24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 20 August 2014
I heard the author give a reading and, intrigued, bought the book. I read a lot of genre fiction-- science fiction, fantasy, alt-history and the like. I would say this is a decent-to-good debut novel, original in some ways and derivative in others.
If you read The Bone Season with the awareness that this is essentially apprentice work, you come away full of admiration for the novelist Samantha Shannon will one day be. Her prose is more than competent. Her worldbuilding is excellent (although no one in her world seems to possess a sense of humour or feel its lack.) Her alt-historical research is good. Her language games may annoy some readers, but she's clearly done the linguistic legwork behind her slang.
Where the author's inexperience shows is in her character decisions and plotting. Paige, the first-person narrator, is a huge Mary Sue. (For those who don't know this term, it applies when authors create characters which are basically themselves, but awesomer.) So Paige is not only a clairvoyant but the rarest and most powerful type of clairvoyant. When she gets sent to the clairvoyant penal colony of Sheol, she gets singled out by a handsome, powerful, mysterious captor/mentor-figure because of how super-special she is. Eventually they develop Feelings for each other, because... because of course. *eyeroll*
I wish Shannon hadn't included a blood-drinking scene. Beautiful, powerful, millennia-old transdimensional creatures who secretly control everything are all very well, but if they drink human blood, they instantly become cliché.
The comparison some reviewers have drawn to J. K. Rowling is misplaced in many ways but accurate in one: the world Shannon builds is more interesting than the story she tells.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 26 August 2013
* WARNING: CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS*
First of all, I shall deal with the negatives.
The quality of writing, for me, rarely becomes truly impressive and from time-to-time, shows some awkwardness. The author's description of strong feelings and actions often seems trite and bland. For instance, at one point, she alludes to the lead character feeling, 'the worst pain she had ever felt', yet leaves it more-or-less at that; whereas a lot more description of the character's reactions and feelings would be needed to convincingly convey what is blandly stated here.
The themes employed, taken individually, are generally clichéd: aliens coming to Earth to exploit humans for their own ends; a character who is both vulnerable and courageous transplanted to new environment which tests them, and whose ordeals cause them to find hidden reserves of strength, courage and skill; two characters who start off at odds coming together, gradually; human beings with unusual powers that lead to them being regarded as freaks, on the one hand, and being subjugated and used by others for their own ends; a tyranny against which an uprising is finally staged, by some of those subjugated, and former agents of the tyranny who turn against it: none of these can be said to be particularly original themes.
The portrayal of the aliens who subjugate humans in the imaginary Oxford of the future is also quite hackneyed. They are described as humanoid, but a little taller than the average human, very elegant in appearance and dressed in gaudy robes, and with eyes that glow and change colours. It seems as though every other description of a ruling race in science fiction describes them thus. On an emotional level, the ruling class of the tyranny are described as mostly cold, with the occasional display of sardonic humour, sadistic nastiness or domineering anger. Again, nothing wildly original there.
However, one must point out there is nothing new under the sun, as the saying goes. There are only so many themes for drama; so many basic story outlines. Such originality as can be manifested in writing derives from finding new refinement and variations on ancient themes. This the author does manage to do. It is clever the way she creates a separate world (the imaginary future Oxford) within the imaginary world of future England, in which psychics have their position in the country at large (hunted outlaws) reversed vis-à-vis so-called normal people, so that the former are dominant in the sub-community-yet, at the same time, as in mainstream England, the psychics also remain subordinated, this time to the invading Rehamites.
The way the author sets up so many potential avenues for conflict, which is the motor of drama, is cleverly done. There are the opposition between psychics and amaurotics; between humans and Rehamite; between both and the Emim. We see tensions, too, between those taken in the 'Bone Season', with willing collaborationists like Carl, by their willingness to wear the red coat and serve the Rehamites, being put implicitly at odds with the likes of Paige and Julian, who take less willingly to their situation. Even within the psychic community, there are potential conflicts, due to the gradations therein. There are seven types: the higher grades, like dreamwalkers, look down, we are told, largely look down the lower levels, like soothsayers. There is a potential love conflict, we sense between Warden of the Rehamites and Paige's old friend, Nick. The latter is someone Paige had feelings for in the past; the former is someone we can imagine Paige possibly developing feelings for in the future.
