Welcome, readers! If you’ve recently turned the last page of Samantha Shannon’s epic standalone fantasy, “The Priory of the Orange Tree”, you might find yourself in a bit of a book hangover. It’s no surprise. Shannon’s world, filled with rich lore, intricate politics, dragons, and a vast array of memorable characters, leaves a lasting impression.
The good news is, there are many other books that could satiate your thirst for immersive, well-crafted fantasy. In this post, we will explore a curated selection of books that share some aspects with “The Priory of the Orange Tree”. These include complex world-building, strong female characters, and a blending of myth and magic.
Let’s dive in and find your next great read!
“The Fifth Season” by N.K. Jemisin
“The Fifth Season” is the first book in the “Broken Earth” series by N.K. Jemisin. It’s a tale set on a planet with a single supercontinent called the Stillness, which experiences frequent, disastrous environmental cataclysms – the “fifth seasons”. The story follows three women of different ages and in different times, all of whom have the ability to control seismic activity, and all of whom are struggling to survive in a world that fears and oppresses them.
Discussion of Similar Themes and World-Building
Like “The Priory of the Orange Tree”, “The Fifth Season” is characterized by intricate world-building. The societies in both novels have complex histories and societal structures, deeply affected by the natural and magical forces in their worlds. In terms of themes, both books discuss oppression, identity, and the struggle for survival in a harsh world.
Unique Aspects That Might Appeal to “Priory” Fans
For fans of “Priory”, “The Fifth Season” also offers strong female protagonists and intricate narratives. It delves deep into its characters, their personal journeys and growth forming the heart of the story. Additionally, the novel has a distinct and creative magic system that, like the dragon lore in “Priory”, adds an extra layer of depth to the world. The narrative style, which incorporates second-person storytelling, also adds a unique touch that sets this book apart.
“A Darker Shade of Magic” by V.E. Schwab
“A Darker Shade of Magic” introduces us to the captivating universe of four parallel Londons—Red, Grey, White, and the lost Black London—each with a different degree of magic, and a different ruling regime. We follow the journey of Kell, a magician with the rare ability to travel between these parallel worlds, and Delilah Bard, a daring pickpocket from Grey London who yearns for a life of adventure.
Comparison of Strong Characterizations and Plot Dynamics
Like Samantha Shannon, V.E. Schwab crafts characters that are complex and unforgettable. Kell and Delilah are as richly drawn as any character from “The Priory of the Orange Tree”. There’s a certain magnetism to their personalities that draws readers in. Additionally, the dynamics between the characters and the thrilling plot twists bear resemblance to the excitement and depth that Shannon brought to “Priory”.
Elements That Make It a Good Follow-Up Read
“A Darker Shade of Magic” is an excellent follow-up read for several reasons. Its vivid and original world-building would resonate with fans of the detailed settings in “Priory”. Schwab’s exploration of power, identity, and sacrifice, and her nuanced portrayal of morally grey characters, echo some of the key themes that made “Priory” such a captivating read. Furthermore, the central magic system is intriguing and well-developed, offering readers another richly imagined fantasy world to lose themselves in.
“The Poppy War” by R.F. Kuang
“The Poppy War” is the first in a trilogy by R.F. Kuang. The novel follows Rin, a war orphan who aces the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies and ends up studying at Sinegard, the most elite military school in Nikan. However, once she’s there, she learns of her inherent power that could bring about a massive, cataclysmic war.
Similarities in Plot Complexity and Depth of Lore
Like “The Priory of the Orange Tree”, “The Poppy War” is a tale with a diverse cast and an intricately woven plot. Both books engage with complex socio-political themes and build on a rich lore that drives the central narrative. The detailed historical and cultural context is another shared feature, adding a level of depth and realism to the fantasy settings.
Exploration of the Book’s Unique Features
“The Poppy War” sets itself apart with its inspired use of history and mythology. Drawing from the Second Sino-Japanese War and the rich tapestry of Chinese history and mythology, the book presents a unique narrative that is both fantastical and grounded in reality. Also, the book’s exploration of the cost of power and the horrors of war is profound and thought-provoking, offering readers a more gritty and dark fantasy that stands in contrast to the more traditional fantasy narratives.
“Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” by Susanna Clarke
“Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” is an alternative history set in 19th-century England around the time of the Napoleonic Wars. It’s centered on two men—Mr. Norrell and Jonathan Strange—who aim to restore English magic. However, their views on magic and its role in society couldn’t be more different, leading to a fascinating rivalry and an enthralling tale of magic and manners.
Examination of Shared Elements of Magic and Intrigue
Just as in “The Priory of the Orange Tree”, magic is a fundamental aspect of “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell”. The magic in Clarke’s novel is intricate and central to the plot, adding layers of mystery and intrigue. The complexities of political maneuvering in both books also bear a resemblance, along with the high-stakes battle against a looming threat.
Highlights of the Book’s Unique Style and Narrative
What sets “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” apart is its blend of historical fiction and fantasy, along with a narrative style that is reminiscent of 19th-century literature. Clarke’s use of footnotes to elaborate on the history of her world adds a unique touch, giving the story an academic feel that will surely appeal to fans of detailed world-building. The book’s exploration of the complexities of magic, the nature of power, and the boundaries of societal norms also makes for a compelling and thought-provoking read.
“Spinning Silver” by Naomi Novik
“Spinning Silver” is a standalone fantasy novel by Naomi Novik, which offers a fresh and captivating take on the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale. The story follows Miryem, a moneylender’s daughter, who takes over her father’s failing business and becomes so successful that she draws the attention of the icy Staryk king. The narrative weaves in the perspectives of several other characters, creating a richly textured tale.
Discussion of Common Themes and Folklore Elements
“Spinning Silver”, like “The Priory of the Orange Tree”, features strong and complex female characters, each with their unique voices and arcs. Both books share a rich folklore influence—Novik’s novel dives into Jewish folklore and Eastern European fairy tales, while Shannon’s story is deeply rooted in Asian and Western dragon mythology.
Unique Aspects That Set It Apart
What makes “Spinning Silver” a fascinating read is its innovative reimagining of a familiar fairy tale. Novik masterfully intertwines the personal journeys of her characters with broader themes of power, justice, and identity. Furthermore, her depiction of a wintry world where the lines between reality and fantasy blur, adds a layer of atmospheric charm that makes it an excellent choice for readers seeking an immersive and thought-provoking fantasy.
“The Bear and the Nightingale” by Katherine Arden
“The Bear and the Nightingale” is the first book in the “Winternight Trilogy” by Katherine Arden. Set in a medieval Russian village, the story centers on Vasya, a young girl with the rare ability to see and communicate with the mythic spirits that protect her home. As her community’s traditional beliefs are challenged, Vasya must protect these spirits from being forgotten, a task that puts her at odds with her village and her own family.
Comparison of the Blending of History and Fantasy
Both “The Bear and the Nightingale” and “The Priory of the Orange Tree” beautifully merge history and folklore with fantasy. Arden’s novel, like Shannon’s, incorporates mythology in a way that enriches the world-building and adds depth to the narrative. They both also highlight a period of transition, where old beliefs and traditions clash with new ones.
Explanation of Why It Resonates with “Priory” Fans
Arden’s writing is atmospheric and immersive, traits that fans of “Priory” will appreciate. The central character, Vasya, like Ead in “Priory”, is strong-willed, independent, and determined to carve her own path, which will likely resonate with readers. Additionally, “The Bear and the Nightingale” presents a complex and intricately woven plot that touches on themes of family, faith, and the role of women in society, much like “Priory”.
“City of Brass” by S.A. Chakraborty
“City of Brass” is the first book in the “Daevabad Trilogy” by S.A. Chakraborty. The story begins in 18th-century Cairo and follows Nahri, a con artist with a mysterious healing power. After accidentally summoning a djinn warrior during a scam, she is thrust into the magical city of Daevabad, where old tensions and political conflicts threaten to erupt.
