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