Samantha Shannon’s “The Roots of Chaos” Book Reviews

Samantha Shannon, author of The Roots of Chaos series, weaves a fantastical world of dragons and varying cultures with strong female leads and LGBTQIA+ representation. The Priory of the Orange Tree was the first of this series, published five years ago in 2019, whereas A Day of Fallen Night was published more recently in February of last year. Though I read The Priory in 2021, I’ve done a reread to prepare for the dive into Fallen Night.

When I first read The Priory, it immediately climbed into my number one book spot (that is, a standalone book), so I was excited to read its prequel book by Shannon.

Both reviews below contain major and minor spoilers for the books (including deaths). Read at your own risk!

Before I begin my review of Fallen Night, I want to do a brief one for The Priory since I haven’t before. My first comment would be how the reread felt just as phenomenal as the first time I read Shannon’s book. With a whopping 804 pages of story, this high fantasy novel is a bit of a beast to jump into. The daunting size never deterred me, and on both reads, I was able to finish the book in around a week. I found myself devouring every word, especially when the POV was either Ead or Tané.

With a 4.20 star rating on Goodreads, here’s the book’s preview:

“A world divided. A queendom without an heir. An ancient enemy awakens.


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.”

As with most high fantasy novels, you have to learn about the world as you go. The back of the book does have a “persons of the tale,” glossary, and timeline, but I find that these contain small spoilers. They don’t ruin anything for the book, but some information is better learned through reading. I understand why some readers struggle to get into The Priory, but it flows so naturally that I had no trouble hanging on for the ride.

Shannon’s book follows four narrators, Ead, Tané, Loth, and Niclays, as they all play their parts in the political intrigue that is their world. The Nameless One, a terrible wyrm bent on destroying the world, is slowly waking, while other draconic creatures are wreaking havoc beforehandThe East revers their own dragons, dissimilar to the fire-breathing wyrms that terrorize the lands. The West is all united under the Virtudom, its queen being Sabran Berethnet (a major character). As the book summary says, these two sides of their world are forced to reunite when The Nameless One’s threat becomes apparent. The narrators’ journeys all work towards a singular purpose to save everyone.

I want to start with the only big complaint I have for The Priory: the suddenness of the deaths. This isn’t me saying I greatly mourned the killed individuals, Kit, Susa, Aubrecht, Sulyard, and Truyde, but they were planted too casually. Most of these deaths happen early on in the book and kickstart some of the journeys the main and major characters go on. Susa’s and Sulyard’s deaths begin Tané’s switch from dragon Rider to scholar and Aubrecht’s death allows Sabran and Ead to grow closer, while also removing the idea that Sabran is properly wed. They serve purposes, but the intensity of the deaths is missing for me.

I think the one I’m most upset about though is Lord Kitson. Being the first death in the book, the abruptness struck me as odd. I thought his character didn’t serve much purpose to only be killed off so soon; if Kit was cut out of the book entirely, it wouldn’t change a lot. Having an early friend for Loth made sense, but I would’ve liked to see Kit journey with Loth to The Priory and perhaps be left behind when he fled with Ead. Otherwise, I think Loth could’ve made his early journey to Yscalin alone.

Shannon does well with making everything feel real. The cultural differences between the West and East, the main political conflict, and the South felt strong and authentic. Readers get little details throughout The Priory on the different religious beliefs, as well as different ways their kingdoms are run (ex. a queen versus an emperor). The Priory doesn’t let you pick sides, showing the good and the bad of everyone’s little worlds. Even with Virtudom’s religion and way of life being based on a lie, I still found their faith to be as true as any others. I wish to see how it changes in time, considering Sabran’s oath to tell the real story, but I imagine the pillars of their religion will stay. Plus, this could only mean that we may eventually see a sequel.

Having characters represent each kingdom, main, major, and side included, allowed for a varied view of their world and cultures. I found myself drawn to parts of each culture and intrigued by how it conflicted with another’s. I enjoyed the East’s love for their dragons, while also understanding the West’s fear of all creatures similar to wyrms. The lukewarm cooperation between the two when it came to the Eastern dragons was incredibly realistic. Nobody’s opinions change overnight either. Loth coming to terms with the existence of the Priory and how it conflicted with his upbringing was genuine.

The imagery and description are also a strength of The Priory. I particularly loved the short food descriptions, when a character sat for a meal and each dish was named or described. Those and when dragons were described, were the most vivid moments of the book. The only other times this vividness was present were during quick character descriptions. I’m a glutton for descriptive language, so it’s no wonder Shannon’s writing enchants me.

A big proponent of my love for The Priory comes from the relationship between Ead and Sabran. The slow-burn romance often left me breathless, with the small details of their attraction to each other being shown early. When those moments turned into real tenderness and bed sheets, I was giddy with love for them. Coming from two very different worlds doesn’t get in the way, their passion and loyalty to each other was a driving point for the book. I mean, Ead abandons everything she knows for Sabran (and for the good of the world, but come on Sabran was a main driving point, too).

