Title: The Bone Season
Series: The Bone Season (#1)
Author: Samantha Shannon
Genre: sci-fi, dystopian, fantasy
In short: if there was ever a book that could be described as a hot mess, it’s this one. Except it’s not hot.
Goodreads: 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.
I DNFed this book at 43%. Looking back, I’m genuinely surprised I even got this far. The Bone Season follows nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney in alternate-universe London, where clairvoyants are criminals and risk death just by existing. Paige is more privileged than others because of her father’s role as a scientist working for the Scion, but in true rich-white-girl fashion, she decides that she wants something moooooore from her life and secretly starts to work on the streets using her voyant powers. Paige slips up, though, and she’s caught by Scion and sent to the ruins of Oxford to compete in the Bone Season XX (which is supposed to be Roman numerals, so that’s twenty—why on earth can’t you just say ‘twenty’? Or ’20’? Am I supposed to say twenty in my head, or just xx? What?!), which is a series of trials and tests held by…humanoid creatures from another dimension, called the Rephaim. The Bone Seasons are basically Who Gets to Be The Rephaites’ Next Monkey To Help Kill Creepy Monsters That Will Surely Bring The Apocalypse Upon Us.
I was lucky enough to have never heard of The Bone Season until the day I saw the book at a bookstore and put it on my to-read list (fortunately electing to buy Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave instead. Close one there.), but as I understand it, Bloomsbury was flowing with hype for this one. Guys, let me give you a tip—when it’s a new author, and a seven-book series, do not over-hype, or you will get ALL THE HARRY POTTER COMPARISONS and as it is now, The Bone Season can never measure to even the least interesting of the Harry Potter books. But. But! The worst thing about this book wasn’t even the hype, guys.
One of the biggest problems I have with a lot of YA books is the groan-worthy lack of world-building. Unfortunately, there are times when I have to suffer through the opposite end of the spectrum, and The Bone Season was one of those. Imagine an enormous, McMansion-sized canvas tent, poles and all, stuffed into a bulky backpack along with dozens of pots and pans. Then imagine yourself carrying that on your back and trying to scale a mountain. That’s how heavy the world-building was on the mind. It takes some time getting used to SciLo’s (that’s Scion London—start taking notes when you first see something you don’t understand) complex universe and the underground voyant (that means clairvoyant. Are you taking notes yet?) mafia, and just when you think you’re getting the hang of it, BAM!, the author carts us off into an underground prison city in the ruins of Oxford called Sheol I (again with the Roman numerals!), which is ruled by the Rephaim. And you have to drop the notes you took from before and start taking new ones. As if that wasn’t enough, we get
little—who are we kidding, there’s nothing little about this book flashbacks into Paige’s past at completely random moments, which opens up the whole new subplot regarding Scion’s ruthless empire and its problems with Ireland. Wait, what? Here’s the thing: I don’t want reading to be a chore. I want to enjoy a book, not struggle through it. I already have textbooks for the latter. The world-building is far from graceful, but is info-dumping at its greatest.
Not only are the many alternate universes complicated and thrown together in a manner so they’re mind-numbingly confusing, there’s the slang. You will go through the first chapter at least not understanding a thing. Apparently, there’s a fat, off-putting glossary at the back as well—since I read the book as an eBook, I didn’t even know it had a glossary until I read other people’s reviews. Add to that the fact that there are dozens of characters, each of whom have some traits/lines/significance of some sort that you should keep in mind, as the author so subtly reminds us with the flashbacks. As we go into Sheol I, every character is given a number code to identify them, so Paige becomes XX-59-40 and we have to go through the cast being referred to as a string of numbers. Thank you, Samantha Shannon! Thank you for giving me an actual headache. Although I blame the Bloomsbury editors too.
So let’s talk about the main character Paige. My biggest problem with Paige isn’t even that she’s your typical privileged upper-class person who’s literally too cool for school, so much so that they decide to join a street gang instead of actually doing anything helpful ever. No, it’s that this book was told in first-person, but I wouldn’t have blinked if Paige was dramatically killed off. Her voice is as emotionless as something a computer churned out, which just added to The Bone Season‘s textbook-like format. I felt absolutely nothing for Paige, and I feel like I knew nothing about her either. Her past had so much potential, and I could’ve genuinely liked her if she’d properly grown like the flashbacks had hinted at, but Paige crosses the line from bitter Miss I-Don’t-Care to Miss Robot. Paige is a dreamwalker, which is supposed to be something special—to this day, I have only a vague, cloudy idea of what a dreamwalker really is and I gave up on its supposed speshulness at around 20% of this book.
Then there’s the romance, which I saw coming from the very moment it was first hinted at. A whole lot of readers are talking about the chemistry—what chemistry?! What?! Were we reading the same book?
I’m honestly saddened by the fact that the slang and info-dumping might not have annoyed me so much if the author had just stuck to one universe. I could’ve enjoyed SciLo and Sheol I, but individually.
As far as imagination and creativity goes, I think that (except the slang and complex terminology) the author does show promise, in terms of world-building. I can imagine how much fun it would’ve been to create a universe with so many different characters and abilities…but whether it’s due to poor editing or just bad writing, The Bone Season just doesn’t make the cut.