Book Review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Posted August 15, 2013 by Kara in book review, Kara / 16 Comments

Book Review: The Bone Season by Samantha ShannonThe Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
Series: The Bone Season #1
Published by Bloomsbury on August 20th, 2013
Genres: science fiction, young adult
Pages: 466
Format: ARC
Source: Won
Buy on Amazon

It 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.

I’m just going to start off by saying how impressed I was with The Bone Season. It’s not every day I come across a book that blows me away in the world-building department. I am notoriously hard to please when it comes to settings and research, so when I give an author props for world-building, I mean it more than anything. The details here are fantastic–the magic system, the cities, the government, the different species–it’s pretty mind blowing. And the best part is that it never feels heavy and overwritten. When it comes to details, it’s easy to go overboard with the exposition and descriptions, but I never felt that way. It’s why some readers complained about Stormdancer. And they might not like The Bone Season for similar reasons, but to me it never felt heavy handed. The only thing I wish is that there had been more excitement in the first chapter. I didn’t like it at all. Books are supposed to start off with a bang and this one just fizzled into action. The first chapter is loaded with infodumping, and I understand why some readers are hesitant to continue. But I hope if you are one of those people, you decide to, because once you get past the first twenty pages, you are in for a treat.

I often criticize books for unlikable characters. For me, the perfect characters are the flawed ones. The ones that feel real. You want them to be characters that readers resonate with, but you know they have to be real people as well, and that means they have to screw up and make mistakes. They have to have a true character arc and learn something and grow with the story. Once again, I feel that this was accomplished in The Bone Season. At least with the two main characters, Paige and Warden. Warden grows a lot. I can’t imagine any reader liking him in the beginning, and you are not supposed to. But by the end he just did something to my emotions in a really powerful way. Paige, on the other hand, was at times infuriating. She wasn’t a weak protagonist–on the contrary–she opened her mouth a few times when I felt she shouldn’t have. She managed to get herself into trouble without thinking and planning first. She had to be rescued (I HATE heroines who have to be rescued). And yet I still liked her. She was loyal, determined (to her detriment), and a supportive friend. I had issues with the side characters though. They needed more development. It’s hard because the book was pretty long already, but I wanted more development with the syndicate characters. I wanted more from the other unnaturals and the Rephaim. I wanted more Jax and Nick. There are just SO many characters with small roles. If you have memory issues and you don’t read and finish this in a few days, you are going to have problems. I wish I had taken notes. 

I believe the entire story is supposed to be spread out into seven novels. That’s a lot of story. My only worry is that there is not enough material to make that many books worth it. The Bone Season has an incredibly engaging plot. And to me it never felt excessively long or drawn out. I love fantasy novels, and it has been some time since I read one that engaged me the way this one did. The magic system was pretty awesome and Paige’s talent, dream walking, was super exciting. I guess to some this book may have been boring, but I loved it. 

I don’t do plot summaries in my reviews, but I don’t think a review of this novel is complete without a little idea of what this book is about. So with that…there is a ruling government called the Scion who is in control of all London. They’ve outlawed magic, and anyone that has a magic talent is arrested, and most likely put to death. Or so they think. In reality, most of them are sent to a penal colony developed in the city of Oxford where they are forced to work for a species called the Rephaim. There is no escape. While Paige is there, she uncovers more mysteries and things about her world she could never have imagined. 

So, if you are into strong world-building, if you like a very vivid novel with YA crossover appeal but adult themes, if details are important to you, I think you will probably enjoy The Bone Season. I can understand easily why the film rights to this book have been sold already; it would make a great film. I hope it’s big. I hope it sells, and I hope a lot of people get their hands on this one. It is well worth the time investment.


16 responses to “Book Review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

  1. I agree completely, Kara – I loved this world and especially the characters. Paige really wormed her way into my heart and I was so impressed by the steady arc of Warden’s character. I loved the growth! Fantastic review, dear!(:

  2. I definitely agree about the world building. It was absolutely fantabulously amazing! I have to admit I did feel a bit overwhelmed at the start, but because Shannon keeps repeating certain necessary details, I caught up fairly quickly. I really loved Warden as well! He was such an intriguing and multifaceted character.
    Great review Kara!

    • It really was, wasn’t it? The author will be doing a guest post here about the world building sometime in September and I can’t wait! It was overwhelming at the start because I didn’t much care for the beginning of the book but I am super glad I stuck it out!

  3. I’m glad you enjoyed this, Kara. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve got a review copy and need to get to it soon! Based on your review, I can’t wait. This author is only like twenty years old or something ridiculous, so I’m extra curious to see how she writes.

  4. I really wanted to like this one but I was so put off by the first few pages that now I can’t bring myself to continue. I think once that feeling wears off and I forget my first impression, I will try again. Great review, Kara. I’m excited about the world-building especially, because with all that lingo and jargon, I know it’s going to be well realized.

    • I hope you do, Bekka. I get why you put it down and I think under normal circumstances, I would have as well. But since I like this author so much as a person, I read further than I would have and I am glad I did because it turned out fabulously for me! And yes, the characters AND world building are awesome in this one.

  5. It’s hard to get into a book if the first chapter will lull me to sleep. As for the world building, I think this is why I am not a huge fan of fantasy novels. My brain can’t handle it. I haven’t read one that have left me in awe.

    Great review, Kara. Only you can tempt a non-fantasy reader. 🙂

  6. Amy

    This sounds awesome, and I love that the world building is done really well. I have been wanting to read this one since I heard about it. I am glad that you enjoyed! Fantastic review!!

  7. Winning world-building is SO important so yeah I’m pretty happy that you were impressed by it 😀 I also like a good balance of details, enough to know what’s going on and to be able to imagine everything fully but not too much that the plot gets bogged down in the details and as a reader you drown in details till you just don’t flippin’ care anymore! I’m glad you mentioned that while the first chapter has a bit of info-dumping it eased off from there into a very satisfying read! Awesome review!

    • Me too! And I thought it was awesome and really vividly imagined. And yes, well balanced writing is incredibly important to me. Thank you, Micheline. I love your comments. They are always so thoughtful!

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