I wanted to name this post “Why Samantha Shannon is no JK Rowling”.
But then I realized there’s been enough and more outcry on this topic that I would just be adding some more broken twigs to be carried away in this gale storm. Don’t get me wrong, but sometimes the publishing houses get their marketing siege machines all wrong. Bombarding the wrong message. About that 7-book deal and more. It’s been an injustice.
So yes I finally got around to reading The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. And hell, am I disappointed or what. The book at best is an overly ambitious, highly confusing imbroglio – And yes I concur to everything that the detractors have thrown at Samantha’s face. Info-dumping, non-existent plot, wafer-thin characters and extremely confusing action bordering between mind/dream warfare and knuckle fighting.
So the reason I decided to bite the bullet was part-two of the hype-product, Mime-Order is coming out early next year and I’ve got an ARC for the same. Wanted to test the waters and get behind the hyperbole. And man, am I sinking.
So futuristic London – 2059 – is a world teeming with dangers. The world order is controlled by an entity called Scion intended to protect the normal people (“Amaurotics” – Couldn’t you keep it simple? Like Muggles. See. Muggles. Ordinary people without the gift of sight. Sigh!) from clairvoyants (“Voyants” Ha. Clever play on words huh). Who’ve set up an underground London rife with crime and mafia bosses called Mime-Lords. The author goes to extraordinary lengths to get us the picture of a well-laid out syndicate of crime – Mime-Lords controlling areas and sections and having an order of close crime-partners, all of them gifted or “sighted” to be able to touch the “aether”.
Now – Question One. Why are these “voyants” dangerous? Not sure if there’s reason enough to call this dystopian London. For the gargantuan amount of info-dumps on order of clairvoyants, there is no clue given as to why London in the future is a dangerous place and what crimes do the mime-lords really commit so to attract the attention of the law/Scion?
Question Two – Aether? I get it that souls depart bodies on death and withdraw into the aether. Some kind of an afterworld where spirits await the call of the voyants. Coz yes, that’s what Voyants are best at doing. Spooling spirits and using them as sandbags – whipping them to collide into one’s minds. Welcome to bizarre imagery. It’s just starting.
So back to the plot – Paige Mahoney, our fearless kick-ass heroine, all of nineteen years, is the rarest of the voyants. An ability to dream-walk – meaning able to spy on other’s “dreamscapes” – makes her a “Wanted” criminal by just breathing. Just breathing? Really? And yeah this is where you should dive to get the rambling glossary.
Glossary? Double-take huh. Yeah, there is one that goes on and on. A lot of nineteenth century underground English mafia terms have been liberally wrangled with. Barking Irons = Guns. Broads = Tarot Cards. Flimp = Pickpocket. And such.
Paige however, gets into a hot mess. She inadvertently kills off a couple of cops and gets captured. ( oh. Cops. The info-spool reels off about Night Vigiles Department NVD and SVD – assumed to be the Sun guys I think. About Voyants who have given themselves over to the Scion so to catch other voyant criminals. )
And from here, I thought Samatha just completely lost it.
The Voyant prison is in the destroyed city of Oxford. (Now called Sheol I. I wonder why it rhymes with Seoul?) Ruled by aliens from the Netherworld called Rephaims who claim to protect the humans from otherworldly beasts called Emims. Blood thirsty demons who don’t distinguish between Rephs, Voyants or Amaurotics.
And this is where Paige meets the mysterious dark stranger who will change her life. Whoa! I didn’t see that coming now? Nope I didn’t. Urban Paranormal Fantasy. Set in future London. Featuring kick-ass fearless heroine. With the hots for that dark stranger. Ring a Bell?
The name of the book is derived from this act of reaping “human” souls into Sheol I – Bone Season refers to this act that happens every ten years. Why you ask? For the purpose of sustaining these aliens. For these aliens are nothing but Vampires. That feed on the voyants blood. This pretty much killed the book for me, frankly. It was going the way of a typical paranormal romantic fantasy.
So Paige and her keeper, the stranger who turns out to be none other than the betrothed to the psychotic megalomanical queen bee of Sheol I – they decide to turn the tables on the tyrannical rulers. How this rebellion transpires forms the rest of the narrative.
Now the worldbuilding aspects. It is fucking colossal. Hats off to the author’s boundless imagination – she definitely puts her heart and soul into creating this world of the Bone Season. And yet there are aspects that are super vague and leaves you scratching your head. The action and pacing is relentless though. There is something always happening. Smoothly glossing over a non-existent plot. Samantha’s writing is not bad at all. She keeps the narrative tense – but her only flaw is the frequent sidetrips – like flashbacks on part of Paige to try and build out her character. I wasn’t really buying it though. Too late in the game.
Well the Characters – they are dime-a-dozen. I didn’t keep track of the names. They keep flitting in and out of the narrative at will. The only tour-de-force that demanded attention was Paige herself. And yet even her character is mostly one-dimensional and not very complex. Frankly through the story there doesn’t seem to be much development. With all the troubles thrown at her, Paige handles herself adroitly well. Too well, in fact. Not a problem, she bulldozes through pretty much everything because of her special skill. Of dream-walking. The Warden, her keeper at Sheol I seemed pretty interesting but sigh, in the explosive action that takes over from just before the climax, all of it gets lost.
Magic system. I admit this one stumped me. I had trouble keeping track. And I thought Brandon Sanderson made extremely complicated ones. Not even close no.
So J K Rowling then? Yow! That was a howl of indignation. I clearly remember my first experience reading Harry Porter and the Philosopher’s stone. There was a sense of wonder and unbridled joy as I set out exploring and discovering the magic of Pottermania. With Bone Season, there is only a discrete sense of bone-weary tiredness. Of having had to clomp through enormous sludge of info-dump. I clearly didn’t enjoy the book. But to give it due, the pacing is pretty well done and my curiosity to see where Paige and Warden end up got me through the book pretty fast.
The ending is a massive cliff-hanger. On a speeding train, no less. I am really not sure I want to get on to that train again and get my brain clobbered. Mime-Order? I will skip that order sir.