Review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Let me say this. Those who work in the publishing industry, in particular Samantha Shannon's publishers, need to take a long, hard look at the way that they market books. Is the Bone Season a good book? Absolutely. Is it the next J.K. Rowling? No.

Samantha Shannon was twenty-one years old when she wrote the novel for heaven's sake. It is good book, not without it's failings (far too much information dumping,) but hey she's young and it's a first novel. But JK Rowling she is not. I'm afraid there is only one author who is qualified to be JK Rowling and that is JK Rowling. Or perhaps I'll make an exception for Robert Galbraith. 

As a reviewer, one of the biggest problems I have with publishers is that they throw all of their weight behind one particular novel. They want us to read their books. Awesome. The trouble is, they want us to all read the same book. And so a huge budget is created and spent promoting one author. Which brings me back to Mr Galbraith. Who actually was JK Rowling, but Random House didn't know that at the time of publication of The Cuckoo's Calling and, consequently, the novel was barely promoted and sold a modest number of copies. Then the truth came out and suddenly The Cuckoo's Calling was being printed and distributed right around the globe and shot up the best seller lists. But if anyone else had written that crime novel which was reviewed well by fellow writers, then very few people would have heard about it or cared. And sadly, I suspect, without the JK Rowling comparisons, The Bone Season would not have produced nearly as much hype or interest. Which is a shame. The author's journey to publication at such a young age is a interesting one and the novel, while not perfect, showcases Shannon's rich imagination and her ability to transform her imaginings into a full and interesting parallel universe. 

It's just a shame that nearly all of my review thus far has been of her publisher and their idiotic marketing of this novel. 

Anyway, The Bone Season introduces us to Paige Mahoney a nineteen-year-old Clairvoyant who lives in a world that is just like ours, but for the fact that it's 2059, London is known as Scion and all forms of Clairvoyance are banned. Which, you know, is nothing at all like Harry Potter. Anyway through a misadventure on the train, Paige discovers the full extent of her abilities. And then something called the Bone Season occurs and she is sent away to an alternate version of Oxford where humans act as slaves for the ruling race, either as entertainers or soldiers. The ruling race treat all humans badly, but Paige has rare and special powers that the evil leader wants and she intends to murder her publicly in order to inherit these powers. Sound complicated? It is.

There are also some interesting parallels with what happens in Ireland in Paige's universe with the real twentieth century history in Ireland, particularly The Troubles.

The Bone Season is long, overloaded with information and alternate names for things that are quite common in fantasy and paranormal fiction. When there was a lot of action, it was a pleasure to read this novel. When the author dumped a whole lot of information, reading this novel became something of a chore. I felt that it could have been a lot shorter. The ending left much up in the air, but that can be blamed on the fact that it is the first in a seven book series. I mean, who really wants everything to be resolved before the sequel hits.

Shannon's writing will no doubt change as she grows and matures as a writer, perhaps becoming a little less pretentious, and I expect that her journey will be an interesting one. I just hope that she concentrates on being the best Samantha Shannon, rather than trying to live up to impossible comparisons that have been set by her publishers and the media.


Andrew Leon said…
I haven't decided whether I want to read this or not. I'm also disgruntled by the publisher's handling of it, but, then, publishers don't want, to use a baseball metaphor, singles and doubles; they want every book to be a homerun, and they're busy dumping authors that only get on base and pushing the remaining authors to hit it out of the park.
At any rate, I don't think I'm interested in reading lots of info dumping, and I'm not really convinced that she can produce six more books. From the interviews I've read with her, she's not convinced of that either. So I'll just wait and see how things develop.
Kathryn White said…
It will be interesting to see how things do develop.

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