They aren’t the only queer representation either, as Niclays talks often about his male lover Jannart–though they hid their love due to Jannart’s station and family. Both Loth and Tane, our other POVs are said by Shannon to be somewhere on the asexual spectrum. Though none of this is explicitly told due to the fantasy setting (i.e. they don’t have the words we do in our world), it’s obvious through their thoughts and feelings on the page. Canonically, Sabran is bisexual and Ead is a lesbian.

I’m sure others find more problems with The Priory, like the quickness and lack of description for action scenes, but they didn’t bother me throughout my read. While I was initially nervous to read another book in the same world as my favorite book, I was excited when I finally held Fallen Night in my hands.

Rating: 5/5

Rated higher than its predecessor, Fallen Night has a 4.38 on Goodreads. Its summary is below:

“Tunuva Melim is a sister of the Priory. For fifty years, she has trained to slay wyrms–but none have appeared since the Nameless One, and the younger generation is starting to question the Priory’s purpose.


To the north, in the Queendom of Inys, Sabran the Ambitious has married the new King of Hroth, narrowly saving both realms from ruin. Their daughter, Glorian, trails in their shadow–exactly where she wants to be.


The dragons of the East have slept for centuries. Dumai has spent her life in a Seiikinese mountain temple, trying to wake the gods from their long slumber. Now someone from her mother’s past is coming to upend her fate.


When the Dreadmount erupts, bringing with it an age of terror and violence, these women must find the strength to protect humankind from a devastating threat.


Intricate and epic, A Day of Fallen Night sweeps readers back to the world of The Priory of the Orange Tree, showing us a course of events that shaped it for generations to come.”

Since I’ve just reread The Priory of the Orange Tree and it’s my favorite novel, I find that I was comparing A Day of Fallen Night to it often. There are a couple of differences with Fallen Night right off the bat. It boasts both a prologue and epilogue, the latter I’ll get to later. Both of them strengthened the story of Fallen Night.

The prologue showed the backstories of the mothers of each of our main characters and piqued my interest. It set an immediate tone and affirmed that a lot of the plot and characters would revolve around kinship (particularly mothers and daughters) and parentage. This theme was threaded well throughout the story, from grandmothers and mothers to daughters and granddaughters. Although one of the POVs was a man, his connection back to women was strong. Even more than The Priory, this is a book of women and sisterhood.

A Day of Fallen Night has four protagonists: Tunuva Melim of the Priory, Glorian Berethnet of Inys, Dumai of Ipyeda of the East, and Wulfert Glenn of the North. Their whole world is eventually thrown into chaos when the Dreadmount, a volcano, births more terrible creatures like The Nameless One. Five wyrms emerge and wreak havoc on humans, forming terrible creatures from regular animals and giving life to smaller versions of themselves. The red sickness emerges in this era, later called the Grief of Ages or the Great Sorrow. Although I knew the end of their fire comes with the Long-Haired Comet or Kwiriki’s Lantern, the intrigue of this book lies with how the people cope with these tragedies until then.

As with the former review, I want to tackle my criticisms first. A lot of the book felt slow, the beginning and parts of the end in particular. It also seemed to throw even more sloughs of history at the reader in the prologue and beginning chapters, which caused me to lose focus when trying to figure it out. The book didn’t necessarily pick up for me until the red sickness reared its ugly head and the wyrms and their creatures started attacking human cities. This was also when mysteries started becoming more clear, which made me want to keep reading.

I also found the protagonists lacking. I wanted Dumai to be one of my favorites, but in general, I find myself mostly neutral on them all. I liked Wulf and Tunuva the most, I believe, and it makes sense now considering how they are connected. I think this comes down to the lack of difference between these POVs. In The Priory, all the protagonists felt distinct, coming from such different backstories so their viewpoints and personalities varied. The personalities in Fallen Night seemed to echo one another most of the time. Some of the character arcs also fell flat, clearing up too quickly or not having enough time to develop. Siyu, for example, though a major character and not a main, was being set up to an interesting story but fell into line quickly.

On the contrary, my main complaint for The Priory, how the deaths didn’t feel as strongly as they should, was better in this prequel. Tunuva’s grief over her son, Wulf’s grief over the many members of his lith (particularly Eydag and Vell), and Glorian’s grief over her parents were very raw and real. I actually found my chest hurting and my eyes tearing up when they grieved. It helped that most of these dead characters had more substance to them, as readers were able to get to know them before they died, too. This strength wanes a bit later in the book, with the skipped-over grief Dumai has over Kanifa and her father.

