“Nothing’s worse than a story without an end.”
Paige Mahoney lives in Scion London in 2059, in an alternate history dystopia in which an unwitting British monarch unleashed a supernatural threat on the world by dabbling in occult practices during the 19th century. A segment of the human population has developed a variety of clairvoyant powers, and they are hated and feared by normal citizens; simply being psychic is punishable by death, unless the voyant is willing to turn traitor and help hunt down their former fellows. Despite the death sentence, London is home to a thriving supernatural underworld which is ruled by the mime-lords, who gather in the most powerful psychics and use their abilities to maintain control and avoid capture. Paige’s father is a Scion researcher, and has no idea his daughter is The White Dreamer, a member of the Seven Seals gang that rules one of London’s districts. When Paige is captured after killing an officer during a routine subway sweep, she find herself in Sheol I, a training camp for voyants hidden in the dead city of Oxford, and run by an extra-dimensional race of beings called the Rephaim. The Scion puppet regime has been sending all the voyants it can capture to Sheol I, where the Rephaim train them to fight the Emim, a ravenous race of inter-dimensional predators. Prized in her gang for the rarity of her power as dreamwalker, Paige is no less unusual in Sheol I, and she finds herself assigned as the sole human ward of Arcturus, consort to Nashira, the Blood Sovereign of the Rephaim. Arcturus proves to be a more humane jailer than many of his fellows, but Paige can’t quite bring herself to trust him, even though he may be to key to overthrowing Nashira and escaping Sheol I.
Samantha Shannon’s debut novel sets up a complicated world with too many secrets, and a convoluted system of tiered clairvoyant powers that even Shannon seems to have trouble keeping straight despite the chart that opens the book. Is the short-hand for tasseographer tasser, or taser, for example? Both variants appear in the book, but it’s difficult enough to keep track of what each type of voyant can do, let alone what to call them. There is a glossary to supplement the chart, but it’s inconvenient to be constantly referring to it rather than becoming immersed in the world. The Bone Season manages to be heavy on world-building, and yet leave many details unclear or totally unexplained. Undoubtedly much of what we do learn in this initial instalment will turn out to be a lie or a misconception as Paige delves further into the history of Scion and the Rephaim. Shannon’s writing is stylistically strong, built on an abundant vocabulary, and a gothic tone but where The Bone Season falls down is the plot, which progresses at a snail’s pace in a fairly predictable direction. The story may well be going somewhere interesting in this projected seven book series, but it just seems to be too soon to say for sure. I’m willing to give book two a chance, but it is going to have to bring it’s A game in order to convince me to continue with the series.