Though I said at the start that I did not find the quality of writing to be wildly impressive, it was yet, on the whole, competent. Putting together a coherent narrative of 460 pages, written reasonably well, is not a feat to be scoffed at. Given that the author is only 21, and had to divide focus on writing this novel with a full-time undergraduate program, given that she is now free to write full time, and given that there are six more books to come in this series, I suspect there is a lot of potential both to expand the story and improve writing. Overall, this book has intrigued me sufficiently to ensure that I will buy the next instalment, when that is released, to see how both story and writing progress.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 7 June 2014
I normally give a book 50 pages to see if I like it and then move on it it doesn't engage me. Due to the hype and reviews surrounding this book I gave it until half way until I realised it just was not for me. The story basically has all been done before. The unique twist around psychics being found is the only unique factor. After this we move into the training of a new recruit all very similar to Divergent. The characters did not engage me and the fact it was written in first person did nothing to encourage me to continue with it either.
I appreciate there are a lot of fans of this book as we are all different. I simply did not enjoy it and found myself struggling through it. I for obvious reasons will not be reading the next in the series.
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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 November 2014
I had always thought that this book would an utter bore to read because the blurb didn’t really seem appealing to me. But after reading so many brilliant reviews of this novel, I convinced myself to go out and buy this book. I started it soon after I had met Shannon at the pop up YALC in October and the first few pages really made me get drawn into the novel. The Bone Season is set in the futuristic scene of London but in this book, it isn’t just called that! I found that the way that Shannon had set out her novel seemed very nice and different; however, I did think that she could’ve made her explanation on the city much clearer because even now, I am very confused on how London is set out. There is, in this book, places called I Cohorts and I think that they are sections of London like the zones we have for when we are travelling. This had really confused me and I really wish that everything to do with the layout of London was better written because then I would fully understand the novel and the characters within it. Also, I didn’t quite understand what was Paige’s gift was, I didn’t know where she could read peoples’ minds or that whether she could control them-this also quite annoyed me because I liked the aspect of Paige and what she was getting across. Perhaps if Shannon had really focused on explaining her book a little more, I know that this book would’ve been perfect!
The plot in The Bone Season is one of those that are a little bit fast paced. There is a hell of a lot of action in this novel, which I have missed I haven’t read a book with action for a while, and I believe that there is a spark of a romance that is featured. There is some very well written chapters and talking scenes however there are also some badly written scenes. I have really mixed emotions about this book because I don’t know whether to hate it or love it! This annoys me because I want to like it, but I also want to hate it because some parts really bored me! I didn’t really think that there was anything in the story line that made me think that I were watching TV but I couldn’t put the book down sometimes when I was reading. The Bone Season did take me just over a week to read because I was struggling to keep up with what was happening. I found that the beginning was a little too rushed and in the middle of the novel I thought that it was at the perfect pace for me to follow with and then towards the end, it sped up again. The dilemma of the book was very well written and I cannot fault the author on that but the conclusion of the book left me with many questions on how the hell did some certain characters ended up in the last scene! If I could, I would edit the book so it would make sense!
The characters were alright in The Bone Season, some of them were clearly written and I could feel as if I knew them outside of the world that Shannon had set her book in. I have two favourite characters in this book, one of them was called Jaxon or Jax and the other was called Warden. I fell in love with these two characters because I thought that they were one of the best written characters in the book and they seemed to be the only ones that I could fully understand! By the end of Shannon’s novel, I was still confused to what was Paige’s gift was. I really want to understand what she was all about but it wasn’t fully described. I know that Paige is a Dreamwalker, but what is that? A mysterious person or is she just a physic that is just very freaky to be with. I didn’t really like Paige so I am hoping that when I read the next book (The Mime Order, out January 2015) Shannon will fully explain herself as well as Paige’s character!
I did sort of enjoy this novel and I am happy that I did not DNF it. However I would prefer that I would’ve fully enjoyed this book. I have recommended The Bone Season to a few of my friends because I know they would like this sort of novel but I don’t know whether I will be re-reading this book soon! DFTBA!
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 7 October 2013
This book started in the worst way- a looooong exposition where the character told me about the world we were exploring. I was bored after the first page. And yet, despite the over-long infodump, it took ages for certain kinda crucial facts to be revealed. There's a lot of hype around this title, and I know it will be on many people's wishlists, so I won't be too spoiler-y. However, I hated the romance element; too many writers are relying on the naive girl/abusive older male romance (50 Shades, Dinner with a Vampire and now this.) I also got no real sense of Paige's character, I didn't particularly like her or find her any different to the awkward and whiny BellaSwanabees that YA fiction is getting flooded by.
There are a couple of nail-biting scenes that tight and well written; the big fight at Nelson's Column for example was actually enjoyable, and that's why I gave this one star.
