Author: Samantha Shannon, 2013.
Genre: Dystopian. Supernatural. Alternative History.
Other Details: Hardback. 466 pages.
I like to imagine there were more of us in the beginning. Not many, I suppose. But more than there are now. We are the minority the world does not accept. Not outside of fantasy, and even that’s blacklisted. - opening lines of The Bone Season.
The year is 2059. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of Scion London, based at Seven Dials, employed by a man named Jaxon Hall. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing.
It is raining the day her life changes for ever. Attacked, drugged and kidnapped, Paige is transported to Oxford – a city kept secret for two hundred years, controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. Paige is assigned to Warden, a Rephaite with mysterious motives. He is her master. Her trainer. Her natural enemy. But if Paige wants to regain her freedom she must allow herself to be nurtured in this prison where she is meant to die. - synopsis from UK publisher's website.
I wasn't aware of the hype surrounding this novel but spotted it on the 'new books' shelf and thought it looked intriguing. After reading the cover blurb I went into it expecting something lighter than it turned out to be. I found it an intriguing mix of near future dystopia/alternative history in which people with psychic abilities ("voyants") are deemed unnatural and are outlawed under a totalitarian government while a hidden otherworldly species manipulates human civilisation and gathers voyants for their own purposes.
I was drawn into Shannon's world pretty quickly and felt she that did an excellent job of creating a world that was both familiar and alien. She plunges the reader in with little exposition until later on when we learn more of how the world came to be as it is. Obviously, I am not sure how the story will play out over seven books but having enjoyed the first in the series I certainly will be keeping a look out for future instalments. I did note that that while there are Tarot readers and voyants who can summon spirits there do not seem to be any occultists or magicians, though in a planned seven-novel series, those working with magic ritually could still come into play.
One of the pleasures of the novel was the slang that Shannon integrated into the narrative. In the glossary found at the end of the novel she states that the slang used by Paige is "loosely based on words used in the criminal underworld of London in the nineteenth century, with some amendments to meaning or usage". I was very grateful for the glossary and consulted it often. The fact that in the novel British history changed course in 1859, these vestiges of Victoriana fitted the story well as did the location of the criminal underworld at the infamous Seven Dials. With Victorian clothing also being the fashion in SciLo the author's description of her sub-genre as being"'penny farthing futurism, retro futurism" seems very apt.
The Bone Season official web-site - includes link to map. glossary and chart of the 7 Orders of Clairvoyants.