Monday, June 30, 2014

Books on Trial: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Hardcover, 466 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Source: Toronto Public Library

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 "witness testimonies" are from the top three opinions on Goodreads as of the posting date. The reviews have earned their position based on number of likes. The "testimonies" are:
"This book, in my opinion, is simply a glorified, overcomplicated retelling of any other light, fluffy fantasy. But the descriptions, info-dumping and general wordiness do not make this a deeper and more meaningful read, but rather they made the book dull and tiresome for me. As much as I wanted to like it, it was incredibly easy to find distractions and every time it was a struggle to come back to it. The romance goes down a predictable route, as does most of the book. I feel bad for saying it, but this just wasn't for me at all and I doubt I will read the rest of the series."
-Emily May

"It is an overly ambitious infodump. It was difficult to read. I sludged through this as I would a school textbook: it was just not an enjoyable book at all, for me. Action and information takes priority over a a sensible plot and character development. The addition of a massive cast serves to only disguise the fact that the plot is a hot mess. This is not science fiction. It is fantasy, it is paranormal, there is nothing remotely resembling science in here for a book that purportedly takes place in the future."
-Khanh (Kittens, Rainbows, and Sunshine)

"The Bone Season is a very imaginative novel that will take your brain for one hell of a joy ride. If you've been searching for book with more complex world building and plot, this may be it. I can see this being enjoyed by YA lovers and Adult readers alike with its strong paranormal-fantasy-dystopian roots. Despite my reservations, I can safely say I'll be checking out the next book because this has the potential to be one serious kickass series. And with the high stakes ending The Bone Season had, I look forward to seeing where Shannon will take this story over the course of the next six books."
-Steph Sinclair

I find all the "witness testimonies" to be true. Oddly. The fist two contradict the last. Yet, I agree with all their criticisms.

My brain almost committed suicide upon opening The Bone Season. It starts with "The Seven Orders of Clairvoyance", which is a huge-ass, flow-chart-like thing. I felt like I'd just opened a exam booklet only to find out I couldn't answer a single question on the front page. After calming myself down (*deep breath* "don't worry, T, no one's going to spring a pop quiz"), I turned the page--

Only to find a map of a place called Sheol I.

Eee, gods, a map plus a flow chart?!

The sad thing is, you'll actually need them both, along with the glossary at the end.

Most maps and/or guides in books are extras, designed to enrich your reading. If you're going to read The Bone Season, I suggest you buy some Post-It notes. By page 2, I was turning back to the glossary and forward to the map/chart. The worldbuilding was very complex, almost to the point of confusing. There were paragraphs of info-dumps. Most of the "dumps" were necessary, but some could've been cut. But that's what happens when you have a character from a future built on an alternate history kidnapped by a secret society she didn't know existed.

If you can get past the intricate new world you're thrust into, The Bone Season can be quite enjoyable. Sometimes you'll have no idea what's going on. Sometimes you'll feel like you're listening to bilingual people switching back and forth between languages. Sometimes everything will make sense and your mind will be at peace. But it'll be fun, no matter what. London 2059 is interesting. The stakes are high. The love interest, Warden, has potential. There's laugh-out-loud humor. Our main character, Paige, is set up for an exhilarating ride of future adventures.

I can honestly say I can't wait for the sequel, The Mime Order.

Do I have my concerns? Yes. I don't know how this series will be seven books long. If I were writing it, it'd be five maximum. Is Shannon the next Rowling? No. I don't think anyone can be the next Rowling. Was this book over-hyped? Hell, yeah. It was good, but not superfantabulous. But was it entertaining? Yes, yes, yes. Therefore, I rule that The Bone Season be sentenced to...


I'll wait to see if The Mime Order can up the stakes and fix the issues before dropping this series.

Next week I’ll be trying… Mystic City by Theo Lawrence

About the Author
Samantha Shannon was born and raised in West London. She recently finished her degree in English Language and Literature at St Anne's College, Oxford, where she specialized in Emily Dickinson and Principles of Film Criticism. The Bone Season is her first novel.