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The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon {3 Stars}

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon is a very ambitious combination of psychic powers, underground crime syndicates, and otherworldly creatures. I’ll admit I had put off reading The Bone Season for this long because I’m just not that into psychic powers for some reason and the blurb never grabbed me, and it turns out that perhaps my first instincts were right. I can see the impressive and original parts of The Bone Season, and I still read through it surprisingly fast, but by the end I just didn’t actually feel anything still. Since I know a lot of you have read and loved this one, I’m very interested in hearing your thoughts!

Note: I received a copy of The Bone Season from the publisher. 

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon {3 Stars}

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon (The Bone Season #1)
Published by Bloomsbury on Aug. 20th, 2013
Genres: Alternative History, Dystopia, Fantasy, Genre-bender, YA
Page Length: 452 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
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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.

3 Stars

Strengths:

  • I love speculative fiction that seems to take place in our current time period, but has a completely different history because supernatural powers have always been known to exist. The Bone Season does a great job of this with a history and world built around the firm knowledge that psychic abilities exist, but most people don’t have them. It’s fun to think about how that kind of change ripples out to every major invention and event in history!
  • The Bone Season presents a fairly unique and fresh take on psychic powers in that there are LOTS of kinds that I had never read about before and they mostly revolve logically around the use of and communication with spirits that for some reason didn’t move on. There is a chart at the beginning of The Bone Season that outlines the major groups of powers, but even that is just a sliver from what I can tell.
  • The world of The Bone Season is exceedingly complex and layered. I always applaud detailed world-building because I love me some world-building :D.
  • The writing of The Bone Season has that sort of addictive-can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on-it quality. I can’t tell you why I was moved to continue turning pages and kept wanting to pick The Bone Season back up, but I did despite my reservations.

Weaknesses:

  • I knew it was a bad sign when I closed The Bone Season after turning the last page with a dry eye despite scenes that were clearly meant to move me. I cry easily at books and I should have cried, but I simply felt nothing for these characters. I can’t even say that I particularly disliked Paige and the various secondary characters, I just don’t feel anything for them.
  • I was reading a paperback copy of The Bone Season and there are STILL egregious typos like repeated sections of a sentence including the period. How have these not been caught and fixed by now??? I have never seen such bad typos in a finished book!
  • I was so hopeful that The Bone Season would kick the “YA must have romance” trope to the curb, but no. Right at the end a romance that I feel highly uncomfortable about was just shoved right in there. Evidently I missed the signs, but really it’s more that I ignored the signs because I really didn’t want it to happen, but it did anyway.
  • I am still just not enchanted by the idea of psychic powers. Give me elemental magic any day, but as soon as it has to do with spirits and reading cards, I’m just lost. This is obviously COMPLETELY personal preference, but definitely factored into my experience with The Bone Season.
  • While I am impressed with the world of The Bone Season, I feel that Shannon tried to shove too much together. There are about three different MAJOR aspects of the world that could easily have been explored in their own book. Because they were all stuffed into one, there was less time for character development, leading to my first point. I’m pretty convinced that the reason I don’t care about Paige and her struggles is because I just didn’t have a chance to ever really get to know Paige!
  • Speaking of way too much, there are also way too many secondary characters to keep track of easily or to develop ties to. I’m not really convinced of how Paige could have connected with the new people she meets given how little interaction she has with some of them, making it impossible for me to feel for her described emotions.
  • There is a glossary in the back and you NEED to refer to it if you are not already familiar with British slang! I did not realize that this glossary existed and really don’t like referring to a glossary anyway since it pulls me out of the story. However, if you’re determined to actually understand a lot of what is going on, you should try looking everything up and perhaps you’ll have a more enjoyable time than I did *fingers crossed*.

Summary:

The Bone Season has been loved by many many people, and I can see somewhat why that is. It is, however, also clear to me that my instincts for this not being an “Anya book” were somehow right on. If you are excited about the idea of psychic powers and already familiar with British slang, you might downright love The Bone Season and I hope you give it a try. I do think, though, that The Bone Season was overambitious and didn’t succeed in being a book that can be enjoyed without prerequisites. I think I’ll still be reading The Mime Order though since I always have hope ;-).

Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings

Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
– Anya

 

 The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

© 2014, Anya. All rights reserved.

Comments

  1. I felt the same way about this book. I guess I liked it overall, but I don’t really care about the characters. I was annoyed with Paige because she kept whining and rebelling even though she had it a lot better than practically everyone else, and the romance really did come out of nowhere. The concept of the world was what drew me to read this book in the first place, and I really do like the concept, but the worldbuilding was lacking for me. It seemed like the extent of the worldbuilding was all those charts and terms, but none of it was really explained or integrated well (too many infodumps!).
    Kritika recently posted…Best of 2014My Profile

    • I’m relieved I’m not the only one! Gah, that romance still gives me a skeevy feeling when I think about it D: Exactly, I need the world to be built organically, not just thrown at me :(

  2. I liked it due to HUGE bias, I was attending Oxford when i read it so I pictured everything perfectly… that being said I understand what you say are the weaknesses.
    Claire recently posted…Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsMy Profile

