Review of ‘The Priory of the Orange Tree’ by Samantha Shannon, audiobook narrated by Liyah Summers
At almost 26 hours’ length, this feminist fantasy audiobook is a tour de force and a good challenge for any listener. I had it on my list for a long time but its duration was a deterrent. I’m glad I decided to finally listen to it because the story is so much worth it.
In a divided world, a queen whose realm is in peril, a lady-in-waiting with secret magic powers, and a dragon rider with a tough moral choice will have to reluctantly become allies against the forces of chaos that threaten to rule the world.
I’m keeping the plot as cryptic as possible because there is so much to this novel that it would be hard to describe it without giving anything away, so many twists and turns, intertwined stories and different realms that justifies the extension of this book. ‘The Priory of the Orange Tree’ could have been easily divided into three different instalments of a series and each book would have been long enough to be considered a novel. But don’t let the length deter you as there is so much happening that it will keep you turning pages (or listening) until the end.
This book reminded me of ‘Lord of the Rings’ with the amount of world building, multiple characters, and complex plot. But here the world revolves around women, who are empowered to rule, to change it and to fight for their people. In exactly the opposite way to too many fantasy novels in the history of literature, here men are supporting characters to badass women. So if you are looking for a feminist version of Tolkien’s book, this one is for you.
The novel is told from the point of view of four different characters and starts as disconnected stories that eventually intertwine in a tight knit plot. Such is the beauty of this story that it has enough to make everyone happy: fast-paced action, intrigue, and even a bit of romance. This is a tale of bravery, redemption, struggle, compassion and love, a summary of humanity at its best and worst.
A book like this deserved the best narration it could get. British actress Liyah Summers was chosen for this job, and it’s her one and only audiobook (unless she uses a pseudonym for other works). Even though Ms. Summers did a good job, I thought that this story deserved a better storyteller such as Abby Craden or Angela Dawe who have proved that they can tackle a novel of this magnitude in terms of its complexity and the amount of different voices, accents and emotions. Additionally, there are a few minor technical issues that are noticeable when the narrator recorded parts at a later time, possibly due to recording errors. Because of all these reasons, I’m downgrading a written text of 5 stars to an audio version of 4.
Length: 25 hrs and 52 mins