t 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.
The Bone Season introduces a compelling heroine—a young woman learning to harness her powers in a world where everything has been taken from her. It also introduces an extraordinary young writer, with huge ambition and a teeming imagination. Samantha Shannon has created a bold new reality in this riveting debut
An open letter to Bloomsbury:
“The next Harry Potter” is a lot like fetch. It is not something you can make happen. It happens on its own. Harry Potter was a once-in-a-generation cultural event; something that has sunk so deep into our collective consciousness that the foreign ministers of China and Japan have accused each other of being like Voldemort. It was the right book at the right place at the right time.
It does not matter that this series is going to have seven books, or that it is already optioned.
It is not Harry Potter.
All you do by deeming this series “the next Harry Potter” is give those who dislike the book further ammunition to judge this book more harshly than it might deserve.
For let us be clear: this is not the next Harry Potter.
Harry Potter existed in a world that felt as real and as vibrant as our own, and explained so cleverly that we could easily believe in its existence. Shannon gave us a harried explanation for the set-up of our story and it kind of works, but it can also leave the reader scratching their head and going “huh.”
Harry Potter worked because it was ultimately a story of friendship and love. Harry did heroic things, not because he was the Boy Who Lived, but because his friends and adopted family were in danger. He literally gave his life to protect them. Paige’s motivations do not seem so altruistic. Or rather, I believe they were meant to be, but there is not enough build up to make these acts of friendship believable. And her life in the Syndicate – a life where she admits that the useful were well treated and the lower orders of “voyants” were discarded – wasn’t exactly one that would have nourished selfless deeds. Selfishness was necessary to survive.
Harry Potter worked because the writing itself was clean and simple enough for anyone, even a child of seven to understand and follow along. There is terminology unique to the world, but it is introduced slowly and always explained. No glossary was ever included, nor was it ever needed. The Bone Season has a ten page glossary. It is decidedly necessary There is an overwhelming amount of slang here. So much so that it is impossible to keep all of it straight – and I’m only talking of the terminology surrounding the clairvoyants (why does there need to be a term for vanilla humans? What’s wrong with just ‘human’?). The added weight of the street slang drags everything down. There is so much other stuff going on that it doesn’t add flavor, only more confusion. The nomenclature for the humans in the camp is equally over-complex. XX-59-1 is impossible to know how to pronounce and looks like a locker combination. If you’re like me, you’ll settle for understanding 90% of the references because you’ll quickly tire of consulting said glossary.
One area where The Bone Season is like Harry Potter is the unnecessary real-world overtones. Harry Potter had its parallels to Hitler’s Germany. The Bone Season has its parallels with its parallels of the troubles between England and Ireland. Just…why? It doesn’t ending up adding as much depth to Paige’s character or to the world as the author might think.
Am I being a bit hard on the book? Maybe a touch, but you ask the reader to compare it to one of the best book series of the 20th century and that is why you shouldn’t ask us to. Let us judge the book for its own merits and everyone would have been better off.
Verdict: Borrow It. Overly complex, but solid YA fantasy. If you can accept its limitations here, it’s not a bad read.