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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent storyline but a LOT of information dumping
3.5 stars

I nearly gave up reading this book after the first couple of chapters. I was really struggling with it. But I pushed myself to continue reading because of all the wonderful stuff I had heard about it. And in the end, I am glad that I did but I do still have some issues with it.

I would say that the first half of this book is 2 stars...
Published 7 days ago by Alison Wadsworth

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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Show, don't tell. Was mostly very bored.
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...
Published 10 months ago by Lizzythebrit


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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Show, don't tell. Was mostly very bored., 7 Oct 2013
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This review is from: The Bone Season (Kindle Edition)
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.
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48 of 56 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Potentially good story bogged down by too much world building, 27 Aug 2013
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This review is from: The Bone Season (Hardcover)
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.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting ideas let down by poor execution, 4 Sep 2013
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This review is from: The Bone Season (Kindle Edition)
The Bone Season has been receiving a lot of attention in the media recently, with its author seemingly the latest in a long line of writers being touted as "the next JK Rowling" - and her debut novel, the first in a series, certainly sounds interesting. Set in an alternate reality England where some of the population are born with various psychic abilities, we follow talented clairvoyant Paige as she is captured by the 'voyant'-hating Scion in London and whisked off to a secret penal colony in Oxford. There she discovers the mysterious and alien Rephaim, who have their own plans for our world, and for Paige.

There were some things I liked about the novel - I finished the whole thing in 3 days, so something must have been good, right?? - but I came out at the end feeling mostly frustrated. The premise is indeed interesting and there are some good ideas there, but as others have said, they're mostly buried beneath some clunky world-building, clumsy plot-construction and generally sub-par writing.

As others have mentioned before, the author has a tendency to "info dump" details about her world, especially in the opening chapters set in London. These sections tend to be jarring, overwhelming and full of made-up terminology, so you never take in the details. Outside of these, she often doesn't give quite enough information; another reviewer mentioned how the London and Oxford descriptions must be quite confusing and/or lacking for those who don't know the areas themselves, so this person had to fill in details with their own personal knowledge - I had the same experience. The unfortunate effect is that the world she wants to create is never quite convincing.

The plot and characters are not much better constructed. I found it hard to really care about Paige, who seemed to make things pointlessly difficult for herself whenever she could and whose motivations often seemed inconsistent (especially when it comes to Warden). The other characters aren't fleshed out nearly enough - even the main villain(s?) are little more than two-dimensional cardboard cutouts, neither interesting nor truly frightening like they want to be. The plot, like the characters and setting, never really takes off, either. It never reaches that sense of epic scale that it seems to be aiming for, and too much is left unanswered.

Why are the Rephaim so interested in Earth when they seem like they would be much rather just go home? What actually are the Emim - and what was the point of them in this novel? What was the point of the "golden bond"? There was just too much left unexplained, and if the author did this deliberately with the intention of revealing the answers later on the in the series, then I'm afraid I'll probably never know. All props to the author for completing and publishing a novel by 21, especially when juggling a degree at Oxford, but for me this was distinctly average and I doubt I'll pick up the next one.

If you're looking for something similar to this in the YA area, I would personally recommend The Obernewtyn Chronicles, a relatively unknown series by Australian author Elizabeth Carmody. This series also follows a girl with psychic powers in the world that doesn't appreciate them, who is then captured and sent to the prison-like Obernewtyn. I absolutely adored this series as a teenager, and when reading The Bone Season I often wished I was just reading Obernewtyn instead! In fact, I might just go and re-read it anyway...
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Listen to the hype but take it with a pinch of salt., 13 Sep 2013
By 
Benjamin J. Whitehouse "Book geek" (Wrexham, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Bone Season (Hardcover)
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The Bone Season is being touted around as the New Harry Potter/Twilight/Hunger Games/Night Circus/next faddy YA crossover novel. It seems more and more that books have got to be series and almost immediately convertible into movies. Bone Season desperately wants to be this and as the first part of a projected 7 book series I can understand why this is being pushed and hyped and advertised.

