The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon – An Audiobook Review

priory of the orange tree


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 to be a dragonrider since she was a child 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.


Author: Samantha Shannon

Narrator: Liyah Summers

Publisher: Audible Studios

Run Time: 25 hrs 52 mins

Audio Release Date: 26/02/2019

My Rating for ‘The Priory of the Orange Tree’: 1 out of 5

Purchase:Audible UKAudible USAmazon UKAmazon US



This is probably going to be an unpopular review due to the fact that, for reasons I honestly can’t fathom, this book gets listed on everyone’s favourite fantasy reads of 2019 list. But, if I’m brutally honest, I hated it. 

So yea, if you really, really, love this book and can’t bare to hear someone say bad things about it … then here would be a good place to stop reading.

I honestly have so little to say that is positive about it. The character development, if there was any character development at all, was so bad that I genuinely got excited whenever one of them looked like they might die. My key issues with the characters are as follows:

We have a queen that is so politically inept that I could walk up to her, tell her I intend to betray and overthrow her kingdom and would very much appreciate it if she just let me get on with it, and she would still look shocked when it happened. Her lady in waiting is far too perfect; there seems very little she doesn’t know or can’t do. There’s an alchemist who is so thoroughly unlikable that the fact he is being pushed as a main character we are supposed to feel sorry for is borderline insulting and then we have one of the most selfish women in the world who would gladly break the laws of her land if it meant personal gain. 

there’s also the fact that dragons are revered as gods but seem painfully incapable of doing very much of anything to stand up to a determined human. That just lessened the impact of things pretty early on.

And we are supposed to care for these people rather than just feel frustrated and completely uncaring for their struggles. I just couldn’t. I didn’t have that level of feeling as a reader to overlook so many thoroughly unlikable or uninteresting characters.

Niclays had a story that started out so very interesting, and I honestly thought his story line would be the one saving grace in the whole book and, to an extent, it was. His was, by any stretch of the imagination, the most enjoyable aspect. It was just him as a person that was so difficult to like or care about when things went bad. He is pretty much miserable at the world because his conniving ways were caught and he was punished for it. 

The end did somewhat save certain characters for me as far as unlikablility went, but it was only my ‘must not DNF a title’ mentality that kept me through to the end. I certainly didn’t feel the ending was in any way epic enough to warrant such tedium that led up to it. 

I felt the plot was a bit all over the place and nothing overly dynamic seemed to happen, or if it did it certainly didn’t stay dynamic for very long. It became very apparent that I was only reading this so I could actually finish it as very little, if anything struck me as engaging or as a thing that made me want to get home so I could continue on with it.

I know everyone raves about the F/F romance in it and, to be honest, it didn’t feel that special. It just kind of happened without any wonderful build up that I expected. It felt genuine as it went on but it just felt forced early on.

The narration was also very lacking in my opinion. The vocals on display simply didn’t have the depth to engulf a wide cast of characters. This either led to some being a bit samey or some being incredibly overly-theatrical. One character (a main one) just had a very whiney, whinging, sound to him. Another, an incredibly powerful person just had a high-pitched, pantomime villain sort of voice that made it impossible to take her seriously. And the dragons … I could rant for ages about the dragons. They just fell into the ‘voices you’d put on to try and entertain a child before bedtime’ so theatrical and over the top were they.

All in all … yea, I really didn’t enjoy this one. Which was a shame as I expected so much given the hype surrounding it.

27 thoughts on “The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon – An Audiobook Review

  1. I enjoyed this but I think you were more personally invested in the story that I was. I think I took it a bit less seriously than you. We all have different preferences and I don’t rave about it as much as other people do but I love Asian dragons so that was what captured me most.

    I think the only thing for me is why did you continue and finish this? I think it’s just so strange to me that you didn’t seem to enjoy it much from the outset so I struggle to see why after 12 hours you were still going?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Because I don’t like to DNF anything I start. Plus, in all fairness, the parts I liked were nearer the end. The revelation about who the pirate empress was etc … so if I had dropped it I’d have gone away thinking it had no redeeming qualities.

      I’ll admit that my new years resolution of not quitting on any book has proved to be quite a challenging one.

      I picked it up for the dragons more than anything. And just wished they had more impact on the story as a whole.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I just struggle with the idea of not DNFing something. The only time I get why people do it is because they have to write a review or they know they want to write the negative side in order to balance an argument.

        I think if you’re reading personally then think about all the time you’re spending reading things you don’t enjoy and add them all up. Quantify it and realise how much of your time you’re spending on books you don’t enjoy.

        I would say I understand your new year’s resolution of not quitting books but to me it’s just utterly bonkers 🙈

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Trust me, it is entirely bonkers. It’s very rare I’ve had the need to carry on like that. It was more of a last years thing that I kind of stuck with.

        My thing is that I’ll write a review on everything, so getting a complete picture is at least useful.

        Maybe epic fantasy isn’t the best to stick to my guns on the DNF thing 😂


      3. But would you honestly prefer that they stick with it and finish it and hate it. Give it one star and not understand why other people are enjoying it? Or to realise that maybe it’s just not for me and move on and try another book by them

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I like being told what people don’t enjoy about my writing. As, for me, seeing my flaws and being able to see if I can address them, is the only way I can truly improve. Every author and reader are different in that respect, though.


  2. Yikes! You made it through – 25 hrs of an audiobook certainly is an investment. I think I stayed away from the book because it’s a tome and then started seeing a free folks who’s opinion is solid not really liking the book… But, man, you did it! Read it in full… Awesome review!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review! I agree with so much of what you’ve said. I think I ended up giving this a 2.5 or 3 star rating but I didn’t write a review because I was so stumped? For a book that is intimidatingly huge, I really thought there’d be more to it! The “epic battle” at the end was so anticlimactic that I was actually shocked. I mean, the whole book led up to that battle and when it happened all I could think was: “that’s it?!”. 😅 Pretty sure that it takes me longer to cook a meal than it took for them to defeat the evil and win the war. 😒It was also really hard to connect to the characters… Overall I think it was just unfortunately a lot of underwhelming moments.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you 🙂

      So glad it wasn’t just me. I honestly expected groundbreaking stuff when it was getting everyone’s seal of approval for book of 2019.

      Yea, that final battle just went out with a whimper rather than the bang I expected.


  4. LOL. Oh I’m sorry I couldn’t spare you this one my friend. I also thought it was a colossal waste of time and trees, but I’m often on the unpopular side of things so I don’t much trust my own judgement anymore. And it totally agree about Niclays. He was the best one.

    Liked by 1 person

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