Review of The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon


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 her world, the world of Scion, she commits treason by breathing.

bone seasonAnd that is the first half of the rather chatty blurb about this intriguing world of Shannon’s. She has landed an eye-bulging amount of money for this seven-book series, apparently. Paige is definitely another gutsy heroine out of the same mould as Katniss Everdeen, although clearly looking for a strong father-figure as she takes far more nonsense from Jaxon than she should… I liked her spikiness and the glimpses of this alternate future England, where the memory of Edward VII is reviled as the wicked Jack the Ripper for feeding his unnatural voyant talents with murder and mayhem. The current despotic republic has frozen fashions, so that everyone is wearing Victorian garb and while there are some techie gismos, Paige doesn’t have access to them. She is busy using her unusual talents to give her crimegang family access to ill-gotten gains. Until everything changes…

Shannon has an eye for a striking turn of phrase and gives us occasional vivid pictures of her world. I also enjoyed her underworld slang, which was a pleasing mesh of invented words and historical phrases and – in my opinion – worked well enough without the thoughtfully provided glossary.

However there is a but lurking… While I did enjoy the book, the pacing is very uneven. There are periods where I was almost skimming, as Paige internally wrestles with the forces ranged against her, but when the action suddenly kicks off, it continues accelerating, adding a series of major revelations about the world in amongst all the chases and violence, so that I ended up rereading a couple of sections, to make sure I knew what was happening.

I also found the worldbuilding a tad frustrating. I get that this is a layered, intricate place with a lot going on. But far too much was withheld initially – I had no clear idea about the overall political structure. And as for the Warden and exactly who was whom in that setup later in the novel – again, I found the lack of information starting to interfere with my enjoyment of the story. The Enims felt too much like an additional menace that had to be added to keep everyone sufficiently penned up, rather than an integral part of the world, for instance. With the first person viewpoint, we got a very blinkered slice of the world and while I generally am quite happy to go with the flow, I did find there were far too many unanswered questions at the conclusion of this book for it to be a truly satisfying read.

However I’ve reviewed it, because despite my reservations, I enjoyed the story and found Shannon’s voice sufficiently compelling to want to track down the second book, The Mime Order, when it becomes available. If only to answer one or three of those unanswered questions about exactly what is going on…

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