real deadline on reading these books. Not my best quality but one I’m working on and either way I’m still looking forward to reading these two books eventually!
This can’t just be me with this problem? I’ve got two loooong books that I’m just barely into but really enjoying. HOWEVER, I’m going through them so slowly!!! I’m reluctant to pick them up even though when I do I really enjoy the little that I read.
Is it because I’m in a reading slump or is it cause I’m enjoying the books too much and I don’t want to speed through them? I really don’t know.
The two books are The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon and The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys. Both are absolutely amazing, Priory is a fantasy book with dragons and assassins and magic and I love it so much!!! FoS is set after the Spanish civil war in the 1930s and I’m not far enough into it to know much more! Both have multiple viewpoints from various interacting characters and I’m just adoring them both so much. Yet.
I’m still not picking them up. Ugh what is wrong with me? Who knows. This has just been kind of a rant post because I mostly post book reviews and I haven’t been able to get through these books so I’ve got nothing to review!!! #firstworldproblems