The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon Review 5/5

Overall Impression: A unique, immersive story with a smoldering romance. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

The Bone Season is a book I picked up cautiously. It was hyped like crazy a few years ago and I was unsure whether it would be my kind of thing. Not to mention the reviews seemed mixed! But when I found the pretty hardcover for a good deal, I caved. I was in the mood for something a little unique and different, and The Bone Season definitely seemed to fit that criteria. With the opportunity to meet the author Samantha Shannon just around the corner, I decided it was the perfect time to pick up this novel. I’m so glad I took a chance and ignored the scary, off-putting hype because this turned out to be one of the most gripping and intense books I’ve read this year!

The year is 2059. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of Scion London, based at Seven Dials, employed by a man named Jaxon Hall. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing. It is raining the day her life changes for ever. Attacked, drugged and kidnapped, Paige is transported to Oxford – a city kept secret for two hundred years, controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. Paige is assigned to Warden, a Rephaite with mysterious motives. He is her master. Her trainer. Her natural enemy. But if Paige wants to regain her freedom she must allow herself to be nurtured in this prison where she is meant to die.

I’ll be honest, The Bone Season and I didn’t exactly get along at first, and for a moment there I was really worried. I picked it up late at night when I was tired, only to be bombarded with a shit tonne of info dumping and complicated jargon. I read plenty of fantasy books so I’m used to this kind of thing, but Shannon throws out so many terms at once with barely any explanation as to what they mean, and then starts abbreviating them as well, arg! Even with a word glossary I was lost and confused, rereading passages up to five times trying to understand them until my brain ached and I gave up, falling asleep. I was worried I would have to DNF it before even getting one chapter in, but the next day I started it from the beginning again, not loving it, but making progress. At the 100 page mark, however, everything started to slot into place and became extremely compelling! Once you get used to the terms they are an asset, immersing the reader in a complex and sophisticated world. It soon became clear that Shannon was a competent writer with a flair for beautiful descriptions and intense action scenes with a side of dry British humour, and I found myself seeing many comparisons between Shannon and Trudi Canavan, one of my favourite authors!

The Bone Season is an incredibly tough book to describe or sum up in one paragraph because it’s so unique. It builds on everyday ideas such as ghosts, astral projection, dystopian words, corrupt governments, and then flips it into something that feels completely new and exciting. Basically, The Bone Season revolves around clairvoyants, people with the abilities to see, use, manipulate and interact with spirits in different ways depending on their level of abilities. These people are shunned as unnaturals by their government, Scion, forcing them to go underground and turn to crime syndicates to prevent themselves from being executed, or worse, vanishing. Our protagonist, Paige Mahoney is a high up member of one of these syndicates who makes one wrong move and finds herself captured. But instead of being killed she is held prisoner and turned into a slave by a whole other underground network, one that is not run by humans.

Shannon has created a world full of brutality, complex politics, mysterious beings and intriguing world building. Despite the slow start the novel quickly gains a good pace, increasing in intensity and drama as events unravel. I loved learning about all the different types of clairvoyant, as well as how the Scion government and non-human Rephaite’s underground world developed. I’m a total nerd for interesting worlds and creative mythology, so Shannon’s ideas were a whirlwind of awesome to my mind. All the events were also set around, in, or underneath London, with some scenes taking place in famous areas like Trafalgar Square which made the story seem all the more vivid and real. I couldn’t help but get excited every time somewhere I knew was mentioned!

Despite all its creativity, originality and beautiful writing, it was the characters and specifically, the interactions between Paige and her slave captor/mentor, Warden that really made this book for me. Paige is feisty, independent, resourceful and sometimes downright stubborn to the detriment of herself. She’s strong, but emotional making her an admirable yet relatable female protagonist. Despite living in a word where she is shunned, mistreated and knocked down, she is always determined to keep trying. Her captor, Warden is unemotional, mysterious, intimidating and dangerous and has total control over whether Paige lives or dies. Yet despite his power, he does not appear to misuse it as other Rephaite’s do making his intentions confusing. I loved watching the relationship between these two develop from pure hate and mistrust to a truce filled with resentment, and eventually, mutual respect and admiration. I felt like Warden practically smoldered off the page, and I loved the banter between the two, not to mention the steamy romantic tension!
The secondary characters were equally memorable and developed, innocent Seb, kind and loyal Nick, eccentric and egotistic mime-lord Jaxon, poor downtrodden Liss. I felt strong connections with all of them desperate to see how their struggles would pan out!

