Somewhere beneath the surface of the world, an ancient evil sleeps. The Nameless One, a wyrm so powerful that it once threatened the very fabric of life, is bound beneath the Earth’s crust, in its molten interior. Some think that its defeat came at the hands of a knight named Galian. Those who follow Galian’s teachings believe that his heirs, a line of uncannily identical queens, are all that stand between the world and destruction. Others attest that Cleolind, the queen whom Galian sought to marry, defeated the beast.
While the old danger sleeps, the Earth has become restless, with volcanoes spewing new terrors in the form of beasts and wyrms. If the world is to survive, its people must learn how to subdue these powerful beasts. For Dumai, the crown princess of Seiiki who has been raised in a remote temple, that will mean learning how to call down the gods to save her people. For Glorian, princess and heir to Sir Galian’s legacy, that will mean sacrificing her childhood for the greater good. And for Tunuva and the rest of the women of the Priory of the Orange Tree, a religious order that Cleolind founded, that will mean fighting in a battle they’ve trained for but hoped would never come. And for all involved, it will require uncommon courage and a will to triumph.
A Day of Fallen Night is Samantha Shannon’s return to the world of The Priory of the Orange Tree and a prequel to that novel. It is a massive undertaking, clocking in at nearly 900 pages, but with its careful plotting and brilliantly developed cast of characters, it is worth every paragraph. Shannon covers both grand high fantasy themes and more down-to-earth ones, touching on everything from court intrigue and the terrifying frenzy of battle to tender domestic moments.
The novel overflows with characters whose wins you’ll cheer for and whose failures you’ll mourn. Shannon examines the relationship between mother and child, including the grief that comes with the loss of a child, the hope that a new generation brings and the frustration of trying to live up to your forerunners’ expectations. Her female characters are fierce, but they’re also vulnerable, clever and lonely. At times, her poetic prose overwhelms the senses with sumptuous detail and explosive energy. In other moments, she paints complex emotions with goosebump-inducing empathy.
You don’t need to have read The Priory of the Orange Tree to enjoy A Day of Fallen Night. But know that the pull of the priory is strong: Whichever book you start with, you’ll likely want to have the next one close at hand.