Saturday, 28 February 2015

Review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Book cover of The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
I know, right? Who knew I was actually able to write posts about books that aren't War & Peace? I do feel like I'm being unfaithful to it slightly, but on the bright side at least it means I can catch up on my backlog of reviews. Even though I should be reading epic Russian literature right now... *hides from this week's unread page count*

Plot summary: Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people's minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing.

I'd heard amazing things about The Bone Season and the recently released sequel, The Mime Order. It's supposed to be 'the next Harry Potter' (along with every other fantasy book series ever) due to it's uniqueness and general awesomeness. I'm sure these things would be true if I understood a damn thing it was talking about.

At the beginning it was almost like reading a textbook - there was a huuuuge infodump about people, acronyms, types of powers, etc. and it really wasn't subtle at all. The explanations (such as there were) weren't woven into the story, we were just treated to rather large essays of text that didn't really make it any clearer anyway.

I barely understood the world that Paige lives in, so when the action started almost immediately, I didn't really care because I didn't understand the meaning or the implications. Far, far too much happens in the first few chapters - I was texting Charlotte almost incessantly whining (in capital letters, naturally) that I didn't understand. 

When I went online to check that this is the first book in the series (yes, it is that confusing) I found out that there's actually a glossary of terms at the back. It's not that useful as the words I wanted to look-up weren't even there, but it also makes no sense no have it at the back. I'd never have known it existed if a fellow reader hadn't mentioned it in passing. It seems rather lazy to bung a glossary in, instead of actually explaining what the feck you're talking about.

But then, this book is rather lazy. The prose is actually quite well-written, but every so often something 'clunks' in your head that makes you wonder how well this has actually been checked over. It's only the small things (like characters miraculously being aware of something they have no way of knowing, or a character standing in a corner and then somebody sitting at the table next to them), but it is irritatingly frequent.

Paige herself is also rather annoying, in the usual theoretically strong female character way. You know, where the author tries to make her a role model and she's actually just really mean? She shouts at everybody, is generally ungrateful for any help she receives and pretty much refuses to listen to anything/anyone that isn't her own ego. 

Lastly, the passage of time is explained very badly and this is quite the pet hate of mine. It seems as though they've only been around for a week or so, but then the prose suddenly announces (as subtly as always) that nine months have passed and it's incredibly disorientating.

I just don't understand how this series can possibly be dragged out into seven books - three seems like it would be more than enough. Obviously I have no idea where the author intends the story to go, but that's hardly surprising considering I barely understood where this story went.  

It's probably fairly obvious by this point, but I did not like The Bone Season. It was written well and probably had some interesting ideas, but it didn't take the time to explain them. There's absolutely nothing subtle about this book - not the plot, the info dump, the characters or the relationships - and I'd have infinitely preferred a slower pace and less action with more world-building.

Read Charlotte's more positive (and more eloquent) review of The Bone Season here.


  1. Oh dear! I feel like if there is a glossary it should be made really clear that there is one! I don't think I will give this one a try, although books that confuse me language wise don't really bother me that much (I have read and liked A Clockwork Orange which I didn't really start to understand until I was about 30 or 40 pages in, and The Wake, which again, took me ages to actually understand in any meaningful way)... but I think that books that are written so they aren't easily understandable have to sort of lower you gently into the story, and be designed so that you gradually understand what they're talking about. It doesn't sound like this one was!

    Also, mistakes like that annoy me too. I always assume it's because I'm not reading carefully enough (and sometimes it is that! haha), but because of my job (and my previous job where I was both translating and checking other people's translations), I know how easy it is to make completely stupid mistakes, so to not go through something with a fine toothed comb and try to get rid of as many as possible just seems really arrogant to me, like the author couldn't be bothered checking that much because they just assumed that they couldn't possibly make mistakes like that. Obviously it should also have been picked up by an editor too, I guess..

  2. I can see how it's a hard world to understand, although I think a lot of her terminology is borrowed from a standard set used in a lot of fantasy. Enough so that I understood most of it. I really got sucked in to this series, I loved it, but I don't think the whole hype and Harry Potter comparisons helps it at all. It fits nicely in with plenty of urban fantasy series for grown ups.


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