Samantha Shannon: On the Roots of Chaos Series

by | Jun 14, 2024 | Campus News, Creative Writing, Entertainment, Off Campus, Uncategorized, Western Sydney

Samantha Shannon, speaking at the 2024 Sydney Writers’ Festival, with Shelley Parker-Chan. Photo credit: Nataša Aster-Stater

The Roots of Chaos event, which was held at the Sydney Writers’ Festival on May 25th, showcased the author, Samantha Shannon, speaking to a large crowd about her novel, The Priory of the Orange Tree, and how representing strong female characters in epic fantasy has been a dream come true – for both her and readers. 

Student Symphony Chakma, who is part of the Western Sydney University Queer Collective team as well as The Book Club, and enjoys reading fantasy, says:

“The reason why I loved The Roots of Chaos so much was the versatile characters and the diverse cast of female women. I particularly enjoyed the representation of Sapphic main characters in The Priory of the Orange Tree”.  

Symphony Chakma loves reading fantasy. Photo credit: Symphony Chakma. 

Author Shelley Parker-Chan, who interviewed Shannon, asked her what surprised her most about both Priory and it’s prequel, A Day of Fallen Night, and she said how well-received both books have been by readers: there’s representation of LQBTQ characters and, at its centre, there’s a lesbian relationship with two of the main characters, Ead and Sabran.  

Shannon also credits social media platform, TikTok – in particular, BookTok – for helping to spread the word about Priory, and get the story into the hands of many more readers: as a result, Priory went viral, several years after it was first published in 2019:  

“Priory was suddenly everywhere again,” says Shannon to the room of eager readers, laughing, when referring to the confusion about the sudden resurgence of love and interest regarding her book. She adds how it was fellow author, Adam Silvera, who also writes fantasy as well as Young Adult LGBT, who told her the secret to Priory’s second bout of success: TikTok.  

Shannon says how Silvera then remarked how much readers are loving Priory.  

And they do.

Dominika Bedzinska, WSU student and fantasy lover, says:  

“I feel like Ead and Sabran break the mould of traditional female roles in fantasy. They showed me that strength comes in many forms, such as physical skill, intellect, and determination.” 

She adds, “Reading Samantha Shannon made me feel empowered. She told me women can be heroes or leaders or revolutionaries in change. In my opinion, Shannon showcases diverse female voices and shows us our ability to shape and redefine the world.” 

Entrance to the Sydney Writers’ Festival 2024: authors at events helped readers “Escape into a World of Books.” Photo Credit: Nataša Aster-Stater.

Like many books, Shannon’s stories help readers’ inhibitions fall away, as they’re transported to another place, often one that represents their dreaming. It seems also fitting, then, that the Sydney Writers’ Festival – which first began in 1997, and which had more than 300 local and international guests in 2024 – had the theme “Take me away” this year. 

There were many other events and stories at the Sydney Writers’ Festival which celebrated the LGBTQ community, such as Queerstories, and Queer Love and Longing, which told tales of heartbreak and true diaristic journeys of six writers, such as Maeve Marsden and Christos Tsiolkas.  

“Seeing representation in queer love stories and the normalisation of queer relationships in books and mainstream media is so important,” says Chakma. “It’s finding similarities with people and characters who share experiences like yours and realising you’re not alone in your feelings, which is incredibly empowering.” 

Readers can also view the Sydney Writers’ Festival recommended reading list for exploring queer stories for 2024, which can be read all year round.

W’SUP news would like to thank the Sydney Writer’s Festival team for providing the opportunity to attend events media personnel and for hosting such incredible sessions. We hope to continue collaborating in the future and bring these important conversations to Western Sydney University. 

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