The book has a promising premise, it's dystopian (how 2013!) and it's got a mysterious shadowy government that reaps young people for a particular purpose (how 2013! how Hunger Games!) but it just doesn't hang together, it seems to spend all it's time trying to tick boxes to make young people squeal that it forgets to be interesting and give you characters to care about.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Great worldbuilding; average storytelling, 20 Aug 2014
This review is from: The Bone Season (Paperback)
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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent storyline but a LOT of information dumping, 14 Aug 2014
By 
This review is from: The Bone Season (Paperback)
3.5 stars

I nearly gave up reading this book after the first couple of chapters. I was really struggling with it. But I pushed myself to continue reading because of all the wonderful stuff I had heard about it. And in the end, I am glad that I did but I do still have some issues with it.

I would say that the first half of this book is 2 stars. And the second half is 4 stars. Therefore I’ve awarded it 3.5 stars, a happy medium.

Firstly, a general synopsis – This story is about a 19 year old girl called Paige who lives in London. This is not the London of our world. Yes it’s set here on earth and London is the capital city, and yes there are other places we know mentioned such as Paris but it is set in the future and seems to be of a different reality, i.e. the history of this world is totally different. In this reality some people are gifted with abilities, these people are called ‘Voyants’ (i.e. Clairvoyants). There are several different types of Voyants and they all have different abilities. These people are quite rare but they are feared and as such they are hunted and imprisoned or executed by Scion. Scion is the new government that was set up some decades ago and one of its main functions is to route out and deal with the Voyants. Paige is a Voyant. And she is a particularly gifted and rare type of Voyant. She works for the syndicate, the criminal underworld of Voyants in London, these people bandy together to use their abilities for profit and people within the syndicate are generally safer from being discovered by Scion than someone ‘going solo’ because they are able to protect each other. Within the syndicate there are several ‘Mime Lords’, these are I suppose like gang leaders. And each section has a name, Paige is in the Seven Seals.

When Paige accidently kills two members of Scion’s underguards she gets captured and taken to the prison camp that she has feared her whole life. However, once she gets there (along with many other captured voyants) she learns that Scion are not the worst enemy the voyants have and discovers that the whole world has been lied to about what/who Scion actually is and what their real motive is. I wont say what this is exactly but this was the point in the story where I started to sit up and pay attention because this was a very clever twist and meant that the rest of the story was really great in terms of the plot.

Once Paige and the others are given the real truth they are forced to endure a very hard time at the prison camp. Paige is continually trying to find a way out, although no one has ever managed it before and she is also being taught to strengthen her ability in order to be used by her captors.

Now lets quickly look at the pros and cons. Cons first. My biggest issue with this book is the information dumping. I had read in other reviews that this was a problem and it certainly was. At the beginning of the story we are thrown headfirst into the world of Voyants and the Syndicate and Scion. If I had had a better understanding of these three things before I picked up the book then I may have enjoyed the first half of the book better. Even a simple couple of paragraphs, like the one I have written above, would have been enough to keep me from feeling completely lost. But unfortunately we don’t get anything like that. Paige just starts ‘speaking’ from chapter one as if the reader knows all this. And so it’s really hard to understand. Only by three quarters of the way thorough did I feel like I had half an understanding of this complex world and all the different types of people in it. This definitely lowered the enjoyment factor for me. Secondly, the slang is an issue in my opinion too. This author has come up with a whole vocabulary of slang terms which she uses in abundance throughout the story. Fine. Make up slang if you want. But don’t put the glossary for this at the END of the book. If I had seen this first, at the beginning, again I would have had a better understanding. As it was, I didn’t even know it was there until I finished the book, that may be the publisher's fault and not the author's, but its still something to look out for when reading this book.

On to the pros. If you can force yourself to get to the halfway point then you will discover that the actual plot of this story is riveting, exciting, fresh and different. The huge set of characters in this book are really well fleshed out and I loved and hated them in equal measures. The action sequences are really good and had me on the edge of my seat sometimes. I loved Paige as the protagonist. I loved how strong she was but also how human. She didn’t just get lucky all the time and get away with trying to escape and defying her captors, she had a hard time and had some pretty awful stuff happen to her. But she kept trying and most importantly, she wanted to take everyone with her. She makes some great friendships that felt real and brought some nice lightness to what is otherwise quite a dark storyline.