This writer needs a better editor in my humble opinion, and overall, I was vastly disappointed by this book. A real shame as the premise was very appealing.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
If there is one thing that can be said for The Bone Season, it's that it takes place in a world that has been expertly constructed and carefully thought-through. I can see why this novel consumed so much of Samantha Shannon's time and thought as she was writing it, as she tries so hard to convey the sense of a living, complex, society. However, it sinks under the weight of so much effort from the opening chapters, and never quite bobs back to the surface again. Ultimately (and I would say the same thing about Tolkien, so Shannon should not feel too disheartened!) the central cast is not strong enough to hold the huge amount of information that Shannon pours out over these 400+ pages. I'm sad to say that, due to these issues, I found it practically unreadable, despite the occasional glimpse of light on the horizon.
Paige Mahoney, our heroine, works undercover as a dreamwalker in Scion London, scouting for information using her supernatural talents while telling her friends and family that she works at an oxygen bar. However, when Paige is captured on a train and outed as a clairvoyant - a class that Shannon envisages as a complex hierarchy with different skills and talents - she is taken to the forbidden city of Oxford, which is ruled by the otherworldly race of Rephaim. Oxford has been closed for more than two hundred years, but Paige is determined to escape. In the meantime, however, she has to undergo training under the guidance of the Rephaite creature Warden while trying not to become the killer her masters want her to be.
This novel is, on the whole, scuppered by its structure, although some of the torturously over-complex information about the orders of clairvoyancy and the internal workings of Paige's London gang could probably have been cut. The opening scenes almost work - if it wasn't for the info-dumping - but when Paige is dragged into Oxford, I swiftly lost what interest I had had in the plot. Given the amount of data we have to deal with about both London and Oxford, it is amazing that the latter never comes to life. I never felt like Paige was walking through a real place or interacting with real characters, which partly stemmed from my lack of engagement with Paige herself. Despite so many pages narrated from her point of view, I felt that we learnt precious little about her. She's strong, brave and intelligent - but what else is she? Shannon avoids YA cliches such as a dramatic physical appearance or irritating 'faults' such as clumsiness, but by the end I would happily have imagined Paige with vivid red locks and purple eyes - it would have added some colour to her portrayal.
About a third of the way into this novel, there is a brief scene where we learn a little about Paige's life in Ireland, how she discovered she had unusual powers, and how she came to be working undercover in London. The placing of this scene sums up the problems of this novel for me. Placed immediately after the opening chapter, this scene would have helped the reader to get to know Paige, understand the basics behind this world before we are swamped with terminology, and create some sympathy for the character as we realise she hasn't always been unrealistically strong. Unfortunately, as it is, it comes too little, too late. Shannon has the gift of world-building, but a stronger understanding of structure and characterisation would have enabled her to support her creation. I won't be reading the next in the series, and if you struggled with this as well, I would heartily recommend Robin McKinley's wonderful Sunshine, which shows us how to do info-dumping in style.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 31 December 2013
This is a book you'll either really like or really not like. You'll like it if you're into things like Twilight and Zombies etc. You won't like it if you think that kind of thing is a bit of a waste of time and the world as it is is rich and complicated enough. I'm in the latter category although I read the book to the end and found it easy to read and well written, with a good story and good characters. BUT there are too many characters, some of them are hard to keep track of (you know you've met them before but can't remember what side they're on for example), and some of the action is too hard to follow because it's not explained. This is to do with what a lot of other reviews have said - there are too many types of entity and too many words that aren't explained...except at the end when it's just too late. On balance I can't recommend reading this because it's too confusing, unless you just love this genre.
51 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on 27 August 2013
There's a good story struggling to get out from beneath a mountain of information in The Bone Season.
It's a cliché to blame the editor but in this instance, Ed really should have taken this promising young author aside and said, `Look, how about we get the plot into shape, cut a lot of this info, yes? Hold it over for sequels? Good.' Ed didn't do that (I presume) and as a result, TBS almost collapses under the weight of its own narrative.
I won't recount the plot since so many reviewers have already done so.
I'll say there are two major reasons why the masses of information in TBS ruin the reading experience: 1. The information presented is not relevant to the current scene or the immediate goings-on of the plot; it's only relevant in The Grand Scheme of Things, or World Building in General, or Things That Happen Later. 2. It puts the plot in first gear and never changes up, until around Chapter 8. In the meantime, Paige has umpteen number of conversations during which she gets information, which leads to dialogue that has all the subtly of a sledgehammer, and sometimes skirts dangerously close to moments of, `As you know Bob...'
