Author: Samantha Shannon
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Dates read: 19 Mar 19 – 31 Mar 19
Publication date: 20 Aug 13
Genre(s): YA, Dystopian
The year is 2059. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of Scion London, based at Seven Dials, employed by a man named Jaxon Hall. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant – and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing.
It is raining the day her life changes for ever. Attacked, drugged and kidnapped, Paige is transported to Oxford – a city kept secret for two hundred years, controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. Paige is assigned to Warden, a Rephaite with mysterious motives. He is her master. Her trainer. Her natural enemy. But if Paige wants to regain her freedom she must allow herself to be nurtured in this prison where she is meant to die.
I have absolutely no idea how a dystopian novel by Samantha Shannon passed me by, but somehow, it did. Until now. I have finally dived intoThe Bone Season after reading and loving The Priory of the Orange Tree and I am glad I have done. I really like dystopian novels, and even though I didn’t absolutely adore this world, I enjoyed the story and realised that this could become a favourite series.
The Bone Season starts in London, following Paige. She is introduced to us as the protagonist with powers of the mind that can influence the pain receptors and thought processes within someone else’s mind. We later find much more about her powers, and those of the characters around them, and it is these powers, and the interactions of those who have them with those who train/own them that fuels the plot.
Once the story moved to Oxford, things picked up a gear. We were introduced to the Rephaim (a race of superior beings (I think this is the simplest way of describing them) in the story). I found their dynamic in relation to those with powers to be quite fascinating, the master/slave dynamic changing from person to person and Reph to Reph was fairly indicative of the powers wielded and temperaments of the characters and created a really complex and fascinating dynamic.
Paige herself is pretty fierce and looks out for those her around her with a ferocious fervour and dedication. She is very aware that her power is special and rare, but she doesn’t treat anyone with less powerful talents as less than her. I found her want to help those who were struggling in their new situation fairly admirable, and really liked that she stood on her own two feet, kept her name and not her assigned number, and stood her ground against Warden (her Reph trainer/keeper), ultimately forming an incredible bond with him that blurred the lines of appropriate behaviour.
Warden was stand-offish, intimidating, and felt like full of unbridled power and importance. None of this was a bad thing, for he had an air of mystery and mystique that kept him on the good sign of powerful. I found him supportive and protective of Paige, and really felt he was an exemplary version of a Reph trainer. He knew how to get the best of her, he let her retain her own identity, and above it all, was fighting for everyone he didn’t need to below the surface.
Underneath the story, this novel explored some complex issues, from Stockholm syndrome, to utilisation of power, to slavery, to manipulation, to political instability and dictatorial behaviour. I found the exploration of powers and races and how these were used to control and use sections of societies and those of different backgrounds to be fascinating and appalling in equal measures, and really commend Shannon for exploring such a deep issue in a YA book.
I also found the relationship between Warden and Paige to be complex and fairly adult. I thought it was, once again, a wonderful inclusion in a YA book, and explored a very adult theme in a great way. UI understand there relationship has come under scrutiny, and I can see why. Warden is Paige’s trainer/owner and retains a level of power and seniority over that so I can understand how people have said that this utilises his position over her in a manipulative way. I actually thought that Warden treated Paige as an adult and allowed her to grow into her powers and identity. Paige becomes a truer version of herself and I think it is great that the male in the situation has not influenced this but allowed the female to blossom.
The politics and the powers have only been discussed on a basic level thus far. I can already tell that this series has more to offer in this regard, but the intricacy and logic within the political sphere and power hierarchy is thought through and follows it’s own internal system well. I understand these are followed in a greater detail in later novels, and tracks life outside the Oxford bubble in more detail than in The Bone Season which is something I am eager to explore.
The only downside to this book was the writing and the flow. I realise that this is probable a harsh critique, but I had just finished The Priory of the Orange Tree where Shannon’s lyrical style is spectacular. I really feel like you can tell this is her first novel, and had this been written now, at her current writing level, I would have rated it higher. It wasn’t badly written, but elements were a little stop start. There were aspects that were overly detailed that could have been simpler and bits that were simple that could have been expanded. I probably awarded a harsher star rating in the afterglow of Priory but had to, because the writing style was so noticeable throughout and unfortunately at a detriment to my overall enjoyment.
I really like the idea of this series. The world and the powers, the characters and relationships are rich and entertaining and as the books go on I am quite sure that Shannon’s writing will improve enough that the books will become so much more enjoyable to read. I am looking forward to reading into more areas of the books politics, inner city conflicts, and into the characters themselves as the series carries on.