The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

In brief: It’s 2059 in an alternate future in London – part of the Scion network, where anything clairvoyant is banned. Paige Mahoney is in danger – she’s a Dreamwalker, who breaks into people’s minds. When she is captured, she is taken to the secret city of Oxford and everything she thought she knew changes…

The good: Incredibly detailed world, strong characters and an action packed story.

The not-so-good: Took me a little while to get used to some of the terms used (there’s a glossary at the back).

Why I chose it: Sent to me by Bloomsbury Sydney with a great letter, telling me why I’d love it. (I now implicitly trust Hannah’s taste).

Year: 2013

Pages: 468 (ARC)

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Setting: United Kingdom

My rating: 9.5 out of 10

A little while ago, a book appeared on my doorstep from Bloomsbury Sydney. I opened it up to find an ARC of The Bone Season, with a cover stating ‘Welcome to Scion. No safer place.’ I was sceptical. I’m really not a fan of anything otherworldly (except Harry Potter and the Outlander series), but it was accompanied by a letter from Hannah at Bloomsbury. I generally think that Bloomsbury has pretty good taste in books, but this letter sealed it for me. Mentions of London, fashion and ‘something of the Bronte sisters’ sold me – I had to try it, even though fantasy/sci-fi is not my regular scene.

I am so thankful for that letter – otherwise I would have missed out on one of THE books for 2013.

Forget classifying books by genre, The Bone Season combines so much into a fast paced, action packed narrative with Gothic-meets-Big Brother elements. There’s romance, heartbreak, brutality and sadness. There’s also some incredibly cool technology and mind-bending alternate reality. In her first novel, Samantha Shannon has done amazingly well to create a whole new world that is as detailed and crazy as the one we live in. Whatever your preferred genre is, I highly recommend this book to you. I think it’s going to be bigger than The Hunger Games and Twilight put together. In fact, I’ll put it out there and state that for me, this book is the new Harry Potter. The Bone Season is the first in a planned series of seven books and film rights have already been sold. It’s the kind of novel that will make a fantastic movie and have you queuing on the day of its release.

So what is this extraordinary book about? Allow me to introduce our heroine, Paige Mahoney, who tells the story. In a world where clairvoyance is illegal, London and other European nations are ruled by Scion. Paige happens to be a Dreamwalker, a rare type of clairvoyant. Her father thinks she works in an oxygen bar (alcohol is illegal in 2059), but really she works for the criminal underworld. One night, she accidently kills someone with her mind and a frantic chase ensues. Paige finds herself taken to the secret city of Oxford, where the Rephaim fight the Emim. The Bone Season has begun and Paige and other clairvoyants must train under the Rephaim to become ‘red jackets’. Paige struggles with this as the red jackets are fodder for the Emim and plans to try to free herself from the prison that Oxford (called Sheol I by the Rephaim) is.

The relationship between Paige and Warden, her Rephaite trainer and master, is incredible. Paige is very feisty and there are some wonderful sparring matches between the two. But as I learned more about Warden and Paige, I began to understand why they both acted the way they did. Warden became a hero in my heart, even though Paige doesn’t always think he does the right thing! The gradual trust between the pair is beautiful to read.

Shannon creates a wonderful series of politics between the Rephaim themselves and with the various humans separated into their ranks. It is interesting that despite this new ‘world’ being created in the locked city, the Rephaim have managed to transplant so many common human problems – the hierarchy of government, dissenters and a feeling of fear in the community. There’s also a cracking sense of adventure and action scenes as Paige fights, jumps and climbs her way out of many a scrape.

I really liked Paige – she’s gutsy with a touch of self-importance that occasionally comes with being in your late teens. She’s seen a fair few things in her time – from the Molly Day riots against Scion in England to her first encounter with a poltergeist. It’s interesting that her big secret is actually nothing unusual for a girl of that age! (I’m not going to give it away – but it does show that she has a heart under all those scars). She’s clever as well as wilful, but not infallible. I think Paige was one of the major reasons I liked this book.

One thing – I’m not sure if this is the usual with all new world fantasy books, but it took me a little while to understand some of the terms of speech. Some of it is based on 19th century London underworld slang, other terms are completely new. There is a glossary at the back which I did refer to quite frequently for the first few chapters. There’s quite a bit to get used to, but Paige is a patient teacher. Get through those and you’ll be rewarded a million times over.

I loved this book – it was amazingly original compared to everything else I’ve ever read. I really can’t wait for the second book in the series. Congratulations Samantha Shannon, you’ve created the best futuristic fantasy novel I’ve ever read.

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7 thoughts on “The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

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  1. God I feel like such a snob right now, but I have a hard time believing that anything is the “new Harry Potter.” But this actually does sound really good and I’m adding it to my TBR list right now! Great review!

    1. I understand where you’re coming from Kayla – everything else that was labelled ‘the new Harry Potter’ I just couldn’t get into, but IMHO The Bone Season is as close as I’m going to get to that!
      It is an awesome book, I hope you love it!

  2. This books is just everywhere right now, but I’m still super skeptical about her six figure deal and Harry Potter comparisons. I’ve seen other reviews where readers complained about being confused during the first parts, but I’ll chalk that up to worldbuilding and a young author. One of the things I loved most about HP was how I never felt lost in Harry’s world. New things and terminology were all over the place, yet I never felt overwhelmed.

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