The Bone Season is a high fantasy first novel by Samantha Shannon. Although difficult to get into at first, it is well worth the time, money and effort, especially if you’re into paranormal tales woven with authoritative detail.
One caveat: There are some spoilers coming – just sayn’….
About fifty years in the future, there has been an epidemic of people who’ve developed clairvoyant abilities. There’s soothsayers, mediums, sensors, augurs, guardians, furies, jumpers – you name it. Only thing is, the rest of so-called normal society is threatened. The clairvoyants – known as voyants – are criminalized. A secret security state of Scion is established in several major cities around the world, including London, to round up and dispose of the “freaks”. The lead character, Paige Mahoney, is a rare form of voyant — a dreamwalker. She can see into the minds of others, and sells this ability to her employer, a criminal underground group known as The Seven Seals.
Nothing is ever perfect in paradise. Paige is arrested and taken to a penal colony in the deserted city of Oxford. She learns that Scion is actually controlled by the Rephaim, a sort of super-voyant race. One of these supers, the Warden, takes an interest in Paige, and brings her into his house as his slave. In fact, all voyants and other people in the penal colony are slaves – the apparent future of the rest of mankind if the Rephaim continue to grow in strength and numbers.
Before getting into the meat and potatoes of this review, a special word about the appearance of this book is in order. It is aboslutely beatiful! The cover jack of the hard back book is intriguing and beautifl, and the spine of the book underneath is red with beautifuly guilded gold lettering. The interior is also a treature, with a chart of the various types of clairvoyants and an extensive index at the end, much needed tools in such a highly-detailed book (especially at the beginning).
This book is recommended and it passes all of the key factors a good book should have.
1. Strong Plot – PASS. Paige wants to get out of the penal colony, back to her friends in the criminal underground, and back to what little family she has. And while that’s easy enough to understand, there were times that it seemed like the writer couldn’t settle on what is driving this story. Is it an unlikely love story between her and the Warden? Does she have big goals like the destruction of the Rephaim and Scion, or does she simply want to escape, and leave all that and the penal colony for others to sort out? Is she trying to become a greater, more unique type of voyant, or is she just okay with returning to being a steampunk underground criminal with a neat parlor trick? Don’t get me wrong, this book is good. Still, a very interesting dire straight isn’t necessarily ideal by itself to move the story along.
2. A great deal of action – PASS. Oh, yes! There’s chase scenes in the London tube and urban rooftops, spiritual battles in and out of other people’s minds, fight sequences of Paige against impossibly strong Rephaim and mysterious beasts from the spiritual world known as the Emim, and the horrors and humiliation of existing in and fighting against slavery.
3. A hero. PASS. Paige is a very believable and endearing character, indeed. She is an only child, raised by a single dad. She’s forced to sell her clairvoyant powers to stay alive in the underworld. An already less-than-desirable existence turns worse when she’s captured and forced into endentured servitude by a super-clairvoyant race willing and capable to kill voyant humans on a whim. And there’s Paige, dedicated to the idea of escaping back to her home. She must dig deep, bend the laws of nature to do it, and maybe find love where she least expected it.
4. Clear, believable, character motivations. PASS. Paige wants to escape. That’s easy enough to believe. There are times that doesn’t seem like enough, though. Doesn’t she want to defeat the Rephaim? Why would she want to go back to a false world? The illegalization of voyants was something of a ruse, and thus, the rise of her criminal syndicate is by default a response to a lie. So why would she want to go back to those friend? Wouldn’t she want to escape to a non-Scion city? Or better yet, wouldn’t she want to expose and destroy the lie? Destroy the Rephaim? Yes, there are some defects here, but after all isn’t that what we all want, deep down – just to go home?
5. Well-drawn backgrounds. PASS. Wow, here’s where this book really shines. The detail given to this clairvoyant world is well-drawn and detailed – at times it seems like the author is telling of things, people, places and phenomenon what she’s experienced herself. Shannon must have written two books – a dissertation on this new world and the text of the novel.
6. A writer familiar with English language. PASS. Shannon is certainly a good writer. Her writing style brings out the images and characters in a convincing way. There were times that the chapters felt like they could have been snappier, the story moved along more quickly. A study of the efficiency of Ira Lavin’s works such as Boys From Brazil would do her some good.
7. Lyrical language – STYLE. PASS. Shannon’s writing style is not particularly distinguishable. Some writers like Kurt Vonnegut can captivate readers with a thousand words about tying shoes. But then not everyone can be him. Her style keeps the store moving without distracting the reader with stylistic gymnastics. That’s more than enough. After all, we’re here to forget the text and get lost in a good story. Shannon delivers that, and then some.
You can currently find The Bone Season for around $14.00 on Amazon.