The short review: read it. It’s so good.
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon takes place in the future of an alternate universe. Whilst the places we hear about are recognisable from our own world, in the world created by Shannon the appearance and then outlawing of clairvoyance, or the ability to access and use the spirit world, sent the universe along a different path. The story follows Paige Mahoney, who is part of the criminal underworld which is the only real safe haven left for clairvoyants in Scion London, until she is kidnapped and taken to the hidden city of Oxford, ruled over by a mysterious race called the Rephaim.
With a nineteen year old protagonist, The Bone Season does not feel like YA fiction, and yet it is just as accessible as anything from that part of the bookshop. Shannon’s writing is clear and easily drunk in, yet it is at no point patronisingly dumbed down. it claims to be neither YA nor adult fiction, and to be honest, why should it? Books now are too forcibly categorised, with adults feeling embarassed to admit to reading YA fiction, and teenagers daunted by the endless shelves of adult books claiming to be serious and thought-provoking when half of them are just Mills and Boon. The Bone Season reminds us that the line between the two is not so clear as shelf assignment might lead us to beleive.
Yet the thing I enjoyed most about this book was the way Shannon built her settings. Being in Oxford myself, I’m slightly biased here, but the city was actually RIGHT (although she is a St Anne’s graduate so I’d expect nothing less…). It’s hugely frustrating watching or reading about things set in Oxford, Lewis, Morse and the rest, and everything being wrong. NOT ALL ROADS GO PAST THE RADCLIFFE CAMERA. Argh. It angers me. And then here I have this very developed story where the setting was so detailed, and so accurate that I could actually imagine where they were, joining up the paths they were taking and having an idea in my head of what they actually looked like. Take Paige’s first walk in Magdalen for instance. Not only was the layout of the college accurate, but even the crest was the real Magdalen crest. Samantha Shannon, I think I love you. Granted, this mostly just applies to me, or anyone else living in Oxford I suppose, and you all probably think I’m crazy, but it really was refreshing.
And this attention to detail reverberated throughout the book. The use of Victorian slang, modified slightly over time, authenticated the setting, and her immaculate understanding of how clairvoyancy worked, and how the classes fit together meant that I actually knew what was going on, and who was what, and I didn’t have to spend every other page flipping back to the chart at the front of the book.
The only gripe I do have was during the ending, so kind-of spoilers for anyone who doesn’t want to hear them. We almost got all the way through the book without turning it into a romance. Sigh. True, love was touched upon, and I think that’s important as it’s something unavoidable in human existence, but did we really have to have a major love story? I almost threw the book against the wall. To be honest, I’d seen it coming, but we were almost finished and I was really holding out hope that we could keep Paige as our lead actor without her needing a significant other? Still, it did work I suppose. And I think it could be an interesting theme to explore in later novels (I know there’s definitely going to be a sequel, but I think Shannon has seven books planned?). Just a bit of a pet peeve of mine, so if anyone knows any YA dystopiany-fantasy-adventure books that don’t center around romance send them my way!
All in all, the Bone Season was great. I mean, when the only thing I can find to complain about is a minor aspect which isn’t even a real flaw in the plot, the book has to be pretty darn great. At 21 Samantha Shannon has made a spectacular debut, and it makes me think that maybe I should start catching up…
~ Becca x