Review: THE BONE SEASON by Samantha Shannon

Review by Krystal Sutherland
The Bone Season
Samantha Shannon
Bloomsbury 2013

As far as book hype is concerned, a debut author couldn’t really ask for more than the insane buzz currently swarming around Samantha Shannon’s
The Bone Season. Only 19 when she wrote the book, everything from Shannon’s age to the fact she’s soon to graduate from Oxford has been a publicity dream for Bloomsbury. On Goodreads, The Bone Season has been dubbed ‘Bloomsbury’s biggest global debut of the year.’ In other words, it’s kind of a big deal.

The excitement on the interwebs all started when Shannon was christened the next J. K. Rowling due to her seven-book deal. Since then,
The Bone Season has been hailed as everything from a contended to TheHunger Games franchise to a salve to apply to the Game of Thrones-shaped hole in your heart. I got my greedy hands on an uncorrected proof to find out if the book could possibly live up to all the fuss.

Here’s the blurb from the cover:
The Bone Season

The year is 2059. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of Scion London, based at Seven Dials, employed by a man named Jaxon Hall. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing.

It is raining the day her life changes for ever. Attacked, kidnapped and drugged, Paige is transported to Oxford – a city kept secret for two hundred years, controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. Paige is assigned to Warden, a Rephaite creature with dark honey skin and heavy-lidded yellow eyes. He is her master. Her trainer. Her natural enemy. But if Paige wants to regain her freedom she must allow herself to be nurtured in this prison where she is meant to die.

I decided I liked
The Bone Season on page 6, where there’s a funny mention of the ghost of Anne Naylor. After that, I tried to savor the experience of reading it. When I love a book, I have a bad habit of devouring it in a whirlwind feeding frenzy. Time disappears as I sink into another world. I emerge one or two days later with a sore neck, poor hygiene and a lingering feeling of despair because it’s all over and why didn’t I slow down, damn it?

For the first half of
The Bone Season, I succeeded in surviving on mere rations of prose. I stretched it out for three or four days. Everything was going swimmingly. Then I hit a very juicy, tasty bit in the middle. Like a shark that’d caught a whiff of blood, I went mad. The rest of the book disappeared in a single sitting. The depression set in when I realized that reading an ARC only meant I’d have to wait even longer for the next installment.

The Bone Season’s worldbuilding is solid, but I was disappointed we didn’t get to spend longer in Scion London before being shipped off to Oxford. From oxygen bars to nixie tubes to the Night Vigilance Division, I could’ve happily spent the entire novel exploring the streets of SciLo, as the characters call it. In the copy I had, there were helpful maps of both Oxford and the Scion Underground, not to mention a particularly useful chart of all the different types of clairvoyants (there are a lot). Save yourself the hassle of wondering which of the seven orders a halomancer falls under by looking it up. You’ll eventually get the hang of it.

Shannon’s writing is sparse and her prose often utilitarian. It took a little while for me to adjust to her clipped style, but I grew to appreciate it. The words do what good words should: make the real world melt away and suck you into the storybook realm. As far as the plot is concerned, the ending was satisfying considering
The Bone Season is only the start of a huge story arc. It felt like a definite conclusion to the events of the novel, while at the same time the beginning of bigger things to come. Sometimes the first book in a series leaves you feeling a little ripped off. For the most part, this one doesn’t.

It’s the characters that give
The Bone Season its strength more than anything else. My favorite was Jaxon Hall, who is frequently a giant douchebag, and that’s why I loved him. Paige describes him as a ‘sycophantic, tight-fisted, cold-hearted bastard.’ He is deliciously awful and a genuine joy to read. What can I say? I have poor taste in men. Paige Mahoney is a worthy protagonist. Gutsy, stubborn and a little bitter, Paige kicks some serious ass while still reading like a human being. She feels pain, anger, love and loyalty, and is both strong and weak at once. I look forward to following her story further.
So is The Bone Season is The Next Big Thing? In all honesty, it probably is. The film rights have already sold to Andy Serkis (yes, Gollum) and Jonathan Cavendish at The Imaginarium Studios, with Serkis set to direct. Do I want to read more? Hell yes I do. Like right now. There is definitely something special about Shannon’s world, and The Bone Season is but a taste of things to come. I’m very curious to see how the story will be stretched out over a further six novels.

All in all,
The Bone Season is rollicking good storytelling that promises to deliver a saga of epic proportions. I look forward to getting my hands on a hardback copy when it’s released in August, and I encourage everyone else to do the same.

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