It would be easy to resent Samantha Shannon; at the age of just 21 she has her first novel published today. The novel in question is called The Bone Season, is the first of a series of seven, and has already been sold to Andy Serkis’ Imaginarium Studios for a big screen adaptation. Samantha Shannon is set to be the next J. K. Rowling and her novel has only been for sale for eight hours thus far. Yes, for any aspiring writer it would be very easy to resent Samantha Shannon. If only it weren’t for the fact that she can actually write well.
Clocking in at well over 400 pages The Bone Season is a hefty tome and with its glossary, map, and organisational chart was a little intimidating to begin. Thanks to the book’s probable future film adaptation I was sent a copy to review and after an evening of reading at my usual gentile pace I am eight chapters and 113 pages in and ready to give my verdict so far.
The Bone Season is set in an alternative dystopian Britain in the near future and features a strong female lead character. As such comparisons to the likes of the Hunger Games and Divergent series are inevitable if not exactly helpful. The Bone Season takes place in a world where a small proportion of the population are clairvoyant, where spirits roam, and those who are seen as “unnatural” find themselves subject to scrutiny and suspicion. With its fantasy element, UK setting, and simply because the writing style is all the more complex and considered than that of The Hunger Games better comparisons would be found in the Harry Potter and His Dark Materials series.
The heroine of the series is Paige Mahoney, a teenage dreamwalker who works for the criminal underworld in central London and is paid for the gathering of information she can glean from other people’s minds. Shortly after the world is established, and the introductory exposition is settling into the reader’s mind, Paige is kidnapped and taken to the destroyed city of Oxford where she discovers that her world is being controlled by an otherworldly race who have enslaved the humans in exchange for protecting them from a much darker threat. Every ten years they harvest a new group of clairvoyants to serve and feed them, and you won’t be surprised to hear that Paige has exactly the powers they have long been waiting for.
As with any novel set in an alternate world and a dystopian future a lot of the initial pages are dedicated to world building as much as they are character setting. As first I found myself slightly overwhelmed with new ideas and phrases as the book thrusts the reader straight into Paige’s world. Before I had quite found my feet Paige had been kidnapped and told that everything she thought she knew was wrong and we were presented with a second round of exposition. All this within the first 100 pages and the characters start to feel a bit neglected. The focus so far has very much been on plot and despite the book being written in the first person the main character of Paige is hard to relate to having yet to be fully fleshed out. As for any secondary characters, none have stuck around long enough yet to be anything more than sketches.
That said The Bone Season is all about ideas and is set in a world very different from our own that somehow seems very real and concrete. Shannon has fully realised a whole other reality and sees it in such detail that I am hooked on the story itself without having a character I care about to cling to. I am only a quarter of the way through the book and am hoping that I will soon learn more about Paige and grow to be as intrigued by her as I am by the rest of the world. Samantha Shannon has an incredibly developed writing style and can introduce complex concepts and new words without it ever seeming too complicated or jarring. Sometimes with series like these the idea is strong but the execution and writing lets it down (*cough* The Hunger Games *cough*) but Shannon has the ability to bring both ideas and flair to the page.
The Bone Season has not fully won me over yet but has certainly drawn me in. With the potential to be the next big book and movie franchise it won’t be long before you need to read this book to have the required opinions needed to carry off a dinner party conversation without embarrassment. The Bone Season is out in all good bookshops from today (and presumably some bad ones too) and is also available to buy from Amazon if you don’t mind the slight guilt that brings.