In the end, I was glad I read this book. Although I think it needs some work to make it more easily digestible (especially at the beginning) I think if you can get past that, this is a really great and really unique story. And hopefully, since all the information dumping has been done in this first book, the second book should be easier to understand from the beginning, giving it that higher level of reading enjoyment!
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1.0 out of 5 stars Overhyped and Over-here, the D-word I'm afraid - Disappointing!, 8 Aug 2014
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The Bone Season - Samantha Shannon

I have a deep respect for all writers so if you're Samantha Shannon please look away now. I am deeply impressed by the size and power of your imagination, but that's about it. Just writing a novel is an amazing achievement, getting one published even more so and securing, as Ms Shannon did south of the age of 30, a bidding war between publishers fighting over the right to sell it means you've already succeeded in ways many of us scribblers can only dream of. But this much trumpeted Harry Potter mantle carrier of a novel, The Bone Season, simply did not work for me. Sorry. It took me around fifty pages to work this out and I spent the next two hundred and fifty trying to work out why. If I wasn't a writer still crafting away to get my head round the gorgeous complexity of this audacious thing called story-telling I would have given up on this book long ago.

The Bone Season should be so very much better. Bloomsbury know their onions after all. The book is fired by a capacious imagination and Shannon can certainly write (there are some lovely crisp, clever sentences here). It is set in an alternate reality London stuffed with ninja psychics and people who can travel in and out of the spirit world like the rest of us can the morning shower. There's action and weirdness and creativity and originality and nasty villains and confusing rituals and...no emotional engagement whatsoever with Paige Mahoney our main protagonist. Paige is a dreamwalker, a very rare type of psychic and she, along with every other type of voyant (psychic) are hunted on her world and if caught, put in prison. This alternate reality Britain is under the tyranny of the Scion, a security force that keeps everyone in check. But Paige escapes the Scion and is transported to Oxford, a place everyone thought was destroyed, where she is used by the Rephaim, a powerful other-worldly race to train as solider to take on their deadly and mysterious foes. Anyway, I could go on but the convoluted spaghetti like taxonomy of endless voyants, psychics and general weirdmeisters in this book would boggle the eyes of even the most boggle-eyed nerds!

So, instead of exploring the kittens-have-been-at-the-wool mess of plot-lines and motorway junction box of a character map let's explore from my perspective on why this book just doesn't work as a reader experience. Get as many publishing kettle drums a pounding as you like - and poor Samantha Shannon had the notorious kiss of death of being trumpeted as the next J K Rowling - and gnash marketing teeth and wave look-at-this flags unless we can emotionally engage with the protagonist they may as well be a box of Weet-o-flakes. And at least with Weet-o-flakes you might get a little plastic toy in a promotional pack and as pappy and indigestible as they might be, Weet-o-flakes can possibly be improved by the addition of milk.

Paige's problem (she is 19 years old, has skills we never fully understand and a back story that is a convoluted and impenetrable to this particular reader as are the different levels of psychic portrayed in this book) is we never actually give a flying psychic half-nelson about what happens to her, live, die or get transported to the moon to sing to the Clangers - I really couldn't care. Paige

isn't Harry Potter or Catniss Everdene for one reason and one reason only, we never get under her skin, the emote with her, to sympathise and conceive of her predicament in a way that means we'd be able to cope with all manner of weird imaginative rantings. She's too busy being transported by an opaque and baffling plot to be weird or obtuse or fighting for her life or running from her death and we never as a result have a chance to emotionally connect with this spectacular and undoubtedly wonderful world Shannon is building. And without that and crucially, a theme that resonates through every chapter, building and building to the - and yes, you guessed it - requisitely complex denouement then our reader shoe-laces are tied together and the plot, character and setting do not lock together and turn the story-cogs, so instead we fall flat on our faces. And also this isn't a book for children, or Young Adults, it's a high-concept piece of extreme imaginative cleverness that never bothers to really engage it's alleged target audience which what matters to them. Heart and friends and an important cause and rights of passage and friendship and goodness in the face of the dark. Paige is a construct not a character and she left me so cold I needed a jumper.

I haven't met an actual child or Young Adult target reader whose read this book, I'm sure there are many out there, just lots of writers who have because it has been so over-hyped. There are apparently six more books to come but I cannot see myself going there, Paige is opaque, irritatingly complex and whilst undoubtedly brave I don't give a tarot card about what next for.

A rare and painful 1 star. Great imagination, world-class and jaw-dropping, but it wasn't my jaw that needed moving it was my heart.

* 1 Star.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as I hoped, 19 Aug 2013
By 
beccalikesbooks (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Bone Season (Hardcover)
Having been billed as 'the next J. K. Rowling', I was interested to read Samantha Shannon's debut, but wary as to whether she could live up to the hype. Unfortunately, I didn't completely love The Bone Season.

