Just Finished Reading … The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

The Bone Season
by Samantha Shannon
To be published by Bloomsbury
on August 20, 2013

Source: ARC giveaway at BEA

Connect with the author: blog | Twitter | Facebook.

Note: Since my reviews are almost exclusively YA, I should point out that this is an adult book, though I think most YA readers would definitely enjoy it!
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.
My take: Wildly imaginative, with a sprawling scope, a complex story world, and a huge cast of characters, The Bone Season is not the book to pick up if you're in the mood for a quick and easy read.  The story commences in London in the year 2059, and blends fantasy, alt history and paranormal elements.  An 1901 epidemic of clairvoyance has divided the population into Voyant (those with paranormal abilities) or Amaurotic (those with no abilities.)  But using one's clairvoyant abilities is prohibited, and main character Paige Mahoney is among a group of Voyants who secretly work for a mime lord named Jaxon.

Just as I was trying to absorb all this, Paige is captured and thrust into a completely different environment, a brutal penal colony where Voyants are forced into servitude by a race called the Rephaim. Each of the Voyants is claimed by a master, and Paige is spoken for by Arcturus, Warden of Mesarthm, the male consort of the female sovereign.

Though I was blown away by the creativity of the book's story world, I found that being plunged into not one, but two different and complex settings in the opening of the story was a lot to handle. A huge amount of information needed to be conveyed in the first third of the book. There is a taxonomy of Voyants in the front and a glossary of terminology and slang in the back, though I didn't find the latter until I'd finished reading.

For about 200 pages, I felt a little anxious about absorbing everything, which might explain the fact that I didn't feel fully connected with the main character, Paige, until the last section of the book. On the plus side, once things got going and I could relax and enjoy the story more, and once I got to see Paige's special Voyant talent in action, there were some memorable and well-written scenes that really captured my imagination. I also loved the way that the story world married the futuristic with the anachronistic -- the glossary explains that the slang used by Paige and her cohorts in London is based on real slang used by nineteenth century British criminals.

Samantha Shannon is definitely a writer to watch. I can't promise I'll read six more books, but I'll definitely check out the next installment!

Note: I lent The Bone Season to Teen Snark, my teen reviewer, who also liked it but had a slightly different take. Here's our conversation about the book:

Jen: So…. how was The Bone Season?

TS: I liked it. What I didn't like was that you had to pick up all these little bits of information along the way.

Jen: I had the same problem. And you know how bad my memory is.

TS: I wish they had added that book they kept mentioning -- On The Merits of Unnaturalness -- as an appendix. And why don't we get much explanation of the Rephaim? Do the Emim exist outside of Sheol? I had a lot of questions.

Jen:  True. The taxonomy of Voyants at the beginning was helpful. And the glossary, which I didn't find until the end.

TS: Did you notice that the Rephaim were named after stars?

Jen: Stars in the sky?

TS:  Uh, yeah. Arcturus, Gomeisa, Pleione...

Jen:  I didn't know those were stars. What did you think of Paige?

TS: *shrugs* She was okay.

Jen: I agree. It took me a while to warm up to her. What did you think of the romance?

TS: It was a little forced.

Jen: Do you mean forced like coerced or forced like the book didn't need romance?

TS: The latter. I wanted more about the world and less about the characters.

Jen: See, I thought the characters got a little overshadowed by the world. But the book did have some really amazing scenes that will stick with me, like the scenes of her in the forest, the ones when she was dream walking, and the fight scenes. Those were really great. Will you read the next book?

TS: Yeah.

Jen: Me too.


  1. I've been interested in this book because of the buzz and HP comparisons but I'm not personally really at a place to take on such a massive undertaking of a book. It may have to wait for my winter vacation when I'll have more time to give it.

    1. I'm not sure about the HP comparisons. I guess both authors are British, very imaginative, and wrote seven book series that were or will be published by Bloomsbury?

      As for you -- uh, you read War and Peace so you can definitely handle this….

  2. I snagged this at BEA, but haven't picked it up yet. I've heard really goods things about it and I definitely want to move it up on tbr list! It definitely sounds like one of those books that you have to be in the right mood for-- I'll keep that in mind!

  3. This sounds like a book that I would like. Although, I do feel like the year should have been more in the future. When I've seen these novels that are 20?? I just think that they should be further in the future. I love your teen review additions every time. :)

    Tressa @ Tressa's Wishful Endings

  4. Haha, I too didn't find the glossary until too late. I wish I'd thought to look at the back while trying to digest the first third of the book with the complex world-building.

    "I can't promise I'll read six more books, but I'll definitely check out the next installment!" <-- Me too. Especially since they'll come out over the course of ten years.

    "I wish they had added that book they kept mentioning -- On The Merits of Unnaturalness -- as an appendix." <-- I thought was the thing in the very beginning of the book, with the chart of all the different types of clairvoyants.

    "And why don't we get much explanation of the Rephaim? Do the Emim exist outside of Sheol? I had a lot of questions." <-- I'm assuming those are supposed to be addressed in the other six books (especially since it's hard imagining what will take place between these two races that needs that many pages. At least so far. But it is captivating nonetheless).

    "See, I thought the characters got a little overshadowed by the world." <-- I'm with you too, Jen. I have seen some other reviewers mention that they thought the romance was unnecessary, but it did add to the character development and overall tension in the plot so I was it was good for the story.

  5. I LOVE your teen reviewer. Just saying! I'm really glad I read your review though. I'm deciding tonight about starting Bone Season or Crown of Midnight and I think I'm going to go with Crown of Midnight.

  6. I really enjoyed this one, there was quite a bit of info dumping- but that aside, this one was magnficent.

    Lovely review, Jen! <33

  7. YAY for this double review! Thank you Teen Snark for indulging us again. Your thoughts are always amusing and informative. After seeing some negative reviews of this one, I've started seeing some really positive reactions from my trusted reviewers. Glad that you enjoyed this overall, despite the complicated world building. I think knowing that about this book will help me tackle it better. I'm still hesitant to start a 7 book series so early in the game, but as I got a copy from BEA too, I want to find out for myself whether this is one worth my time investment.

    1. Also, I'm pretty nervous that the romance features a Warden whose already the consort of the sovereign. That sounds like lots of relationship drama to come. With long series, I prefer when romances stay far more subtle and under the surface.

  8. I'm reading this next so I skimmed the review (I'll be back) but I did read TS's comments because I just love him so--happy to see that it worked for him overall:)

    1. THIS BOOK! Yeah, you weren't kidding about massive world-building, bordering on info-dumping, and having LOADS of questions afterwards! I liked the book a lot--I'm confused about a lot of stuff too--but I see the potential. I think (hope) that as the first in a series it's laying groundwork but the next installment won't have SO much groundwork to cover, you know? I'm pretty full to overflowing at this point! And there are some characters I am VERY curious to learn more about (Jax, Zeke, Gomeisa, DAVID.)

      Btw: Thank you Teen Snark, for letting us know that the Reph's are named after stars because that was a question I had as I was reading!

  9. Sounds like a lot is going on in this one! I like books that take place in the future and have alternate past histories. Especially when it involves paranormal elements. But it does sound like a lot to handle so I may end up getting lost and moody.

  10. I only read the interview with Teen Snark because I'm starting this one on audio today and am trying to avoid any and all hype. I just want to love this because of its own merits. :) But you guys have me going in with much milder expectations than before, so I think I'm good. :D


Post a Comment

Thanks so much for stopping by. I hope you will share your thoughts on this post!