by Samantha Shannon
To be published by Bloomsbury
on August 20, 2013
Source: ARC giveaway at BEA
Connect with the author: blog | Twitter | Facebook.
Note: Since my reviews are almost exclusively YA, I should point out that this is an adult book, though I think most YA readers would definitely enjoy it!
Summary from Goodreads: 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.My take: Wildly imaginative, with a sprawling scope, a complex story world, and a huge cast of characters, The Bone Season is not the book to pick up if you're in the mood for a quick and easy read. The story commences in London in the year 2059, and blends fantasy, alt history and paranormal elements. An 1901 epidemic of clairvoyance has divided the population into Voyant (those with paranormal abilities) or Amaurotic (those with no abilities.) But using one's clairvoyant abilities is prohibited, and main character Paige Mahoney is among a group of Voyants who secretly work for a mime lord named Jaxon.
Just as I was trying to absorb all this, Paige is captured and thrust into a completely different environment, a brutal penal colony where Voyants are forced into servitude by a race called the Rephaim. Each of the Voyants is claimed by a master, and Paige is spoken for by Arcturus, Warden of Mesarthm, the male consort of the female sovereign.
Though I was blown away by the creativity of the book's story world, I found that being plunged into not one, but two different and complex settings in the opening of the story was a lot to handle. A huge amount of information needed to be conveyed in the first third of the book. There is a taxonomy of Voyants in the front and a glossary of terminology and slang in the back, though I didn't find the latter until I'd finished reading.
For about 200 pages, I felt a little anxious about absorbing everything, which might explain the fact that I didn't feel fully connected with the main character, Paige, until the last section of the book. On the plus side, once things got going and I could relax and enjoy the story more, and once I got to see Paige's special Voyant talent in action, there were some memorable and well-written scenes that really captured my imagination. I also loved the way that the story world married the futuristic with the anachronistic -- the glossary explains that the slang used by Paige and her cohorts in London is based on real slang used by nineteenth century British criminals.
Samantha Shannon is definitely a writer to watch. I can't promise I'll read six more books, but I'll definitely check out the next installment!
Note: I lent The Bone Season to Teen Snark, my teen reviewer, who also liked it but had a slightly different take. Here's our conversation about the book:
Jen: So…. how was The Bone Season?
TS: I liked it. What I didn't like was that you had to pick up all these little bits of information along the way.
Jen: I had the same problem. And you know how bad my memory is.
TS: I wish they had added that book they kept mentioning -- On The Merits of Unnaturalness -- as an appendix. And why don't we get much explanation of the Rephaim? Do the Emim exist outside of Sheol? I had a lot of questions.
Jen: True. The taxonomy of Voyants at the beginning was helpful. And the glossary, which I didn't find until the end.
TS: Did you notice that the Rephaim were named after stars?
Jen: Stars in the sky?
TS: Uh, yeah. Arcturus, Gomeisa, Pleione...
Jen: I didn't know those were stars. What did you think of Paige?
TS: *shrugs* She was okay.
Jen: I agree. It took me a while to warm up to her. What did you think of the romance?
TS: It was a little forced.
Jen: Do you mean forced like coerced or forced like the book didn't need romance?
TS: The latter. I wanted more about the world and less about the characters.
Jen: See, I thought the characters got a little overshadowed by the world. But the book did have some really amazing scenes that will stick with me, like the scenes of her in the forest, the ones when she was dream walking, and the fight scenes. Those were really great. Will you read the next book?
Jen: Me too.