By Donnay Torr for The Sunday Times
The Bone Season
Samantha Shannon (Bloomsbury)
Samantha Shannon has just had the weight of the publishing world lowered on to her young shoulders, having secured a seven-book deal for her new Scion series. Not half bad for a writer who turns 22 in November. But while the first book, The Bone Season, is a decent read, punting it as “the new Harry Potter“, as her publishers have done, is, unfortunately, pushing things a bit. The immediate magic and sheer scope of J.K. Rowling’s wizard world is sorely absent, and Shannon’s writing lacks the vibrancy and wide-eyed wonder that Rowling had in spades.
Welcome to Scion London. It’s the year 2059 and the world is a restrictive, dangerous place. At least if you’re a voyant like Paige Mahoney – a voyant being a person possessed of some kind of clairvoyant ability. (There’s a handy guide in the beginning of the book to help you figure out whom is what. You’re going to need it. You’re going to need the glossary in the back, too.)
Voyants are hunted by Scion’s special security forces, and then euthanised, to keep them from infecting the Amaurotics (“normal” people). Paige has avoided capture by becoming part of an elite team of voyant criminals, The Seven Seals, based at Seven Dials and operating under the guidance of the ruthless, charismatic Jaxon Hall. Paige is a Dreamwalker: an apparently rare kind of voyant who can peer into people’s minds.
Her luck runs out one night and she’s nabbed by the Vigiles. But instead of entering the world of endless sleep, she opens her eyes to a damp, cold, destroyed Oxford, where a powerful race of otherwordly beings called the Rephaim rule. The Rephaites use voyants in their army, doing battle with rotting flesh-eating beasts called Emites and protecting the rest of the Scion-controlled world from Emite invasion. So, aha! Voyants don’t get killed, they just get re-purposed.
Paige is assigned to the brooding but sexy Warden Arcturus, unwilling Blood Consort of the queen Rephaite. He hasn’t taken on a human since, like, forever – but Paige is special. She’s feisty and stubborn and her voyant abilities need a push to fully awaken. And Warden is obviously not just the cold-hearted captor he seems. Can you guess where this is going?
If it’s not Harry Potter, however, it’s also not quite Fifty Shades of Grey, though a dominant/submissive tinge is evident – one that will doubtless be deepened in future books. It’s also not Game of Thrones, whose immediate, visceral feel is so addictive. And the whole “taking blood to heal” thing that happens? I’m sorry, but it’s been done. I’d rather the author had delved deeper into the the implications of breaking into people’s brains.
All things considered, though, The Bone Season is a reasonably enjoyable read. It doesn’t capture the heart and imagination the way some other dystopian fiction has, but there is enough character development – and not to mention a few cliffhangers – to make book two a prospect when it comes out. Or maybe watch it on television, when the inevitable series is announced.
- Donnay Torr @SAPixi
- The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
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