Saturday, May 3, 2014

Review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

The Bone Season

Author: Samantha Shannon
Release: August 20th 2013
Genre: Dystopia, Paranormal, Fantasy, YA
#1 in the Bone Season series
Sequels: The Mime Order (#2), The Song Rising (#3), Untitled (#4, #5, #6, #7)


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.


Well, I was very tempted to give it 2.5 stars at first, but I thought it over for a while, and ... this book does have its moments. Plus, I wouldn't want to ruin my 3+ streak, would I? 3 stars it is, then. However, it was roughly earned and just scraped by.

This novel has an interesting, more or less unique premise that drew my eye early on. I bought it a few months ago, but I had been wary — it hasn't gotten the best reviews, and rightly so. There have been enough people who loved this and enough who hated it, and I am one of the very few that actually have one foot in each camp. 

The main annoyance about this is that it's very confusing. There's a shitton of new vocabulary, I kid you not, a damn mountain of it. There's a term for every single type of voyant, that's what people with clairvoyance are called. What does that mean? Well, it means that they aren't amaurotic. Duh. 
Yeah, to say that it's been confusing would be an understatement. Especially since you get assaulted with all of these new words from the get-go and it's never really explained. As we go along it's all tried to laid out cleanly, and yeah, I did pick up most of it along the way, but I was still annoyed, particularly when a term for one type of voyant was dropped once in idle conversation, never to be heard again. Why was that necessary? Do you really need to confuse me even further? Plus, it was all very much tell instead of show, which was kind of boring.

Truth be told, the plot could be boring very often. There always seemed to be standstills once in a while, where the plot wasn't moving an inch forward. The only thing that saved this from being extremely lame was that whatever happened in between of actual plot was still mildly entertaining. And that's essentially what made this book a 3 stars for me, because I liked reading about the banal and the "normal", since it was still pretty interesting, even if it had little to do with the plot. Which reminds me, you don't really see any plot anyways. The whole time over, I was never sure what the endgame was going to be. Escape? Survival? Now, you might say those are the same, but I don't know, man. I guess Paige's aim was to escape from the start, yeah, but it constantly seemed to shift a bit during the course of the novel, or at least it seemed that way to me.

Sadly, the characters didn't do the novel many favors, either. Paige was a decent enough heroine, I'll admit that much, but she didn't make any sort of lasting impression. There were times I thought I could actually come around to liking her, but then she'd go and say something stupid, do something stupid or not do something smart. Any secondary characters were never elaborated much on, in fact, aside from the second main character Arcturus, we don't really get any character arcs. Julian, Liss, David, Nick ... they were all just one thing, and we never get to see any other side of them than what they're made out to be. A shame, really, since I do see the potential.

Then we have the exposition, which was too ... short, it seemed. The drill's usually introducing us to the protagonist's 'normal' life and then the first climax is the event that causes it all to crash and tumble down. That was all there, but I still felt like I didn't know anything about this Paige Mahoney afterwards. During her stay in Sheol I she is constantly pining for her friends and her old life, and you know, understandably so. I can see why she wouldn't like being a slave and would want to go home. But it still rang hollow all the time, because I didn't have an inkling what this home meant for her. She talks about all these people and about some memories she has of them, but we never really get to know any of them before she gets snatched away. It's hard to sympathize under these circumstances. I'd also like to point out that there are always these memory flashbacks in between that halted the story progression in such an unpleasant way I did not appreciate them at all. There is a reason for that as it is later explained, but it was still annoying.

However. There is one thing, and one thing only, that this book really did right. And that, my dear friends, was the romance. I was expecting something along the lines of Ignifex & Nyx from Cruel Beauty, with the heroine making some half-hearted attempts at trying to get rid of her "master" or "captor", but really, she's secretly lusting for him right from the start. No such ridiculousness here, thank God. Paige is distrustful, disrespectful and shameless at the start, rightly so, and I liked their interactions. She and Arcturus built a slow camaraderie based around mutual survival and some common interests, but their relationship was 100% business at that point, nothing more, nothing less. It very, very slowly grows into something that's more personal and it isn't until way after 80% in that Paige realizes that her feelings have turned romantic. I was strictly against any romantic feelings between them at first, but Shannon somehow managed to make me actually ship them along the way, despite the fact that I told myself I wouldn't. Well played, Shannon. Well played.

Ultimately, I can sort of understand both sides. I am leaning more towards the negative side, because I ground my teeth multiple times as well, but at the end of the day, I'm sure genre fans are just going to love this. I mean, if you read the blurb and think it sounds interesting, and think you'll very probably like it just by the sound of it, then you should definitely go ahead. Otherwise, you're better off grabbing something else. Will I be reading the sequel? ... Maybe. I'm definitely not going to be all grabby hands when it comes out, but maybe I will read it when I feel like it, and it's released (I do love that cover, though).

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