Which brings me to a nitpicky complaint. Although I applaud Shannon for drawing this story over a long period of time, a few years at that, it might’ve been easier without multiple POVs. The time jumps between chapters and sections are a little jarring and hard to follow. For example, after Kanifa dies at the end of a chapter, we next see Dumai after some amount of time has passed and she has grieved back home. Except, I wouldn’t sacrifice the many arching stories for more scenes with one or the other, so I would rather these time jumps than fewer viewpoints.

As for the positives, the mysteries and plot twists were done well. This is especially true for Tunuva, Wulf, and Canthe, and how their stories twisted together. Although I figured out the truth a little over fifty pages before it was more or less confirmed, I loved the little hints that Shannon dropped about Tunuva and Wulf. I also think that it was only obvious Canthe was the reason for their separation because of me reading The Priory, having prior (ha) knowledge of who the Lady in the Woods was and how she operated. The spread of the disease and the constant onslaught of attacks was also done extremely well, giving an eerie sense of forebodement at the start and a continued sense of dread as it went on.

The LGBTQIA+ representation was also even better this time around! My heart still belongs to Sabran and Ead of The Priory, but I loved seeing how many more queer characters and relationships were in Fallen Night. From the sapphic and lesbian relationships of Tunuva and Esbar and Dumai and Nikeya (who doesn’t love enemies to lovers?) to gay and bisexual relationships with Wulf’s adopted parents and Wulf with Regny but also with Thrit, there’s plenty to love about all of them. They’re different and expressive, and frankly, Shannon writes devoted, romantic love very well. There’s also mention of transgender individuals, though only one is explicitly said to have transitioned from one gender to another. In the Priory, Tunuva mentions Balag, a trans-man who was “once a sister” of the Priory and joined the men instead, following his heart. In Inys and related societies, gender-neutral language like Mastress and Lade are used for characters that use they/them pronouns.

Although this book and Priory are considered standalone, I don’t think I would have liked Fallen Night as much as I did without reading Priory first. Knowing the setting already helped it feel less strange and allowed me to focus more on the character arcs and less on figuring out what was going on in their universe (though I still had to do some of that in the beginning). The middle part was my favorite when all the mysteries were revealed and more-or-less solved. Without that, I think Fallen Night would’ve been too slow, considering the sometimes sluggish speed the beginning and end had.

The ending was interesting though, satisfying and devastating at the same time. I was happy the epilogue wrapped everything up. I think the “end” was nicely dramatic, but it left a lot of questions that the epilogue was able to answer. It also answered questions for The Priory, like how the jewel was hidden in Inys and how the riders’ legacy began in Seiiki. The Priory didn’t have an epilogue and I almost wonder what would’ve been in it. Fallen Night’s epilogue still kept the book’s intrigue though, especially with the appearance of the new Maiden Officiant at the end of Nikeya’s chapter.

I teetered between four stars and four-and-a-half stars for this book but eventually settled on the lower. It is still a strong book that I enjoyed!

Rating: 4/5

Of course, with its name being The Roots of Chaos series, it’s assumed that more books in the world of The Priory will be coming out. On Goodreads, an untitled Book Two can be seen. Back in 2022, Shannon left the following comment.


Hi, Goodreads:

You won’t be hearing any details about this for a few years, as it isn’t written yet – I need a little breather from the doorstoppers, primarily to focus on my fifth and sixth Bone Season books – but I’m really looking forward to showing you more of the Roots of Chaos world, when the time comes.

Thank you so much for showing enough support for the first two books that I’ve been able to sign a contract for a third. It really means the world to me that I can keep telling these stories.

This will be another prequel, rather than a sequel to Priory – I am hoping to write a sequel one day, to finish the ‘cycle’ of books, but first I want to show you more of the world’s history and the origins of the imbalance between siden and sterren.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy A Day of Fallen Night.



While I’m disappointed to hear we won’t be getting more of our Priory protagonists just yet (if they would even be the focus of a sequel), I am excited to read anything in The Roots of Chaos series. I also think it’s cool that Samantha Shannon is giving readable content to the history that’s only talked about in The Priory.

More recently, in an Instagram post from April 23rd, Shannon replied to a comment asking if The Roots of Chaos series would continue:


Fans of The Roots of Chaos should be happy that more information is still coming out, though I am personally waiting on the edge of my seat for an announcement of when the novella will be released. With Shannon’s focus on her other series, Bone Season, I wonder how many years will pass before returning to the Chaos world. In the meantime, I intend to seek out her other series and see how it compares!

About Hailey Watkins

Hailey is a self-proclaimed bookworm and writer. While she loves to read fantasy or slice-of-life the most, their heart belongs truly to the Warrior cats book series. She has collected and read all of the books in the nearly 100-book-long (and counting) series. She's also a fan of reading Webtoons, graphic novels, and manga, as well as watching anime. When they're not writing about fandom, their day job is as a substitute teacher.

View all posts by Hailey Watkins

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