The year is 2059 and the setting is London, England. The world is a place where ghosts exist and people can manipulate things with their minds; where ESP and spirit combat runs rampant. Paige Mahoney is living a dual life hiding who she is from Scion, the official security force. As a human you are either born a Voyant or a Amaurotic and either path determines your fate. Paige is a Voyant, a Dreamwalker who pretends to be a normal Amaurotic woman in order to acquire information for an underground organization, the Seven Seals. It isn’t until she fatally unleashes her powers against two men that her abilities are discovered by Scion. Paige is summarily hunted down and thrown into Sheol I, a prison colony run by a race of beings who survive on human auras – the Rephaim.
As part of the sentence all criminals are consigned to a master; a Rephaite overlord who determines your every action, whether you sleep or eat, and if you are allowed to draw breath. Paige’s Rephaite is Arcturus Mesarthim, the Blood-Consort to the Blood-Sovereign, Nashira Sargas. The Rephaim are spiteful and cruel with their Voyants. Arcturus, whom Paige calls Warden, values her mental abilities and encourages her to hone them to a purpose unknown to her. Paige is determined to escape Sheol I and return to her life with Jaxon and her friends of the Seven Seals… to an uncertain life of hiding who, and what, she really is.
There’s an interesting theme running continuously throughout the book about dominance versus oppression. Paige is of Irish descent and the thread of old grudges between the Irish and the English are ever-present in the story. It’s obvious that living either as a Human or a Rephaim is disparate, and yet the two races symbiotically must rely upon one another. Two hundred years of Rephaim rehabilitative subjugation instills a class distinction between the Rephaim (who are akin to royalty) and their inferiors (which are everyone else). It takes class warfare and sociopolitical ethos to a completely different level than most Dystopian, destroying the tropes of genre while simultaneously encompassing them.
There is also a highly fantastic element in the story. The fact that this world was born in the time of Queen Victoria and King Edward VII helps create a mystical setting that I, for one, enjoyed very much. The early 20th century upper class fascination with Occultism lays a foundation for a world of seances and card readers, of Dreamwalkers and inner spiritual planes – a supernatural fundamentalism that may or may not exist depending on if you are a Voyant or an Amaurotic.
In the midst of this dynamic we have Paige, our 19 year old heroine (with massive cross-over appeal between Adult and Young Adult readers). Paige is resourceful. She is cunning and keen. She adapts well to new situations and tries to eke the best results out of everything that she experiences. Pairing her against Warden, who is one of the more compassionate Rephaim, is a treat. There’s a magic in the scenes with the two that readers will find absorbing; a delicious chemistry of Master and Subordinate that blends unexpectedly into a careful intimacy that could endanger both. The friendship that develops between the two will carry a reader through this multi-book series with ease, and the Fantasy premise will keep them wanting more.
The world building in this book is nuts. Shannon is obviously a detail oriented writer and this is a impressive debut. I’m not sure if I have everything straight in my head myself. Just when I thought I had an understanding about everything Shannon threw in five new angles and a horde of new terminology to assimilate. It’s a book that takes devotion on the reader’s part to get the knack of it. However, it’s a richly crafted world and a stunning story, one that will reward a reader’s ardour tenfold. It’s a story that will stick with you months after the read.
The Bone Season is a striking, brain-breaking, lushly vivid world… A simple, and beautiful struggle between men and monsters and the unspoken rules governing all. This is a book that begs to be reread. I’m still not sure if I am smart enough for it. I just know that I can’t wait to reread it.
5 out of 5 stars.
* The Bone Season releases August 20, 2013.
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