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.)