Shannon is a talented writer, especially for her age, and the beginning is really good, and gripping - the world-building of dystopian London is accomplished (I loved the Prohibition feel and the 'oxygen bars'), the incredible detail in the hierarchies of supernatural abilities, and the mind-bending descriptions of Paige's 'mind-walking' all made me really excited.

But then, all too abruptly, Paige is kidnapped from this fascinating world and held prisoner in an alternative Oxford, where it turns out that alien angel things (the Rephaim) secretly rule the world somehow - it's a bit hazy but will probably be revealed later. It's all a bit medieval - swishy robes and colour-coordinated tunics - which doesn't seem to fit with Shannon's original, modern vision. And there's the old 'Is it hate or is it love' thread between Paige and one of the Rephaim, which I could see coming a mile off and really hoped Shannon would avoid, but sadly not.

Paige is a bit of a tricky character to like - she seems to pride herself on loyalty and being kind to people but often picks fights which she knows she can only lose and which put everyone around her in danger - annoying. Her inner monologue often swings from one contradictory extreme of emotion to the other in the space of a paragraph, so it's hard to follow her motivations and understand her.

It is left on a complete cliff-hanger, and while I think there might be opportunity to further explore the interesting, London-based thread of the story, I don't think I'll be picking up book 2.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A harvest of clairvoyants, 9 July 2013
By 
Paul Tapner (poole dorset england) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Bone Season (Hardcover)
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A novel of near future dystopia. In a rather different Britain to the one we know.

This runs for four hundred and fifty four pages. It's divided into twenty nine chapters. And it's also the first in a series of seven books. Thus there's no closure to anything at the end.

In addition, the front few pages contain maps of the settings and a chart to explain the special abilities of certain characters. There's also a glossary of certain words that the book uses at the back.

The Britain of this story is one where, thanks to certain events in the nineteeth century, life has become rather different. Certain people have clairvoyant abilities. And a ruthless regime seeks to keep them under control by any means necessary.

The main character, who narrates the story in first person present tense, is Nineteen year old Paige Mahoney. When we meet her, she's working in London for a criminal gang. Gaining information for them by using her abilities to get into people's minds. All of which is highly illegal, but it's the best way for her to make a living.

Unable to stay out of trouble, she finds herself captured. But then she doesn't expect what happens next. She ends up in a hidden city, slave to a strange non human race. To be trained by a male creature called Warden.

Her life, and the lives of many others, both human and non human, will never be the same again.

To create a whole new setting unlike anything familiar is known as world building. This does excel at doing that, getting in a lot of detail about the world of the story and making it recognisably familiar but also very different at the same time.

There is, though, perhaps too much of that early on. As a result this isn't a book that really grabbed me from the off, as there is a lot of information to take in all at once.

The bigger problem with getting into this is Paige. You only gradually learn about her back story as the book goes on, a lot of information about that coming in the middle. As a result, she just doesn't feel very different from many other heroines of this kind of thing, and never really stands out as a character. By this kind of thing I mean the young adult novels that the back of the book compares itself to. Those with feisty teenage girls taking control of their lives and destiny and any special powers they may have as well. And being caught in the middle of a love triangle.

It does settle down eventually, but it's also a very long book. And long spells do pass with nothing more than information being given and character interaction. There are a lot of supporting characters, but very few really spring to life.

The big exception is Warden. Perhaps because he's not human, and because we only ever see him through Paige's eyes, he comes over as quite wonderfully enigmatic. A famous science fiction magazine editor, back in the 30's, challenged writers to come up with a story showing an alien creature thinking like a man, but not as a man. Warden does feel as if he does that. And although he may in some ways fulfil the usual role for brooding love interest in this kind of thing, he is quite intriguing.

The other player in this triangle does have his moments. Credit to the writer also for doing one thing with romantic triangles that really is totally original for this kind of story.

By the end I knew a lot more about this world - the whole set up and how it came to be is a superb and original idea - and the characters had all developed somewhat. Things had changed and a big cliffhanger set up the second book. I didn't really find myself interested enough to want to know what will happen next, though.

But even so, there is a fair bit to admire in the writing and the work that has gone into this book, and it is a very promising debut. I may not come back for more of this series, but I could be tempted to look at anything else from the writer in due course.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Masses of raw potential but lacks direction and lucidity, 3 Oct 2013
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Bone Season (Hardcover)
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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.
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The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon (Paperback - 24 April 2014)
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