The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
Publication date: 20 August 2013
Genre: YA fantasy?
Length: 560 pages/14 hours 54 minutes
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
This is a spoiler-free review.
I’m going to be completely honest, I don’t really know how to write this review. I’ve had The Bone Season on my radar since it came out in 2013. My mum heard about it on the radio and bought a copy because she thought we might be interested. I never got around to picking it up until February 2019, when I decided to give it a try in anticipation of Priory of the Orange Tree’s release. I didn’t know what to expect from The Bone Season except that it is weird and not every reader’s cup of tea. I can sum up my feelings on this book pretty easily: I have no idea what the hell just happened but I loved it.
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.
The Bone Season introduces a compelling heroine and also introduces an extraordinary young writer, with huge ambition and a teeming imagination. Samantha Shannon has created a bold new reality in this riveting debut.
This book has such a strong opening — Paige is scraping out an existence as part of a criminal syndicate in an alternate version London when she gets into trouble with the law. From there, it spirals into alternate history, science fiction, fantasy, and dystopia with a healthy dose of aliens/vampires in the mix.
I am so glad I went into this book with no expectations because I really think that expectations would have ruined the experience. Instead, I was totally fine riding the wave of strangeness and ended up really enjoying the overall story. The problem is that I don’t really know how to describe this book. It is beautifully inventive with wonderful world building — Shannon’s writing style is absolutely gorgeous and really makes the book work. The story is beautiful, brutal, and soul-crushing, but it is so utterly compelling and filled with hope. I loved referring back to the map in my physical copy and figuring out what parts of Oxford feature in the book. It’s clear that Shannon knows and loves Oxford so well — she was a student at the university when she wrote the book — and she paints a picture of the city for you.
Paige is such a wonderfully strong character. She is hard and brutal, a requirement for living in Scion-controlled Britain, but she also has a fierce spirit and fights against the oppressive forces trying to control her. To me, she is the epitome of ‘strong female character’, and having now read The Priory of the Orange Tree I see that this is something Shannon does so incredibly well. Paige is surrounded by a great cast of characters that will surprise you and make you care so much. My favourites include Jaxson Hall and The Warden — they’re complex and not always nice, but they both had this incredible appeal and I couldn’t help but love them. I have a feeling that I might be taking these words back later on in the series though.
The Bone Season is a book that has definitely lived up to the hype for me. If you want a unique, thought-provoking, dystopian/alternate history/fantasy/science fiction book, you should give The Bone Season a try. I don’t think it will work for everyone, and it is quite confusing at times, but it was a good read for me and I’m looking forward to continuing the series.
A quick note: I listened to the audiobook of The Bone Season and it is truly fantastic. The narrator has the most beautiful voice and does an amazing job with the tone and Paige’s character. I’d highly recommend the audiobook!
Want to give The Bone Season a try? You can find it at the following sites (affiliate links):