fantasy · reviews

the bone season by samantha shannon; a review

title: The Bone Season (#1)
author: Samantha Shannon
genres: paranormal fantasy, dystopian fiction
publisher: Bloomsbury
release date:
 august 20th, 2013

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❝no doubt, you’ve heard the name samantha shannon at least once in the last several years. she rose to fame with her striking series that she describes as ‘a blend between epic fantasy and dystopian fiction’. first published in 2013, the bone season is her debut. the first in a seven book series, it became an instant bestseller and worldwide sensation. 

the protagonist, paige mahoney, is an ‘unnatural’ – what the dystopian government of scion england labels clairvoyants. paige, herself, is of a unique voyant order called a dreamwalker – “a hacker of sorts”. she can dislocate spirit from body, enter the spiritual realm called the aether, and sense things outside of herself like dreamscapes and spirits.

due to an incident on a train in london’s underground, paige is arrested for unnatural activity and taken to the forgotten city of oxford. a terrible revelation awaits her: for the last two centuries, unearthly creatures called the rephaim have been reaping voyants, sentencing them to a life of servitude – including battling a formidable race of aetherial zombie-like monsters called emim.

in this penal colony, paige is stripped of her name and former life as an esteemed member of london’s most notorious criminal gang, now known simply as the number XX-59-40. what is more, her perplexing aura draws the attention of the rephaim’s blood-sovereign – the fearsome nashira sargas, who desires to possess her dreamwalking abilities. meanwhile, the enigmatic and mysterious arcturus, warden of the mesarthim, is tasked with being paige’s keeper.

our protagonist has a strong defiant streak that often lands her in trouble, yet it’s also what wins warden’s admiration, as well as the readers’. much more lenient than the cruel and bloodthirsty likes of his kin, warden trains her to understand and use her gift, expanding it so paige learns to infiltrate other people’s dreamscapes. the two slowly form a reluctant bond as paige unearths hidden truths about a failed uprising from twenty years ago. roped into another rebellion plot, she vows to not let this one end in brutal bloodshed.

there’s so many layers to this book! it’s impossible to summarise it in a way that would encompass all the complexities of the world. i must say, ms shannon’s attention to detail is immaculate. much like a glass of wine or a cup of strong coffee, it’s so rich and vibrant that it takes a while before to truly seep into your senses. once it does – it’s an explosion. plus, paige is a formidable narrator. she’s not easy to follow due to her impulsive, reckless nature, yet her compassion, strong sense of justice, and resilience make her incredibly easy to love. 

when i first read the bone season back in 2014, i was immediately hooked. after months of seeing it everywhere, i finally understood the (well-deserved) hype. despite a few minor weaknesses (the info-dump start and some gaps in the timeline), this is a masterful debut – especially for such a young author at the time. it remains one of my favourite series with paige being one of the best protagonists to date. revisiting the first instalment only strengthened my already quite intense appreciation. this re-read also made me appreciate the finer details that i missed the first time around, which ms shannon has so cleverly woven into subsequent books. 

with its unique premise, complex world and magic system, multi-layered protagonist, and thrilling plot, the bone season is unlike anything you’ve read before.

and remember, there is no safer place than scion.

(i’ve previously written a review for the third book in the series which you can check out here.)

adult contemporary · reviews · romance

beach read by emily henry; a review

title: Beach Read
author: Emily Henry
genres: adult contemporary fiction, romance
publisher: Berkley (US) | Penguin (UK)
release date:
 may 19th, 2020 (US) | july 9th, 2020 (UK)

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❝emily henry’s adult romance debut is quite deceptively named. it speaks of a breezy summer read, meant to be enjoyed under sun rays peeking through straw hats and umbrellas. and don’t get me wrong, beach read fully delivered (and more!) — but it also betrayed me by making me feel emotions not of the light and fuzzy escapist variety. i can’t find it it myself to hold a grudge, however. the winner of the goodreads choice award 2020 for romance is a deep exploration of love, trust, betrayal and what it means to put the pieces of your life back together after it’s crumbled around you.

romance writer january andrews is on a deadline, yet the last thing she wants to do is work on another happy-ever-after — not after she learns that her late father had harboured his affair a secret from his family for years. heart-broken, this once hopeless romantic no longer believes in love.

money is running low, however, and january is forced to move into her father’s beach house in order to finally finish her manuscript. she’s reluctant at first, not wanting to face the reality of her once-perfect family, yet there’s no other option — unless she wants to live on the streets.

the universe seems to have a twisted sense of humour as, it turns out, the house next door is rented by none other than her college rival, augustus everett. the two butted heads in creative writing classes as their styles completely differ from each other – where january writes “chick-lit” for moonstruck fools, augustus creates Real literature that accurately reflects reality. this rivalry carries on to present day where the two authors once again butt heads.

augustus has a secret, however — he’s just as blocked as january is. his agent is pressing down on him to deliver a worthy successor to his previous smash-hit literary novel. as a way to force themselves out of this rut, the two make a deal to swap genres. january will think of the next prize-winning novel while gus has to write a tooth-rotting romance book — without killing off any of the characters. 

what follows is a series of author dates that will help them get in the right headspace. january has to show gus some rom-com magic while he will take her on a journey into the darker parts of life where there are no happily ever after’s. as they spend almost every waking hour together, going on amusement park rides and interviewing survivors of a death cult, they learn there’s much more to each other that meets the eye. slowly, january starts to understand why gus is as cynical as he is. she, in turn, begins to trust him enough to open up about her own struggles. but when stronger feelings arise, the trauma of the past rears its ugly head…

january and augustus are two wounded souls that are simply trying to find their way after being lost for so long. their characterisation is, dare i say, flawless. they’re polar opposites, yet each harbours a bone-deep hurt that can only turn into a deep mutual understanding. they perfectly complement each other, challenging the stubborn beliefs that have been ingrained into their minds through hardship. it’s exactly what makes them a perfect pair. 

i would be lying if i expected something as light as a book named beach read to hit as hard as it did. yet it did. still, i devoured the story and even went back for seconds. emily henry writes with such emotion, it’s difficult not to fall deep while reading. her characters are messy, their relationships are messy; they’re not perfect like you’d expect a pair in a typical rom-com to be. they’re real. and they’re beautiful. 

as much as january wants to stick her head into the sand, ostrich style, at the end she grows into her emotions and faces them head on. the same goes for gus, of course, however, i was more drawn to january’s side of the plot as it resonated more with my own experiences. it’s both rewarding and incredibly devastating when she finally opens the letters her father had left her and has to face the fact that he was neither perfect, nor was he terrible – he was simply human. ms henry handles the delicate situation with such care while refraining from offering a neat solution to trauma, wrapped up with a ribbon. it’s astonishingly masterful, it brings tears to the eyes.

beach read is a perfect blend of both january and augustus. it offers readers an escape in its rom-com setting while also keeping them grounded with reminders that reality is no romantic stroll into the sunset. i’m eagerly looking forward to her new title, you and me on vacation (better known in the us as people we meet on vacation).