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Friday, February 14, 2014

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Book Review: The Bone Season

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon may be one of those series that sweep the nation and beyond. Published earlier this year, the first installment of her possible seven book series was at the top of several best fantasies of the year and it's movie rites have already been optioned. It could be really big.
Or it could not. 

After giving The Bone Season a shot, I found it....intriguing. Not bad, not great, but definitely unique enough for me to anticipate a sequel before I make a final judgement.
The story takes place in futuristic London, in an alternate history of the world where some humans have developed clairvoyance. These clairvoyants whether they read cards, cast bones, control spirits, or can detach their spirit from their body, are hunted. The government views them as the enemy and is on the offensive to capture, torture, and kill them. Their main targets are the crime syndicates that run the underground. Our main character, Paige Mahoney works for one of these syndicates as a dreamwalker, someone who can move her spirit beyond her body. She's good at her job, until she's caught.
She is taken to Oxford, a city that, as far as the world knew, had been wiped off the map. Once there, Paige doesn't find angry government officials but an entire new race of inter-dimensional beings called the Rephaim. The Rephaim use clairvoyants as slaves either to entertain them or keep the evil beasts (also from another dimension) at bay.
Paige is taken in by The Warden, a strange and beautiful Rephaim who trains her to develop her dreamwalking abilities. She hates him, but is also drawn to him, sensing that there may be more to him than meets the eye. Paige must uncover the secrets of a world she didn't know she lived in and fight creatures she didn't know existed in order to save humanity.

I'll give it one thing, it's definitely unique. As far as the premise goes, I haven't read anything like it. I've never read anything that delves quite so deeply into all the types of clairvoyance that is said to exist in our world, and I haven't seen anything quite like the Rephaim with their super-beautiful human-like forms. But after that, there's nothing very unique about it.
The Bone Season isn't advertised as Young Adult, I guess because they drop the f-bomb maybe three times, but never once was I fooled. This is a YA book that follows YA formula to a tee.
You've got the dystopian future with a mix of paranormal, your gifted teenage girl, and your gorgeous infuriating guy (ok Rephaim - but they look human). They train, they fight, they run, they fight some more, they make-out, cliff-hanger for next book. I felt as if we were playing a little bit of YA madlibs and just filling in the YA formula blanks. I've read it before.

In addition to being a little run-of-the-mill, I also found it a little difficult to get into. Shannon's world of psychic abilities is so in depth that I had trouble figuring out what was going on at first. She would describe someone who practices cartomancy or ornithomancy and then just keeps going as if the reader was supposed to know what those things are. For your information, they are the practice of reading cards and the practice of reading omens in birds and bird songs respectively, but how was I supposed to know that?! Shannon writes so matter-o-factly about it without explanation that I began to think that maybe I hadn't picked up the first book in the series. I had to double check to make sure I wasn't reading a second or third book. I wasn't, and she does eventually explain some of the abilities she introduces, but far too late in the book in my opinion.

But despite all of the things I didn't particularly care for, I did enjoy reading the book. As I mentioned before, the setting and premise are very unique so I enjoyed that. And despite being a little cookie-cutter YA, it wasn't angsty, which is my least favorite side-affect of the Young Adult genre. And the romance aspect wasn't the main focus of the narrative, so that's a plus.

Now having been introduced to the world Shannon has created, I'm looking forward to seeing what the next book may have in store. Without all of the set-up to get out of the way that most first books in long series have, we can really get down to the meat of what Shannon wants to show us. So I'm withholding judgement on the series as a whole for now. Although at times a little frustrating, it was a fun book to devour on a lazy day, and perhaps the rest of the series will only get better. We will have to wait and see.

Have you read The Bone Season? What did you think? Will you read the sequel?

Title: The Bone Season

Author: Samantha Shannon

Genre: YA Fantasy

Recommendation: On hold for sequel

Best Reader Audience: Female readers at YA reading level

Final Rating: Three out of Five mugs of hot chocolate 
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