The Bone Season (book 1)
by Samantha Shannon
It is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others’ minds. Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing.
But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city—Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army.
Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives. (goodreads.com)
DISCLAIMER: You are about to see this book pop up everywhere. On every blog. On morning TV programs. On late night TV programs. In the news. In the paper. In magazines. It will be EVERYWHERE. And you will probably find yourself in one of two camps. Camp One: OMG! It looks AMAZEBALLS! I NEED to get this! Camp Two: OMG! *eye roll* I hate hyped books. It will suck. I refuse to even acknowledge it exists! So I will tell you right now that while I am about to write a post on how much I enjoyed this book and that it was sent to me unsolicited by the publisher, my post is 100% honest. If you have been reading my blog for a while you will know that I don’t say I like something if I don’t. If I didn’t like it I would tell you.
So while you might get sick of seeing this book show up everywhere, all over the internet and other media, I urge to you not roll your eyes and pass it by because this is, in fact, a very solid and entertaining book. Give it a chance.
Also, this will be rather long.
And now on to the meat of the post. No spoilers, at least not intentionally. Read at your own rick.
This book showed up completely out of the blue (and I had to drive to the middle of nowhere to pick it up due to not being home when it was first delivered). I had no idea what it was or what it was about. I read the publicity insert and the inside flap of the book and thought, “Huh. This sounds interesting.” But as you know from the lack of posts on this blog lately and the content of the posts that have gone up, I haven’t been reading much. Nothing is holding my attention. It’s a bloody miracle when something does.
And this book seems to be really hyped right now and I am so, so, so very wary about Over-hyped books. (I’m in Camp Two above.) But I had just finished Lauren DeStefano’s Perfect Ruin and I thought, why not try this book out. So I did.
First thing that hooked me was – A MAP! Oh, how I love when fantasy, dystopian, or sci-fi books have MAPS! I can continuously refer back to the map as details come out in the story and I can have a better time visualizing the scene. There is also a very complicated org chart of all the different types of Clairvoyants. There are many. It was overwhelming at first and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the story. And yes, it took me a little while to get a feel for this alternate reality in 2059 England. Not too long, mind you, I just had to adjust my way of thinking to what I was seeing on the page.
I was worried about a lack of originality, because that’s my current mood phase, and I was happy to discover that The Bone Season wasn’t just a rehash of some other YA or fantasy novel I’d read. I wouldn’t even say this was YA, to be honest. But I’ll get into the categorization issue later on in this post. I was blown away by the world that Samantha Shannon had created. It was solid and deep, certainly very well-thought out. The flow of the story is wonderfully honed so that present actions and flash-backs/memories are woven together in a fluid, easy to follow manner. You learn a lot about Paige and the world of 2059 England as you read and it doesn’t feel at all like you’re being TOLD what is going on. The progression of the story and all the information between those pages feels natural. Almost like real life or watching a movie unfold.
Once Paige is sent to Oxford the action really starts and one thing stuck out at me. I have read books before where the details and backstory are attempted to be told through dialogue between characters. I often find that method clunky and obvious. It sort of seems like a Q&A added into the story to tell the reader what they need to know in a very obvious manner. Sometimes the explanations and details are told in a subtle manner, through very normal, interesting dialogue. The Bone Season presents the plot and details in this manner. Sure there are many question and answer periods between Paige and the Warden, but I realized as I’d read through a few conversations that I was just presented with a ton of information and backstory and I didn’t even feel like it. I wasn’t lectured, it wasn’t told in a manner that made me say “Ugh, stop trying to tell us things like we’re simpletons!”. I’m probably not explaining this well, but I’m trying to say that the amount of information and story told through dialogue in this book is well-crafted and seamless. Very well done. Kudos. Thank you for not making me cranky and want throw my book across the room in frustration!
So, we have epic world and character building in The Bone Season. We have a MAP (yay!) We have likeable characters and enjoyable dialogue. There is action and plotting and snarking and emotion. It’s a pretty meaty novel and it managed to capture my attention for an entire day. This is a pretty Big Deal these days with my reading apathy. Also for coming down from an amazing story in Perfect Ruin, I wasn’t sure how easily I’d slip into another world. This is one majorly enjoyable novel.
Now, the press is trumpeting that Samantha Shannon is the next J.K. Rowling. She has a 6-figure book deal for three books (with a possible 7 in total) and the promotion is pretty intense for this debut novel. Do I think she’s a new J.K. Rowling? Not really. I don’t really see a connection there. Is the book excellent for a debut novel? Yes, it pretty much is. But I’d say it’s no more epic that Veronica Roth’s debut of Divergent a few years back. I don’t get the same sense of wonder and whimsy that I had with the Harry Potter books. Although, Shannon’s world is pretty well crafted. It doesn’t seem to be as deep as Rowling’s Potter Universe. And by making the Rowling comparison, my mind (at least) goes right to “a book for kids” whereas this book has a weird cross-over vibe between Young Adult and Adult in the fantasy/sci-fi/dystopian ranges. I can’t quite put my finger on how I want to categorize it because there are elements of all three in this book. It’s like Alternate Reality Fantastical Science Fiction in a Dystopian world. Yes?
So whether you want to think of it as YA or want to think of it as an adult novel (Paige is 19 in the story and many of the characters are a lot older. Some younger.) I highly recommend you give this a try if you like this genre of novel. It is very well written. It is not fluff. It is amazingly imaginative and action-packed. It had already had rights optioned for a movie (and I will admit this story would be pretty great to see on screen, assuming they don’t change it completely for the movie version) and is being published in 21 countries right off the bat. You don’t put that much effort into a debut novel that is poorly written and crafted. The publishers know what they are doing here, The Bone Season is something special. I am exceptionally happy that this showed up out of the blue one day because I might have passed it by otherwise. Give it a try! It should be out in a bookstore or library near you RIGHT NOW!
I am pretty sure you won’t regret it.
PS – this book actually happens to be AMAZEBALLS!. Just so you know.