Audiobook Review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
Genre: Science Fiction Fantasy
Series: Book 1 of The Bone Season
Publisher: Audible for Bloomsbury
Date of Publication: August 20, 2013
I’ve heard so much about The Bone Season, which was quite possibly one of this summer’s most talked about debuts by author Samantha Shannon. Though I’m the kind of person who’s generally wary of the hype machine, I won’t deny I was quite curious to see for myself what all the fuss was about! And now that I’ve had the chance to finish the audiobook, I can certainly understand why readers have been so impressed by it.
Though not officially marketed as a Young Adult novel, I’m also not surprised to see so many categorize The Bone Season as such. The nature of its story, main character and dystopian setting all mingle to give it that distinctive YA vibe, yet that’s not to say that adults won’t be able to enjoy this too. The book’s crossover appeal probably has a lot to do its protagonist and narrator, 19-year-old Paige Mahoney who is a strong, mature and level-headed heroine with whom a wide audience can relate.
Paige is also known as a “Dreamwalker”, in this alternate world set in the future where individuals like her who possess supernatural abilities are called “Voyants”. The book takes place in London, 2059 where the security force Scion holds authority, declaring all voyants criminals simply by existing. Paige is forced to live a secret life, working for the underworld organization where she gathers information by using her rare powers to breaking into other people’s minds.
When an unfortunate incident leads to her arrest, however, Paige finds herself imprisoned at a penal colony in Oxford, a city long forgotten. She finds out that Scion has been sending captured voyants here to become slaves and soldiers to an otherworldly race called the Rephaim. She is assigned to Warden, her Rephaim keeper in charge of her care and training. Now all Paige wants to do is to escape and find her way home, but as the days goes by she discovers there is a lot more at stake than just her freedom.
First, the good stuff: I really liked Paige, a smart and capable young woman who is also not infallible. Her history is well-developed and written in such a way that her past details are revealed gradually throughout the course of the novel, keeping things interesting for those curious about her story. My Audible version of The Bone Season is narrated by Irish actress Alana Kerr, who brings Paige to life with her performance. This was the first experience I’ve had with her work, and I could be wrong but I believe she’s new to reading audiobooks. Generally, I prefer narrators who can do a broader range of voices (because sometimes it was hard to tell which character was speaking) but I probably wouldn’t be averse to checking out her future audiobook performances if she does any. Overall I was happy with her reading, because she did such a wonderful job conveying Paige’s strength and poise.
The world Samantha Shannon has created is also amazingly detailed, but this also means an almost overwhelming amount of information to take in. This does cause some hitches in the pacing, especially during the first half of the novel which didn’t flow as well as the second half. I also had to go back several times at the beginning to learn and familiarize myself with all the different names and terms of people, places, organizations, voyant types, and slang. Doing so wasn’t easy with an audiobook, but it was also absolutely worth it in order to get the full impact of the setting, and I got to appreciate just how rich it is.
In the end, I felt The Bone Season was an incredibly impressive debut novel from a 21-year-old new author. Hype can be a dangerous thing sometimes, and though it was impossible to ignore the comparisons calling this book the next Hunger Games or Samantha Shannon the next J.K. Rowling, I think going into this book with realistic expectations helped me a lot. I came out of this one pleasantly surprised, and I’m definitely open to reading more from this author and series.