Monday, January 6, 2014

"Bone Season" by Samantha Shannon

Bone Season has appeared on many "most hyped lists," though, interestingly, I don't think I've ever seen anyone actually "hyping" it. So it may be all on the publisher, who perhaps did itself (and its author) a disservice by raising expectations for a book that can't possibly meet them. Bone Season isn't a terrible book, but it's also nothing special outside the generic dystopian/fantasy YA genre, and its lack of spark--when juxtaposed with high expectations--probably makes it seem worse than it really is.

The book's plot and its worldbuilding is excessively convoluted--a problem throughout--but I'll try to give the basics. Paige is a "dreamwalker" in a world in which clairvoyance is illegal and hunted. She works for an underground syndicate of clairvoyants but is arrested one evening after killing a guard with her powers. She is taken to Sheol I, a "jail" for certain clairvoyants run by a race of beings called the Rephaim. The Rephaim are from another world and are training clairvoyants to fight devastating creatures that are entering our world. Paige is taken for training by the Warden. She is determined to escape and return to her "gang" in London.

Okay, so that's a terrible synopsis, but that's the basic storyline. There is an enormous range of clairvoyant types in the world, which can get incredibly confusing. I found the Rephaim's role in the world similarly muddled. And then there are Paige's feelings. She's incredibly devoted to her "gang" family, but I couldn't quite understand why. I see that they gave her companionship that she had lacked, but the intense devotion still felt odd. Most weirdly, about three-quarters through the book we learn about a super important super secret memory she has about her feelings for one of the members, which had never been alluded to before. It felt sudden and forced.

In general Paige felt under-developed even though the entire book focuses on her inner monologue. And many of the side characters--particularly people like Seb, Julian, and Liss, whom Paige becomes very attached to--are even less rounded.

Perhaps part of the problem is that Bone Season very much reads YA fantasy, but its protagonist is several years older. For that reason Paige's actions often felt out of step, though maybe they wouldn't have if the book read as more sophisticated.

In the end, the book was okay, the action was okay, and the obligatory "Romeo and Juliet" romance was okay, but I wouldn't have finished the novel if I'd had something else to read, and I've no intentions of reading the next. Apparently it's supposed to be the first in a seven-book series--ugh.

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