Overall, I was really blown away by this novel. I can see straight away that it won’t be for everyone, the descriptions bear on the long side, the terminology is confusing but if you can stick with it long enough you will be hugely rewarded with fast paced action, drama, intrigue and steamy romance! I recommend this book to those 15+ who love complex world building, beauty and the beast type power play romance, and enjoy reading about the supernatural and criminal underworlds!

Writing Style: 4/5
Originality: 5/5
Entertainment: 5/5
Character Development: 4/5
Would I recommend this book? Pos-i-tute-ly yes!

Overall: 5/5

18 thoughts on “The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon Review 5/5

  1. Sounds cool! Creating a new world and language is a tricky job…

    Have you ever read The Bartimeus Trilogy? It’s set in a London where power comes from the best djinn you can summon.

    • It was! The start could have definitely used some work to ease readers in better, but once you orientate yourself in the world it’s great. 🙂

      No, I haven’t, but I have the first two books on my shelves. It sounds awesome! The djinn thing sounds similar to aspects of how the spirit world works in The Bone Season, some spirits are more desirable (ones who had more violent lives/deaths and are therefore more powerful) and are sold in the underground criminal world to help do people’s bidding. So clever!

  2. Blown away – that’s exactly how I felt about this book, and the author is so friggin’ young to have developed such an incredibly intricate plot!! I have to say this rates very very high in my list of favourite books now, and I am so glad and relieved (since I kept pestering you to read it) that you loved it too. I can’t wait to here what you think of Samantha in person!!

    • Agreed! It sure makes you feel like you’ve been underachieving in life, am I right? LOL. It is so intricate and that’s what I loved about it. It must have taken so much time to develop.

      Hehe, I’m so glad I was able to love it as much as you did. Bring on YALC. 🙂

  3. This was honestly a fantastic review! This book is on my TBR list, and it’s great to see such a lovely review of it! I tend to enjoy books with lengthy descriptions and I love exploring no worlds so I think I can get past the new terminology just as you did.

    • Thanks so much, Josephine! I’m sure you will love this when you get to it, just prepare to be mind-bogglingly confused at the start. I’m exactly the same as you, I love books that take a decent amount of time to describe settings, it makes me feel like I’m really there. 🙂

  4. This was a really, really good review, and I have to say it’s made me really interested in the book. Smouldering romance will always be a guilty pleasure, and that combined with crazy-dense worldbuilding sounds absolutely incredible. I’ll definitely have to check this one out (add it to The Diviners, which I also intend to read… your blog is going to probably drag me unwillingly into YA at this point, haha).

    • Thank you, Maggie, high praise indeed from an awesome writer like you! Smouldering romance is great when it’s done well, as long as it doesn’t completely overwhelm the plot, and I don’t think that will happen with this series because there’s lots of other great stuff going on.

      This one isn’t actually YA! (Which may tempt you to read it even more.) Some people have classed it as YA on Goodreads but it’s really not. Adult fantasy all the way. 🙂

  5. I love Paige’s character so much. Even more so in the sequel, The Mime Season. I still don’t know what to think about the romance plot in these books though. It just doesn’t work for me. It feels awkward.

    • Me too! I found her a little hard to relate to at first because she came across quite cold, but loved how she developed as a character throughout. Awh man, I love the romance! Sorry to hear you found it awkward. That was one of my fave parts of the book. 🙂

  6. I have vaguely heard of this but I never really knew what it was about. It wouldn’t be my usual read but it’s the kind of thing that I’ve been desperate to get into!

    You’ve won me over. Added to wish-list. I do like a challenge 🙂

    • I think it was actually Lottie’s review of The Bone Season that convinced me to buy this one! If you’re looking to get into the fantasy genre I probably wouldn’t recommend starting with this one because the start is veryyyyy confusing and might put you off, but it is an amazing story and well worth putting on your wish list!

      YAY. 🙂

  7. I’ve been seeing this around and everyone’s raving about it! I do hope I don’t get overwhelmed by everything thats going on and all the big words because based on your review this book is very exciting and worth the read. Definitely added on my tbr! Your blog is really beautiful, btw ❤

    • The start definitely is a bit overwhelming and discombobulating, but it is worth sticking with it because suddenly it all clicks and becomes much easier to understand and develops into a truly amazing story! So happy to hear you will be adding it to your tbr and thank you so much for commenting and following my blog. 🙂 Happy reading!

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