The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
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, drugged and kidnapped, 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 with mysterious motives. 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.
It has taken me quite some time to get to this stage. Three attempts, to be exact. I’m not entirely sure why, except perhaps that I’ve always been a little bit distracted, with too much on my mind. This book isn’t one to come to lightly. Friends who haven’t read the series but know roughly what it’s about have kindly described it to me as ‘that really depressing book’ or ‘the book that makes The Hunger Games look like a children’s playground.’
Those bleak recommendations aside, I think it’s just that there’s so much jargon to cope with. The Bone Season opens pretty much in media res, with protagonist Paige Mahoney trying to avoid capture. We’re told almost straight away that she has this pretty amazing dream-walking ability, and that she’s part of some criminal gang. Samantha Shannon does attempt to clue readers in on some of the really elaborate world-building, but the pace of the opening, and the amount of new language left me feeling a tad bombarded. Twice, I found myself putting the book aside in search of something less challenging. My brain felt like mush. It didn’t help that I was attempting to read it in drips and drabs– a page here, a chapter on the bus, another ten pages between classes.
But then, I decided to try again. That’s the thing about books. Sometimes you need to come to them at the right time. My usual rule is to read at least a hundred pages in. If I really hate a book by then [or if I’m just not feeling it] I put it aside to try again later. Usually that works. It did in this case. The third time around, I found myself paying more attention to the characters, and the world, and basically everything that makes this story so damn inventive.
Shannon’s imagination really seeps through in her debut novel. The world-building is extraordinary, and utterly unique. The character of Paige shines through too, and a lot of the time I found myself sniggering at some of the thoughts she expressed throughout the book. I did think some of the different types of clairvoyants could have been explained a little more. Shannon does include a helpful guide at the start of the book, where most authors include maps, but there were several types that weren’t on the guide. This may be deliberate– there are hints in the novel that not all abilities have been categorised, but from a reader’s perspective I found myself sometimes skipping the confusing language and hoping it might be explained later.
Pace-wise, this book really packed a punch for me. A lot of the time, I was on the edge of my seat, and I read around 300 pages of it in a single sitting, unwilling to put it down again. Shannon has a brilliant knack for building tension without slowing down the action, and there’s huge stakes involved right from the very beginning of the book. And while everything does look incredibly bleak and terrible, which I know has put off a fair few readers I’ve spoken to, at it’s heart, The Bone Season is a story of survival, of the horrors of human nature, and the courage it takes to stand up for the freedom of those who are repressed.
All in all, I’d rate this book 9/10 stars. At the moment, I don’t actually own book two, but since I’m going to my bookstore at the weekend to pick up my copies of Nevernight and Tower of Dawn, I’ll probably treat myself to The Mime-Order too.