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Creative Dystopian Fantasy Falls Flat in Debut Novel ‘The Bone Season’

Out this past August, 22-year-old British author Samantha Shannon’s debut novel “The Bone Season” rides the wave of ever-popu­lar dystopian novels in mod­ern literature. The first in a projected seven part series, this new book explores a futuristic dystopian England beset by a sort of paranor­mal plague. Echoing other popular novels, “The Bone Season” brings a promising world into view, yet in the end succumbs to common pitfalls of the genre.

Set in the year 2059, in London, England, the story follows 19-year-old Paige Mahoney, a rare type of clairvoyant called a Dream­walker. This ability allows her to affect the “æther”– the world of spirits-mean­ing she can slip into other people’s minds and control them. Because of this, she is constantly hunted by the officials of the totalitarian government Scion, whose laws she breaks daily sim­ply by being alive and also because she works for the London crime syndicate as a part of the notorious ring known as The Seven Di­als. Headed by her eccen­tric, brilliant, and terrifying mime lord Jaxon Hall, she uses her powers to partici­pate in “mime-crime,” or using the spirit world for monetary gain.

But wait-just when readers think it could not get any more complex, Paige is abducted by Scion and given to the mysterious Rephaim, chilling beings from be­yond the Netherworld who have secretly been in con­trol since the early days of Scion. Trapped in a new and terrible prison, her re­lationship to her master, the betrothed to the murderous blood-sovereign, becomes increasingly complicated. Eventually Paige is faced with a choice: stay in cap­tivity there, or escape to London, where she was also oppressed.

While the novel has re­ceived a fair amount critical praise-with some dubbing Shannon the “new J.K. Row­ling”-as the author herself admits, it is not the height of literature. Heavy in fantasy jargon and obscure London slang, with several com­plicated settings, this book hardly reads smoothly and is difficult to follow. Paige, the main character, can be frustrating as she errati­cally lashes out at the world over and over, like an angry child. The idea of sorting people into groups (in this case over 100 types of clair­voyants) has also been com­pared to other popular books in the genre, including “The Hunger Games” and “Di­vergent” series. In the end, everything just seems like a massively complicated cov­er for an over-used genre, a promising world dampened by flat characters and cli­chés.

With six more books ahead of her, Shannon can expect to spend the rest of her twenties continuing the series. However, there is hope: she has already sold the film rights to producer Andy Serkis, and this first installment reached num­ber seven on the New York Times’ bestseller list-de­spite its flaws, with a little improvement, this could go far. One only hopes that during this time she and her characters can mature enough to transform the series into something truly original.

 

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