Thursday, April 2, 2015

Book Reivew: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

The Bone Season has so much going for it, it's amazing.

Let's start with a warning though and maybe a bit of constructive criticism for the author. There is a lot of information in this book and it is a big amount to process. You will be confused at times. You will feel like you're not getting all of the information but I assure you, all the terms aren't especially important and you'll be fine. At the beginning of the book, there are a couple of pages that help as far as terms and hierarchy goes and a map. Unfortunately, these are very small and hard to read. It would be awesome if there was a printout available for these so I don't have to keep flipping around in my kindle!

I tried to find a hi-res image of the information pages but was unable to. I am a big fan of maps and spreadsheets and it will not harm the success of the book if one is put out. Hell, it could probably be a marketing tool. It would even encourage a more in depth reading if the abilities of each individual person is more easily understood.

I'm not much into post-apocalyptic/dystopian books most of the time. I've gotten burned out on the plot lines where a single girl/guy with special abilities is able to save the whole human race and is regarded as a hero. These characters are rarely humble and largely obnoxious to me. I understand that it wouldn't be interesting to read the story of a normal character just struggling to survive but I wanted a little something different in this book. And it was achieved. 

There is true desperation in these characters and Paige, while she doesn't exactly live a terrible life, knows fear and knows that there are consequences. The people are oppressed in a tangible way and many times, that's missing from these books and I don't know why. It's easy to write about bad things happening to people (at least in my opinion) and I wish more authors would do it.
“Then there was that awful slogan: no safer place. More like no safe place. Not for us.”

Paige is a strong young woman living in what used to be London. Now it's controlled by Scion and she makes a living in the criminal underworld, working form Jaxon Hall (also known as Jax) and gathering information. This information keeps her and her friends safe from enemies and the controlling government that determined to wipe her kind out.

She isn't a mind reader but she can break into peoples' dreams and steal their thoughts. She isn't supposed to exist and keeps her life a secret from her family. But she is captured and taken to Oxford, a place that isn't supposed to exist anymore, and held captive by a race of super beings. Her new Master is a Rephaite called Warden who she is beholden to obey while he trains her to be a good servant. She is desperate to escape but she knows that in order to do so, she has to learn more about her abilities and the only way to do that is to be patient and suffer for a little while.

Paige is an incredibly relatable character. She thinks that she is all that and a bag of chips at the beginning.

Jax has been blowing hot air up her skirt for years. Sure, he pushes her to do more but she sees herself as a special snowflake that deserves to be protected. Paige has weaknesses, like needing life support in order to use her abilities, but is inherently valuable. But when she gets captured, she realizes that just because you're special doesn't mean you are going to have a better life than everybody else. She is going to have to work for something and more importantly, she is going to be treated like trash by people who should fear her. It's hard going from senior to freshman and she experiences that in a way that is easy to relate to. We've all thought that we were the best at something and then someone comes along and takes that all away from us.

Paige is humbled and that makes this special snowflake (usually a kiss of death) more palatable.
“They'd branded me like some kind of animal.
Lower than an animal.
A number.”
I feel like a lot of Paige's experience could be inspired, at least partially, by the Jews during WWII. She is taken from her home where she was successful and respected and placed in a camp where she is expected to serve her masters and is entirely disposable. She is given a number and a job and expected to do it. There aren't feelings involved. She is a tool and that is all. I feel like this book may have more depth than most YA because of situations like this. It's happened before and it can happen again in history.

The other main character is Warden. Usually, when I read about Wardens, I imagine something between the Warden from Holesand the one in O Brother, Where Art Thou?

I want a sadistic overlord whose word is law. But that isn't this Warden. While he has duties to fulfill and does them with relatively little emotional input, he is not just a one dimensional character and that was wonderful. He puts on a front and while he sees humans as tools, he is also aware of their suffering and does his best to mitigate it in some way.

The fact that he is the ultimate forbidden fruit is nothing to be ignored either.

Warden and Paige aren't allowed to touch skin to skin. Talk about frustration. If I was told I couldn't do something, even if I wasn't inclined to do it in the first place, it would make me want to do it anyways. It's a "Don't touch the button" type thing.

Their relationship isn't insta-love and it takes trust and understanding to build. Paige initially hates him and it isn't just a "I really don't like the popular guy at school because he's a jock and I'm the intellectual one among the sheep here." He has enslaved her. He controls everything about her existence. She isn't supposed to be attracted to this man and it rings a little bit of Stockholm Syndrome. I've seen some reviews say that their relationship wasn't believable but I found myself rooting for them the entire book.

Paige has gone from a somewhat autonomous and respected life among peers to a slave to a man who will not have any contact with her. Imagine going from a normal relationship with others, where casual touching is accepted and friendships are encouraged to a situation where you aren't even allowed to touch skin to skin. It would be a big change and one that would be difficult to get used to.
“No, Paige. I am trying to help you."
"Go to hell."
"I already exist on a level of hell."
"Exist on one that isn't near mine.”
She is fully within her rights to never trust him but Paige realizes that she is not all powerful and has to learn to rely on others, despite really not wanting to.

The Bone Season isn't your typical dystopian love story. It has fantasy elements to it and it isn't just about a girl finding her own strength. It can be compared to The Hunger Games and Divergent easily. But I think Paige is more vulnerable than both Katniss and Tris. She isn't all hard edges and abilities. Paige fails regularly. She has her walls built up but she isn't all hard edges and come backs. She tries to help others and doesn't only do it for selfish reasons. Deaths hit her hard and she feels responsibility.

This book is an overall solid read and I'm looking forward to the next one. It would be a full 5 stars if it weren't for the obnoxious flipping around for information (there's also a glossary in the back) and the dead puppy element of it.


  1. Great review. Paige's vulnerability is what made her relatable for me, too. We all fail at some time and I can't get into infallible characters.

    And I rooted for the relationship, too.

    1. Thank you! Infallible characters or ones where their flaws amount to being clumsy are hard to get into.