The Bone Season probably wouldn’t exist without The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and Twilight. And the movie Inception. Their DNA threads throughout Samantha Shannon’s debut novel. At 20, she scored a six-figure, three-book deal after spending time working at a publishing house, familiarizing herself with the book industry in order to better position herself for a writing career. And while her first book in a planned series of seven is derivative of its predecessors in some ways, it does manage to distinguish itself and introduce a world that has unique qualities.
A supernatural dystopian novel, The Bone Season is set in the year 2059. The world, which seems to have taken an alternate timeline to our own, is populated by regular folks and clairvoyants or voyants. The later are feared by general society, and are forced to hide in plain sight or risk being captured and executed by the ruling government, Scion. The central character of the novel is Paige, a 19-year-old voyant known as a dreamwalker, someone who can travel into other people’s dreamscapes. She’s a rare type of clairvoyant and she puts her skills to use within London’s underground supernatural criminal network, performing surveillance and stealing information from people’s minds. One night, everything changes when she is captured and transported to Oxford, a city that has been kept secret for 200 years after a group of other-worldly beings called the Rephaim invaded and took over. Paige is kept captive in Oxford by one of the most powerful Rephites, Warden, the blood-consort of the female ruler. He’s got mysterious motives, and because the book targets the Twilight crowd, Paige’s relationship with her captor as he trains her and helps her develop her clairvoyance, may or may not evolve into something more.
The book is an engaging read. It’s easy to get caught up in Paige’s story as she challenges her captors and plots with some surprising allies to escape Oxford. I really liked the structure of “the Seven Orders of Clairvoyance” and a helpful chart at the beginning of the book describes the types of voyants and what they can do. There is this whole aspect where voyants, as well as the Rephaim, use ghosts to fight other voyants, which is just cool. And the whole concept of dreamscapes – this multilevel “space” connected to the aether (the metaphysical world beyond this one) that we all have within us – is pretty neat.
On the other hand, the style of writing is pretty simplistic. Everything is told from Paige’s point of view, and I wish there was a little more character development to support why she chooses to act the way she does. Because it’s the first novel of a series, there are many things left unlearned, and secondary characters are under-developed. Some of the plotting is formulaic as sometimes things seem to happen for no other reason than to advance the plot. The book also spends a lot of time with Paige’s training and the story seems to end just as its picking up steam. But- it left me wanting more. I’d definitely pick up the next volume.
My friend Jenette lent me the book after I told her to buy it because she’d probably like it. I asked her what she thought and I have to share some of her commentary, because it’s insightful and it made me laugh:
“I thought the book was original as well until I realized that the alien creatures were just like vampires (they feed off of you, they are taller than us, the Gothic feel was vampire, they are mysterious and strong and possessive, etc.) Once I’d classified it in the teenager vampire genre, I felt a little less friendly toward the book which is funny cause I wrote a teenage vampire novel….I did like the main character’s personality, though I thought she should learn how to keep her feelings in a bit better instead of shouting at everyone all the time. If she really has as little self-control as it seems, she should be long dead. But that made the book a little more interesting. I felt like the Warden guy touched her face too much… they always do that in books… he turned my face toward him, he tilted up my chin so I was staring into his eyes, etc… can you think how awkward it would be to actually touch someone’s face?”
Visit www.boneseasonbooks.com for more info.
And of course, there is a film adaptation coming soon…