The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
Published: 20 August 2013 (Bloomsbury)
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Plot 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.
I've been hearing buzz about The Bone Season for a while, long before it was released. When the author was announced as a guest at Leakycon I was ecstatic, and even happier when they had copies available to buy at the con! The Bone Season tells the story of Paige Mahoney, a clairvoyant living in a world where people with her abilities are deemed "unnatural". Suddenly she is whisked from the criminal underworld of London to the lost city of Oxford, where she must live amongst a her fellow clairvoyants and the race of the Rephaim, and do her best to survive.
This is a pretty intense read. The opening fifty pages bring a wealth of information and terminology to gets to grips with. The book is set in an alternative version of London controlled by Scion - a republic built to quash clairvoyance - and features a whole load of clairvoyants like Paige with different abilities. In the front of the book is a sort of overview of the different types and their categories and I found that really helpful to refer back to. It took me a while to get my head around all these new words and phrases involved with the world. Suddenly there's all these words like aether and dreamscape, and all these districts of London with coded names. But I can understand why it is crammed into such a short space, because after about fifty pages the plot really steps up a gear and it's all action from then on in. I appreciated that set up, even if it was a lot to take in, because it meant you got to the plot quickly.
The book is told from Paige's perspective, and I found her really fascinating as a character. She's had to accept her place in life and thrives on her work in the criminal syndicate. It was interesting to see the moral dilemmas she faces when she does things she doesn't think herself capable of. Her clairvoyant abilities gives her the power to separate her spirit from her body, a power which is feared and admired in equal measure. I loved how much detail has gone into the way her abilities work and that you get to see the fear and danger associated with such power.
I adored the way you get to learn Paige's story through the things happening in the present, and the memories from her past which are included throughout the story. Everything flowed together so well, and it felt like the book was layered up with all these brilliant little pieces of information that all come together to build this incredible world.
The writing in The Bone Season is stunning, and it's honestly one of those novels where you just can't fathom how somebody has dreamt it all up. The attention to detail is incredible, and the world is so rich and wonderful. I loved losing myself in the futuristic city of London (the book is set in 2059 in an alternative universe - the course of history differing from our own) as well as the setting for the majority of the book, Sheol I. The descriptions of the places and spiritual elements were so vivid and visual. I can't wait to see this book on screen one day, because I can see it lending itself to that medium so well.
The characters were some of my absolute highlights of The Bone Season. From the tricksy Jaxon, to the lovable Nick, vulnerable Seb and the intriguing Warden - I loved the range and variety of characters Shannon has conjured up. Seeing Paige's relationships with all these people was what really drew me in to the story. The history between her and Nick was one of my favourite things and I loved discovering more about their past throughout the story. The connection between her and Warden and that growing intensity had me hooked. I was so invested in that relationship. I also loved seeing her interact with other people in her new home of Sheol I, like when she meets Liss and Julian. She comes across as so caring and really looks out for other people.
The Bone Season ticks so many boxes and hits so many spots. It has that perfect blend of fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal and dystopia, with an action-packed plot, yet manages to feel completely unique and stand out from the crowd. The main character, Paige, is nineteen, so whilst it does fall outside of the YA category, it will definitely appeal to YA fans. I think this is the perfect crossover book that will appeal to all ages, much like Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. In fact genre wise, too, if you liked that book then I think you will adore The Bone Season too!
It's not a light read, and it takes a while to get your head around everything. I think you probably have to be in the right frame of mind to read this kind of intense fantasy and I hope people won't be put off by the opening few chapters where everything seems quite daunting. Trust me, the pay off is definitely worth it in the end. I was utterly captivated by the world and hooked to the pages of the story. I didn't want to put it down. I wanted to completely lose myself in that world. The climax was incredible and I can't wait to read to return to Paige's story!
What to read next: This is the first book in The Bone Season series.
Books like this: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman