The Bone Season
I have rather mixed reaction to this up and coming novel, The Bone Season by 20 year old Oxford University student Samantha Shannon. It’s being called the new Hunger Games by some, she’s hailed as the new JK Rowling by others and the book hasn’t even been released but there are rumors of a film version.
So when I got an advance copy I was quite excited. I really wanted Shannon’s book to be awesome because she is the same age as me and even after reading I am incredibly impressed at her success. So I tried to like the actual book, I honestly tried, but missed heroically. Yet I know that each to their own, so this review is entirely based on my opinion and if you read this book I definitely want to hear your response in the comments below.
This book is like an awkward ‘tweenager’. It’s billed as not quite young adult, not quite adult in terms of genre. There’s talent, no doubt, and I respect anyone young who can publish, but The Bone Season can be very tedious in places, the over use of slang (and I mean real jargon developed for the book, not just Britisms, cause I aint bovvered about those) irritated me as I had to keep flipping to the glossary at the end of the book. The world and society is very complex and was explained in massive blocks that made me wonder if I’d picked up the second book of a series by mistake.
The world of The Bone Season is dystopic London. Clearly Mrs Hudson left Baker Street, because England has most certainly fallen. But this is not your typical dystopia. Yes people are starving and there’s high crime and people think oxygen bars are the height of sophistication, but the real unforgivable crime is being a “Voyant”. A Clairvoyant, medium, seer or fortune teller. Like really, if I was in that world, I would love for someone to give me an inside scoop on when the next revolution would arise. Or at least next week’s lottery numbers!
Paige Mahoney, our main heroine, is a super clairvoyant/medium and her powers are very mysterious. She’s nineteen, living in criminal underground London and has the power to walk through other people’s dreams to steal information and report it back to a real criminal mastermind. She ‘commits treason by breathing’, but her father is high up in the government and somehow is completely unaware of his only daughter’s abilities and collection of friends. Minor continuity errors aside, I do admire Paige’s grit determination and self-reliance, she is a good character and presents a unique contrast to others in her YA genre, where she doesn’t have a romantic interest, doesn’t care for friends or family that much and is in it solely for her own preservation. And while she may have a ‘super power’ it tends to leave her exhausted and unconscious after use. I do wonder if this is a hint to ‘only human’, ‘look how she’s not an undefeatable Mary Sue*’, but it did seem like a flaw in the plan and made having a super power a bit redundant.
The story reads a bit like a screenplay, and begins in medias res. Paige is out there, cutting a rug, making a name for herself when she goes and ‘accidently’ kills three guards on a train and gets arrested. After a bit of drug induced hallucination that makes Bella Swan’s transformation into a vampire look like a walk in the park, Paige discovers that instead of life imprisonment, she and other inmates will be transported to a hidden world of a crumbled old Oxford University.
The dream world/Aether, while letting the clairvoyants use their powers, has also let in a race of super-beings called the Rephaim. The government sends tributes every decade to avoid annihilation as another group, the evil Emim pose a constant threat. Paige and her new friends are to be trained as warriors against the Emim, if they fail they are forced to become a part of a circus and perform every night for entertainment. And I did not see that coming!
In the new world, Paige is assigned to the care/servitude of a Rephaim, well known as “The Warden”. He seems to get injured a lot and Paige alternates between patching him up, watching him sleep, hating him, yelling at him, and generally being a bag of mixed messages especially with the strong hint of Stockholm syndrome beginning there. Paige also needs to learn to control her powers and advance up the levels of the army, which she does by not actually completing the tasks assigned to her. but this pitfall aside, the book starts to pick up and move into fast paced action and suspense with a cliffhanger ending. This surprised me, but a bit of research explained The Bone Season is book 1 of a 7 part series that will be written and released over the next few years.
In regards to the overall hype that Samantha Shannon is the new JK Rowling? No. the similarity resides in how explosive this release and deal is – the book will be officially released in September, and Andy Sirkis already secured film rights- but it ends there. The Bone Season is a completely different book to Harry Potter, Shannon is a completely different author, one who hopefully will continue to grow her abilities and will find a decent fanbase when the book is fully released.
*A Mary Sue is a term for the ‘perfect’ character. Literally, they are indestructible, irresistable to everyone, can do no wrong, have shiny waistlength hair, usually save the day. See also, Bella Swan.