Monday, November 4, 2013

Book Review: "The Bone Season"

"The Bone Season" by Samantha Shannon
First published in 2013
463 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5
(image source)

Science fiction and fantasy aren't among the genres that I read most often and I wasn't sure what to expect with university student Samantha Shannon's much-hyped debut novel, "The Bone Season," which came out in August. What I got was thoroughly engrossing and transporting alternate reality set not that far into the future. And after I learned the jargon of this new world I felt right at home. (Though it would have been nice to know from the outset that there's a glossary at the back!)

It's 2059 and for two centuries much of the world has been waging war against "unnaturalness," or clairvoyance. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is a rare kind of clairvoyant, a dreamwalker, and her gift has gained her the safety of the London syndicate, an organized group of clairvoyants who use their power for criminal purposes and financial gain. Though Paige doesn't necessarily like being under the thumb of her mime-lord, she's happy to be in a place where she's protected and can be herself.

But all that changes when she's captured by guards and taken to a secret prison in what used to be Oxford, run by a race of immortal humanoids know as Rephaim who make the clairvoyants their slaves. Nashira, the Rephaim in charge, takes an interest in Paige's unique gift and Paige is selected for training by Nashira's fiance, Arcturus. But Arcturus is not quite what he seems, nor -- it turns out -- is the government's longtime quest to quell clairvoyance.

Shannon really succeeded in weaving an absorbing tale of a futuristic world gone wrong, otherwordly creatures, and the ability to commune with the dead. Certainly this book would appeal to fans of science fiction and paranormal literature, but readers who like dystopias such as "Divergent" and "The Hunger Games" should enjoy it too. Just as in those novels, Paige finds out that the tyrannical government has been spewing lies about how and why things came to be; she turns out to be a bit of a badass just like Katniss and Tris; and she will do anything to help her friends. Oh, and there's a hint of romance, too.

One of the few things I didn't like about the novel was the lack of clarity on the passage of time. I'd start a new chapter thinking a day or a week had gone by and later realize that months had passed. But "The Bone Season" is Shannon's first published novel -- and the first in a planned series of seven books -- and I'm sure her writing will improve and mature with each new addition to Paige's saga.

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