235 of 251 people found the following review helpful
An above-average teen/"new adult" dystopian fantasy adventure,
This review is from: The Bone Season: A Novel (Hardcover)
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It's difficult to know where to start with The Bone Season. On one hand, publisher Bloomsbury has set a massive marketing campaign in motion, promoting the book as the best thing since Gone with the Wind, or at least The Hunger Games, and young author Samantha Shannon as the most talented and precocious young writer since Sylvia Plath or maybe David Foster Wallace. This makes any criticism of the book seem like a mean-spirited attack on a genius and her masterpiece. On the other hand, there's the book itself, which, although not bad for a first novel, is much better suited to a teen audience looking forward to early adulthood than to the older adult audience Bloomsbury is apparently seeking.
If you're reading this, you probably know that the book centers on 19-year-old Paige, a girl with supernatural powers who lives in an authoritarian future London where "voyants" like her are hunted, imprisoned, and executed. Most of the story takes place after Paige unintentionally kills two police, is captured, and is shipped off to a secret "penal colony" called "Sheol." Sheol is run by inhuman creatures from another dimension who make slaves and servants of the voyants sent to them by "Scion," the corporate regime that rules London. Like her fellow prisoners, Paige is given to a "Raphaite" master, and she must watch as her fellow prisoners are tortured, starved, killed, or, worse, turned into loyal proteges of the brutal Rephaites. Over the course of the novel, Paige must face a number of tough questions, including whether she's willing to fully develop her dangerous powers, how far she's willing to go in order protect her friends, who she should trust and how deeply, and whether she is fighting only for her personal freedom or for the good of all voyants ... and, ultimately, humanity.
Shannon keeps readers engaged by slowly but steadily revealing the secrets of the Raphaites and Scion and gradually building relationships between Paige, her peers, and her Raphaite master, the Warden. The pace will be too slow for some, and many readers will be disappointed at how little sustained action there is between the time of Paige's capture and the slam-bang finale, but these are not major weaknesses. Shannon keeps plenty of information to herself about the nature of Paige's world, but most readers will find the final resolution of "The Bone Season" satisfactory.
As for the debate about whether "The Bone Season" is an adult novel or a teen/young adult/"new adult" novel, my view is that Shannon's novel is too teen-focused and her perspectives too teen-like to satisfy many older adults. Adults are best able to enjoy books about children and young people, I think, when there are strong adult characters to comment on the young ones' behavior and impart the wisdom of the ages. In "David Copperfield," we have the adult David Copperfield looking back on his past. In the Harry Potter books, we have Dumbledore, McGonagall, and even Snape. In contrast to those works, the older characters in this book have very little to contribute. Paige's father is oblivious to her struggles and is almost entirely absent. Nick, Paige's 27-year-old best friend, is the nice but weak guy who placed her in the hands of a sociopathic crime lord who treats her like personal property. The obligatory immortal-but-ageless-in-appearance love interest (whose name I'll omit to avoid spoilers) might have been able to play this role, but (a) he's the strong-but-silent type, and (b) he's an old guy who makes out with a teenager.
Bottom line: If you enjoy dystopian teen/young adult novels like The Hunger Games or Divergent, there's a good chance you'll like "The Bone Season," regardless of your age. If you're a fan of supernatural fantasy but the idea of reading a teen/young adult novel does not appeal to you, you can safely stay away; the "The Bone Season" is OK but it's not the thrilling and amazing masterpiece its publisher claims.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 20, 2013 9:13:56 AM PDT
Kerry Brunson says:
Your honesty is appreciated!
Posted on Aug 25, 2013 6:42:05 PM PDT
Excellent spoiler-free review! Thanks for that ! :-)
Posted on Dec 9, 2013 10:46:58 AM PST
I agree with your point that this book is better suited for a teen audience. I went into the book expecting adult characters. Those of adult age (e.g., Nick) are very immature, and as you pointed out they are not integral enough to the story to give the novel the feeling that it was written for adults. I think George R.R. Martin and J.R.R. Tolkien do an excellent job of creating characters that span a range of ages, sexes, and even species. I enjoyed this novel, but I don't know if I'll read a second in the series, if it is to be a series.
Posted on Oct 4, 2014 9:10:34 PM PDT
Aleta Chamberlain says:
What a great review!
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