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Review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

The Bone Season / Samantha Shannon

 

If not for my niece, I would not have known about this book’s existence.  She mentioned it to me in passing while we were Facebook chatting about Hollow City.  She seemed really enthusiastic about this and since I was in between books, I decided to go for this one.

 

It left me more confused than amused.  The first book is always important to a series because it can either make or break the whole thing.  This did neither.  It wasn’t so bad that it would discourage me to see it through all seven planned installments but it was engaging enough for me to read them as soon as they are released.  For all I care, this can be a one-shot standalone book and I’ll be fine with it.

 

The YA subgenre of dystopian fiction is getting so crowded.  How many worlds can you turn upside down and how many ways can you do it?  Authors have to think of something new to stand out.  Paige Mahoney is a special kind of clairvoyant.  She uses her powers to sneak into other people’s minds in search of information.  She answers to an illegal syndicate, the Seven Seals, that goes against the ruling government, the Scion.  Then she manages to get herself captured, not by Scion, but by something more powerful.  She and other “voyants” and “amaurotics”, normal folk, were taken prisoner by a foreign race called Rephaim in yet another underground world called Sheol I.  In total YA fashion, Paige gets picked by the best and nicest-looking “prince” of the Rephaim and what do you know, she automatically hates him just because.  Together with Paige, we learn all the rules of this new world; Paige “trains” with this hot Reph named “The Warden” and becomes the figurehead of a revolution.

 

(Okay, that sounded irritable and sarcastic. My apologies.)

 

This world is driven by jargon more than actual world-building.  Amaurotics, voyants, sibyls, emims, Mesarthim… I kept flipping over to the glossary to figure out what they were talking about.  And the maps were pretty much useless.  Sure, I’d rather you show me than tell me but when it comes to maps and directions, I’d rather you tell me.  My eyes glazed over a couple of times not because of detailed explanations but with inane and quite repetitive dialog.  With something as convoluted as this, I figured that I cannot afford to skim.  But I eventually gave up because everything started to sound like blah, blah, blah to me.  I didn’t lose anything even if I skimmed at some parts.  I still had a lot of questions when I finished the book… and it’s the basic ones, you know.  Like why are voyants persecuted?  What does the Seven Seals group do really?  It doesn’t require a sequel to answer these questions.  (If it does, then I’m done.)  I’m just having a hard time to accept this as if it is fact.

 

And this is probably the first time where I was left untouched by the lead male character.  I’m not looking for a falling-head-over-heels-for-Peeta effect.  But just… something.  I felt The Warden used Paige to fulfill his own agenda and masking that with “attraction” to her.  He said that everything he’s done was to “save her” from the Reph leader but if you really look into it, he trained Paige to be the Mockingjay of sorts, someone for the rest of Sheol I to follow.  An effective mentor-student attraction relationship is Vampire Academy’s Rose and Dimitri.  Dimitri is that stoic, unaffected character also but you can see his inner struggle about his feelings for Rose.  He was a likable character.  Hell, I couldn’t even dislike The Warden.  There was nothing to like or dislike about him.  But I guess that falls on the author’s writing style.

 

The title… “The Bone Season”.  What… where… did that even come from?  It was explained… in passing.  Oh-kay.

 

Seriously, whut?  It is just too complicated and overly ambitious.  I don’t know about “the next Harry Potter” because this felt closer to Mockingjay than HP.  I didn’t even like Mockingjay but that is exponentially better than this one.  The only similarity to HP is that it’s set in the UK.  It marginally picked up in the end but even though I liked the escape and action sequences, it was so not worth trudging through that hot mess to get there.

 

If this is going to be a 7-part series then… best of luck to you.  Series such as HP and Song of Ice And Fire had a clear direction from book one and even with all the characters and places, it was easy to follow because they felt genuine and engaging.  All this pomp and obvious effort to pad this book with jargon felt so forced and ultimately, unimpressive.

 

Rating: 3/5.  Two-and-a-half actually.  Half point was generous… for the effort.