The Bone Season (The Bone Season #1) by Samantha Shannon (2013)
YA/NA Fiction | Fantasy/Paranormal | Dystopia
“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.”
pooled ink Review:
I have heard…a wide variety of opinions with regards to this book and to this series. Definitely comment and share your own thoughts because I’d love to discuss this book with you! But here’s what my thoughts are:
I love the covers (both editions) and I was really intrigued by the story concept. This book has been waiting on my TBR list for a long while until I finally just went for it and bought a copy. And then it waited some more. But a friend of mine came up to me dying to know if I’d read these books because she’d devoured them from the library and was desperate for the rest of the series to be out. As I hadn’t read even the first book yet I couldn’t ease her suffering by discussing them. However I did resolve to start it when I got home. And I did. And I’m pleasantly surprised.
It takes place in an alternate version of London that diverges from our own history in 1859 to where this book begins in 2059. In this world clairvoyants are everywhere but they are despised. The Crown has crumbled and instead England is ruled by a new government called Scion. Paige thought she understood her new life with Jax and the Seven Seals, but she didn’t know there were darker secrets tucked behind everything she’d accepted, secrets far more ancient and malevolent and waiting to drain her powers dry. I’d say this book is an interesting mix of fantasy/paranormal and sci-fi/dystopia.
Yes, this book moves at a steady, and rather slow, pace. The beginning definitely contains a lot of info-dumping that had me questioning my friend’s sanity. But like I said, the idea was interesting and so I kept reading. (I’d suggest having a few dedicated hours available to begin this book just so you have time to get to the good stuff 😉 )
If you hold out for the first 50 pages or so then you’ll have survived the majority of the info-dumps and have a grasp on the world and what’s going on. And then if you make it past the 100-page mark you’ll have a much better idea if this is a book you’re gonna love or dislike. By this point in the book I knew I’d come to a point in the story where it was only going to get better and more intense and I wanted to be there for it. But really it was the tense relationship between Warden and Paige that hooked me for good.
The world-building was great, the characters were interesting, the plot was intense, and the relationships were complicated. By 50 pages my interest was peaked, by 100 pages my heart was starting to sway, and when I read that final page, shut the book, and sat there mulling over the story I had just read…yeah, that’s when I finally realized it had somehow sunk its claws into me. There’s a lot to love about this book and its concepts, but for me personally it’s Warden and Paige that’s driving me to seek out the sequel.
Yes, in my opinion this book was undoubtedly slow for the most part. But that does not mean it was boring or devoid of action. On the contrary! You’d better have an appetite for blood, squalor, desperate people in desperate situations, and a world where trust is a luxury one cannot afford even between familiars. This book was much more dark and gritty than I’d expected, but I happen to like those characteristics in my fantasy book choices.
Now onto the second complaint I’ve heard a lot from people: the lingo. I’ve skimmed across many reviews complaining that the unique lingo was too confusing and difficult to grasp and simply made reading this book too dull and painful to endure. If that’s you then I’m sorry, because I hate when books sabotage themselves by going too far with trying to be unique. However I personally didn’t think the lingo was very hard to decipher at all. I was quick to pick up terms repeated often, and float past those I couldn’t define individually but could interpret within context.
Sure, every once in a while I’d forget what kind of powers a particular voyant had (some had really long names that I just sort of ignored) but it didn’t affect the story for me and if I felt curious enough I’d just flip to the back of the book where there is an extensive glossary. Overall though I felt Shannon wrote in a way that used the technical terms while simultaneously telling you what they meant.
Back to my favorite part of this book: Warden and Paige. The Master-Slave relationship between them is similar to that found in A Court of Thorns and Roses, The 5th Wave, or Under the Never Sky (just to name a few). It’s a relationship where two people are thrown together, largely by circumstances, and they are clear enemies (human versus non-human) but they must find a way to trust each other if either is ever to achieve their goals.
And let me tell you, there is no sudden alliance or easy trust between Warden and Paige. None. It takes nearly three-quarters of the book for them to even say the words out loud, finally share their secrets, and agree to work together. Up until then it’s more of a “minimal alliance” for convenience and survival. Paige often regrets her decision to save Warden that first night. There is no insta-love or even insta-allies between them. The world is a dark and cruel place that is anything but straightforwards and neither of them is quick to forget that, no matter how much they’d like to nor how convenient it might be to at times.
I’ve got fire in me but I’m definitely not as defiant as Paige. While she kept raging, hell-bent on escape, I think I’d be too curious to solve the mysteries of Warden’s secrets to keep blindly attempting to run every five minutes. I’d probably prefer to learn more about the enemy, their abilities, histories, and motives. Knowledge might be deadly, but it is also power. Okay and also I just had a sixth sense that told me Warden wasn’t as evil as he ought to be so I sort of kept reading and waiting for Paige to calm down and figure that out too haha 🙂
Overall this book moves at a rather slow and steady pace, but it is very interesting. I didn’t feel like I was struggling to catch my breath trying to keep up with a racing plot, but I never felt bored either. I was too curious to stop. My mind kept wandering back to the story and its characters pondering what’s happened and why and what might yet come. I’m definitely keeping an eye out for the sequel. This is a seven-book series however and I’m very hesitant to commit to longer book series, but I think the second book will tell me whether or not this is a series I’ll be obsessed with!
The Bone Season is a complicated fusion of genre and characters. Built within a detailed but horrifying world full of magic, spirits, human slaves, invading masters, and government conspiracies, brace yourself for a story steeped in defiance, blood, and undying hope. Its slow and steady pace will slip into your soul unawares holding you captive until the end.
P.S. I’ve heard this book be compared to the Harry Potter series but I honestly do not see any strong similarities besides their both being seven-book series and their both having London settings. Instead I’d say it’s a bit more like a combination of Six of Crows, City of Bones, The Darkest Minds, The 5th Wave, and Gilded Cage.
Six of Crows because of Paige’s ties to the clairvoyant crime syndicate with the Seven Seals.
City of Bones because of Paige’s awakening to her powers and being swept into a group of others like her (plus she has red hair like the MC in City of Bones)
Darkest Minds because the government is doing everything they can to capture those with powers and either execute them or imprison/manipulate them.
5th Wave because the Rephs have invaded but are very secretive and clever (and cruel) about their occupation of earth.
Gilded Cage because of there being a group of powerful magical rulers and a system of human slavery.
So basically if you’re thinking of going into this series expecting Harry Potter 2.0 then just go ahead and toss those expectations out the window and just enjoy what Shannon has created.
Purchase here: The Bone Season
Similar recommended reads: Gilded Cage by Vic James, The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken, The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, Scythe by Neal Shusterman, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, The Host by Stephenie Meyer, Nevernight by Jay Kristoff, A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Meet Samantha Shannon!
Samantha Shannon was born and raised in West London. She started writing in abundance when she was twelve, started her first novel when she was fifteen, and studied English Language and Literature at St Anne’s College, Oxford, from 2010 – 2013, graduating with a 2:1.
In 2013, she published The Bone Season, the internationally bestselling first installment in a seven-book series of fantasy novels. Its first sequel, The Mime Order, was published in 2015, and she’s currently editing the third book in the series, The Song Rising. She is also working on a high fantasy novel. Film rights to the Bone Season are held by the Imaginarium Studios, Chernin Entertainment and 20th Century Fox.