Book Review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

the bone season cover

★★★★★

I broke through the darkest part of his dreamscape, straining against the impossibly powerful barriers, aiming for the distant patch of light that was his sunlit zone, but it wasn’t as easy as it had been on the train. The centre of his dreamscape was so far away, and my spirit was already being driven out.

The Bone Season is a beautifully crafted dystopian novel set in near-future London.  When the “plague” of clairvoyance first arrived, London became Scion I – a secure world where clairvoyance (the ability to interact with the spirit plane) is outlawed.  Paige Mahoney is a special clairvoyant – a dreamwalker – who works in an underground criminal network of clairvoyants. That is, until she finds out what’s outside the city.

I found the beginning of the book quite intimidating.  To get to the first chapter, you must flick through a double-page spread explaining the seven orders of clairvoyance, then a double-page map.  And if you’re a book explorer like myself, you’ll find a nine page glossary at the back.  My shields instantly went up.  Indeed, you’re thrown into the thick of the world from page one.  However, as the novel progressed I rarely found myself flicking back and forth.  I checked the glossary twice, and the map and order of clairvoyance only a few more times and more out of curiosity than necessity.  This stands as a testament to Samantha Shannon’s skills in revealing details about this incredible world she has created.  I’ve read some reviews complaining about info dumping, but other than the first chapter, this was not as issue for me at all.

The protagonist, Paige, is a street-smart girl with a badass exterior.  She’s head-strong and sometimes stupidly courageous, but she’s also a kind and caring girl.  It’s an interesting combination that causes her to make some surprising decisions.  Paige isn’t fearless, as many characters in fantasy seem to be.  She can be scared of her situations, her feelings and she’s also scared for her friends.  However, what she fears most is her own powers, which adds another gripping level to the action.

The worlds of Scion I and Sheol I (a later setting in the book) are fascinating.  I had no trouble imaging how London had turned into this restricted society.  Perhaps the most interesting aspect of these worlds, especially Sheol I, is the logic behind the class structure.  It will make you question whether those slaves at the bottom are actually downtrodden, or if they’re better off since becoming slaves.  This novel had me thinking through the whole read, which books rarely do.

There is only one major flaw in the novel – poor editing.  It’s peculiar for a novel with this much hype, but  it seems as if Bloomsbury saved money on editing this first-time author’s novel.  There were no major errors – usually words switched (e.g. it is vs. is it) or sometimes there was dissonance between different movements of the characters (e.g. how did she do that if she was sitting over there?) – though it occasionally pulled me out of what was otherwise an absorbing story.

The Bone Season was an absolutely enthralling read.  I was pulled into not only the dystopian world but Paige’s mind.  It was a beautifully written novel with a well crafted story that I could barely put down.

Read more about The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon at Goodreads.

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