16 September 2013

Review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

The Bone Season by Samantha ShannonThe much-hyped The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon is a difficult book to summarize because there is so much going on in this first entry in a projected seven-book series. Shannon must tell us about 2059 alternate-history England; make us familiar with a new vocabulary (amaurotics, Shoels); introduce us to a large cast of characters of different species (races? variant beings?); and then set up the premise, conflicts, and mysteries that will hold our attention over the next few years.

Our hero, nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney, is living a secret life. She's a voyant (i.e., clairvoyant), and in her UK, that's a bad, bad thing. Scion rulers arrest or kill her kind, but Paige can't help who she is. Although her family thinks she's a waitress in an oxygen bar, she really works for the Seven Seals, a voyant group whose members use their powers in London's criminal underworld. When voyants are picked up by the authorities, they disappear forever.

When Paige is finally detected and arrested, she learns there are worse things than death. Voyants aren't executed; they are sent to the lost city of Oxford to serve the Rephaim--ancient beings who prey on voyants for their very existence. Every ten years, the Rephs gather new victims; the reaping time is called the bone season.

The bulk of the book is about what happens to Paige once she is taken to Oxford. The biggest plot points revolve around whether Paige will be able to escape the city and determining the true nature of her Reph keeper, who is known as the Warden. At the same time, flashbacks fill us in on the alternate history and the characters' backgrounds; contemporary passages tell us the rules of this strange world.

Shannon's The Bone Season is a mix of genres that bake up to something new yet familiar. You'll definitely be thinking Hunger Games when learning about the bone seasons; perhaps you'll be reminded of Harry Potter because Paige's world is divided by those who have psychic powers and those who don't. There is definitely a dystopian feel to the book as well as elements of urban fantasy.

On the other hand, the many different kinds of psychics and their reliance on reaching out to the aether is fresh. As are the Rephaim and Emim beings. In fact, from describing the city streets to setting up the rules of survival, Shannon does a great job with world-building, albeit with quite a bit of telling, not showing. The world is complicated enough that (so I understand) the book contains a glossary of new terms and a list of the types of beings.

This first in series is an ambitious novel that covers quite a bit of ground. The Bone Season, however, promises much action and intriguing personal interactions ahead. If you can forgive some bumpy debut / start-of-new-series issues, I think you'll like joining Samantha Shannon for an exciting and extended visit to Paige Mahoney's futuristic London.

I listened to the unabridged audiobook edition (Audible for Bloomsbury; 14 hr, 57 min) read by Alana Kerr, who did a fine job with accents, emotion, and characterizations. Her voice is sometimes  breathy, but I like the quality of her subtle Irish lilt for Paige and her ability to pull me into the story. While I was listening, I was unaware that the novel included addenda, but I didn't miss them.

Bloomsbury USA,, 2013
ISBN-13: 9781620401392
Source: Bought (audio) (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).


grammajudyb 9/16/13, 8:58 AM  

That sounds really intense. I am not sure if I could finish it. Intense stories give me weird dreams lately, not nightmares just really strange!

rhapsodyinbooks 9/16/13, 9:24 AM  

I tried reading this and there was a little too much world building stuff for me to keep straight. Then I figured I would have to reread it anyway when the next ones came out, so I decided to defer it!

Col (Col Reads) 9/16/13, 9:30 AM  

This sounds like something to tide the world over while they're waiting for the next installment in the Game of Thrones :) I'm not one for dystopian novels, but this does sound more interesting than the average.

Daryl 9/16/13, 9:51 AM  

i am adding this to the list

did you say you added the subscribe by email gadget? i dont see it ...

Sandy Nawrot 9/16/13, 10:49 AM  

There is a local lady down here that used to write book reviews for our paper and reads like a million books a year...and she told me this was an amazing book. When she said that, I looked it up and honestly it just doesn't sound like a book I would like but...who knows? I can be convinced.

bermudaonion 9/16/13, 10:52 AM  

I have a feeling this book will be huge but I don't think it's for me.

Andi 9/16/13, 10:54 AM  

OMG, I don't know if I can commit to a 7-book series. lol

Nise' 9/16/13, 12:53 PM  

I have been reading some great reviews for this book. Had it home from the library, but alas it has to go back. Do I want to wait until a couple of books are out? Time will tell.

Anonymous,  9/16/13, 4:34 PM  

This is the most concise review I've read of this book. Great job. Still like Kathy/BermudaOnion I don't think it's for me. Have to say I'll be happy when dystopian books run their course. Do other YA lovers feel the same way?

Michele 9/17/13, 11:18 AM  

I am on the fence here. You know I love dystopia. I love a series. So why the fence? Not sure. I think your review of the audiobook tips me in favor of going for it. I will do a library hold and with the number of holds, I might get it in time for the next release, lol.

Tina 9/17/13, 4:10 PM  

I just added this one to my Kindle library list. Hopefully I will get it soon.

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity 9/18/13, 3:38 PM  

Seven book series?? I think I'll have to wait until some of the others are already out. I like the sound of this one but have promised myself I would read Outlander this year (and presumably) the subsequent books in the next year or so.

Julie P. 9/21/13, 8:45 AM  

I feel like I should read this one because it has been getting so much hype. Not sure if it's for me though....

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