Yes, there's a lot of information in the first half of TBS and not nearly enough story, too much emphasis on world building and not enough on plot; much too much geeking out over the labelling of things and their definitions, categories and history and not enough on steadily building one or two characters we get to know and care about, gradually introducing the support cast.
Once we're past the half way mark, and all the tedious information is left behind, the plot finally cranks up a few gears and the story starts to cruise along nicely. That being said, the story itself is highly derivative; I'm surprised more people haven't picked up on the Twilight vibe. The Raphaite aren't vampires but they are moody, sullen types, sleep during the day and come out at night, are centuries old, sort of immortal, and occasionally feed off human blood. We also have inter-species romance (wisely, not too much of that) and a dominant (he) and a submissive (she). It's got a Hunger Games vibe in that there are training sessions and a survival-via-competition mentality but it lacks HG's tight story telling and streamlined narrative.
To be fair, Paige is one of the better female leads to come out of a YA/NA novel in recent years. She's smart, mature, realistic and more reflective than the emotionally stunted Katniss. Unlike Bella, she doesn't go weak at the knees at the sight of Warden, her beautiful Raphaite keeper/mentor. She is sensible enough to acknowledge that yes, he's rather hot, and later, that she has feelings for him, but she keeps a level head about it. She's analytical with a tendency to be impulsive, but she's also afraid, impatient and has trust issues - for good reasons.
Warden, the other lead, is suitably mysterious and sophisticated (he listens to Frank Sinatra on a gramophone, reads Mary Shelly's Frankenstein), as well as being a little bit grim. He's interesting to a point but I was far more invested in the wily Jaxon Hall, a sort of anti-hero, lovingly written, and by far the most complex and unpredictable of the cast. He can be sympathetic one minute and a brutal maniac the next. At least he's interesting, which is more than we can say for the main villain.
The prose is competent, functional - better than your average YA/NA - but lacking in complexity, imagery, or figurative language, it's short, snappy sentences not up to the job of capturing the author's passion.
I'm not convinced that TBS will have the cross-over appeal its publishers are hoping for. Its concept isn't simple or punchy enough and its narrative too meandering and wayward to hold a teen's attention. At the same time, it lacks a certain sophistication and its relationships and dialogue aren't nuanced enough to appeal to adults.
The author is obviously bright and hard working to achieve so much, so young, and really should be proud of her accomplishment. I can see that with more experience and better editorial guidance, book seven should be vastly superior to TBS1.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
This is a book which is crammed full of imagination and energy, but it crucially lacks direction and lucidity. As other reviewers have mentioned, the world of the book is both over-detailed and yet sparse at the same time: there are pages of diagrams outlining the different classes of clairvoyant from rhabdomancer to axinomancer most of which never get mentioned again, yet we can't picture most of our characters or the settings in which they operate.
Paige, our tough-yet-troubled heroine `throws her spirit' at people to either drive them mad or kill them - but I was left bemused as to how this was supposed to be working in this magic-fantasy world. Add to this some not-quite-vampires-or-angels immortal-ish beings and a bevy of flesh-eating monsters, throw in a totalitarian state and a rebel army, not to mention a cross-species we-can't be-together romance and the whole thing just collapses into a chaotic jumble of predictable and well-used plotlines.
Shannon has not been well-served by her editors who really needed to have taken all the raw potential and marshalled it into something far more ordered, lucid and coherent. This is being projected as the start of a 7-book series - I'll be very surprised if it gets beyond book 3...
So really a 2-star read for me but I've added a star for sheer imaginative energy.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 2 December 2014
This book fails to hit the mark, it just isn't polished. I don't want to sound too harsh but this book has some serious problems and I cannot fathom why it's been hyped as the next big thing. Be warned anyone recommending this book has either not read it and is recommending purely based on the hype or they don't read many books and have no idea what a good book is.
There is a story there ... sort of... it is one we've seen it before - girl with a rare super power falls for an older mysterious guy in a harsh and cruel world. OK, Its not very original but it could have been forgiven if it wasn't for the weak writing style, poor plot development and boring characters. I seriously found myself completely indifferent to every single character in the book. Also the dialogue is ridiculous, it doesn't flow, there seems to be a lot of jumping onto different unconnected topics that are left hanging .... no follow up.
Did the publisher actually read it before publishing? I have to wonder as its just so unpolished. Also I am struggling to see why there are so many good reviews of this book. I think the writer could have benefited from some much needed editing. I wouldn't bother reading this book, its a waste of time.