    • Haha, completely understood! I definitely had trouble really getting into the setting since I just didn’t know enough background

  3. Honestly, objectively, I can understand why The Bone Season wouldn’t work for some people! I’m in the middle of rereading it now, and it is definitely a lot to take in. There’s so much information, so many characters… just so much of everything. And yet, I’m still happily rereading it and enjoying myself! I think it’s mostly because I feel like I’m experiencing everything right along with Paige, and every situation she’s in conjures empathetic feelings.
    Alexa S. recently posted…The Perilous Sea – Sherry ThomasMy Profile

    • Yeah, I just don’t know why I couldn’t connect with her :-/ Normally I’m all about the empathy, but I feel like there were too few of those “aww so touching” moments of peace where she made the small connections maybe? I dunno, I’m just guessing, I’ll still try Mime Order!

  4. And I look forward to reading your review of Book 2 and finding out whether your hope was summarily and unmercifully crushed. :)

    I completely agree. The romance was unnecessary and forced and just…weird. :P
    Kel @ Booked til Tuesday recently posted…Art It Up! – Crochet SphereMy Profile

    • HAHA, you enjoy my pain don’t you????

      OMG thank you! WTF is up with that romance????????? GAH! *gets annoyed again* ;-)

  5. Uh oh…not caring about characters either way is a bad sign! Thankfully I’m pretty familiar with British slang, since I will be reading this one day. Every physical book that I own must be read one day, but The Bone Season isn’t too high up there on the list.
    Danya @ Fine Print recently posted…Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan SpoonerMy Profile

    • I keep saying that about the books I own, but then it keeps not happening, so we’ll see for mine, hehe. If you’re comfortable with British slang you’ll definitely be less confused at least!

  6. Oh I was always under the impression that this was an adult fantasy! But I think what’s stopping me from picking up the Bone Season is just how dense it seems. And wow theres even a glossary for British slang hahah. I would’ve just ignored all the slang. :P

    Awesome review Anya! I’m glad you did enjoy it at least!
    Valerie recently posted…The Bookish Identity TagMy Profile

  7. I usually prefer elemental magic too. The premise sounds good though and although I’m more familiar with British slang than American slang, the glossary is a great idea. More books should have one, especially those that deal with very location specific situations, such as slang, trials, government positions etc.
    Hellen recently posted…Top Ten Winter ListMy Profile

    • You might have a great time with it then :D I just wish that books with glossaries would tell me that they are there from the beginning though, haha, since I never realize until the end D:

  8. I am still on the fence about this book, not sure whether I want to read it or not. Just like you I heard a lot of people say the world building has been done well and I love world building, so that’s a big plus for me. Although it does sounds like they tried to force too much into one book. And on the other hand when I hear things like it’s slow or how you mentioned you didn’t feel anything for the characters I am doubting whether I want to read it. It does sounds intriguing, so who knows maybe I’ll give it a try eventually.
    Lola recently posted…Review: True Calling by Siobhan DavisMy Profile

    • Definitely too much in one book! Maybe wait to see how the second book goes for everyone and you can decide then?

  9. Ha ha I gave it three stars too, Anya! To me it felt like it needed a whole lot more editing. It was just all over the place. I think the author will be awesome someday, after all she’s like 22 I think! She needs more life experience so the emotional parts will resonate.
    Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy recently posted…A Surreal & Dangerous Place: ANNIHILATION by Jeff VanderMeer – ReviewMy Profile

    • Whew, glad I’m not the only one! Exactly, lots of editing of unpolished but good ideas! Ah yes, that could be it too, I just tend not to like writing by younger authors for some reason D:

  10. The Bone Season sounds good, but I haven’t felt the need to read it when it felt out. I’m waiting to see if the series will mature – and if it does, maybe I’ll start when it’s finished (:
    Celine recently posted…Review: We Were Liars by E. LockhartMy Profile

  11. Nice review! I heard a lot of good things on this one too! Still need to read it! I’ve had it sitting in my TBR Mountain of Doom since the beginning of this year I think…been awhile anyway! LOL!

    I thought it sounded good, and I’m hoping some of these things that bothered you won’t get to me! Like the too many secondary characters and not enough character development! I need to up this in my reading queue soon to see if I like it since the author is coming to town in February! (You’d think that would leave me plenty of time to read it, but for some reason I feel pressured and stress trying ti manage that! LOL!)

    Again, great review! Hopefully the second one will be better for you!
    Jessica @ a GREAT read recently posted…Follow FridayMy Profile

  12. Oh thanks goodness, I thought it was just me. I could not get into this, at all, and ended up not even finishing it. Still, everything I have read on the internet has been so positive, I thought maybe it was just me… So glad to see that I’m not the only one who had problems with it! :) Thanks for the review.
    Joel @ The Library Rat recently posted…The Woman Who Would Be King by Kara CooneyMy Profile

    • I did kind of feel like I was reading a different book than everyone else at times, I don’t know what went wrong for us D:

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