Discussion on the Complex World-Building and Similar Fantasy Elements
Like “The Priory of the Orange Tree”, “City of Brass” features a deeply imagined world teeming with magic. Both stories are grounded in intricate histories, societal hierarchies, and cultural norms that add layers of complexity to the narrative. Chakraborty, like Shannon, employs a blend of real-world and fantastical elements to create an engaging and richly detailed setting.
Unique Features That Make It a Compelling Read
“City of Brass” stands out for its unique setting and mythology. Based on Middle Eastern folklore, it introduces readers to a world of djinns, magic, and political intrigue. The protagonist, Nahri, is a complex and relatable character whose journey intertwines with the turbulent history of Daevabad. Additionally, the novel tackles issues of power, privilege, and identity in a nuanced manner, making it a thought-provoking read for fans of “The Priory of the Orange Tree”.
Ten More Recommendations
“The Queen of the Tearling” by Erika Johansen
This novel introduces us to Kelsea Raleigh, a young woman who must reclaim her deceased mother’s throne and learns to be a monarch. It’s a story of growth and responsibility, making it a great pick for those who enjoyed the character development and political intrigue in “The Priory of the Orange Tree”.
“The Goblin Emperor” by Katherine Addison
In this book, a young half-goblin unexpectedly becomes the emperor after the sudden death of his father and brothers. With complex court politics and a kind-hearted protagonist, fans of “Priory” will appreciate this novel’s depth and thoughtfulness.
“The Starless Sea” by Erin Morgenstern
This book is a tribute to the power of storytelling, filled with beautiful prose and intricate narratives. For those who enjoyed the mythic elements and lush descriptions in “Priory”, “The Starless Sea” offers a similarly immersive reading experience.
“Assassin’s Apprentice” by Robin Hobb
This is the first novel in a series that offers a deep character study with an evolving plot over multiple books. Fans of the expansive world-building and intricate character dynamics in “Priory” will enjoy Hobb’s series.
“The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms” by N.K. Jemisin
As the first book in a trilogy, this novel presents a unique take on gods and mortals with political machinations and a strong female lead. Its exploration of power dynamics and divinity makes it a good follow-up read for “Priory” fans.
“Elantris” by Brandon Sanderson
This standalone fantasy novel features a fallen city, a prince turned into a wraith, and a strong female character trying to navigate political schemes. Sanderson’s detailed magic system and the blend of politics and fantasy are sure to captivate “Priory” readers.
“The Golem and the Jinni” by Helene Wecker
This novel intertwines the stories of two mythical beings in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. Its blend of history, folklore, and character-driven narrative might appeal to those who enjoyed the nuanced storytelling and mythic elements in “Priory”.
“The Lies of Locke Lamora” by Scott Lynch
This novel offers an intricate plot and a vividly realized world, following a group of con artists in a city full of secret societies and dark magic. The rich world-building and the balance of humor and darker themes make it a good fit for “Priory” fans.
“The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss
This is the first book in the “Kingkiller Chronicle” series, following the story of Kvothe, an adventurer and musician. With its deep lore, lyrical prose, and complex characters, it’s a must-read for fans of epic fantasy like “Priory”.
“A Song of Wraiths and Ruin” by Roseanne A. Brown
Inspired by West African folklore, this novel tells the story of a grieving crown princess and a desperate refugee, whose paths cross in a bid for survival. The cultural richness, strong characters, and thematic depth make it an engaging read for “Priory” fans.
Whether you fell in love with the rich lore, intricate plot, or strong characters in “The Priory of the Orange Tree”, there are many other books out there that can offer similar elements and captivate your interest. Each recommendation on this list, from “The Poppy War” to “A Song of Wraiths and Ruin”, presents a unique world with its own set of unforgettable characters and thought-provoking themes.
While each novel is unique in its own right, they all share an immersive world-building, complex narratives, and strong character development that made “The Priory of the Orange Tree” a standout read. So, while we wait for Samantha Shannon’s next captivating novel, these books should more than suffice to fill the dragon-shaped hole in your reading list.