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Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

The Bone Seasona review by Nalini Haynes

★★★☆ ☆ three out of four stars based on an incomplete read

Before I begin, I confess I only read 145 pages or about 1/3 of the Bone Season. The writing is competent and the world-building detailed but it’s the first of SEVEN novels, which is a HUGE commitment.

So. This is my review of the bit I read.

Paige Mahoney – no, not Paige Matthews – is a clairvoyant in Bone Season’s alternate world. Clairvoyants are hunted down and destroyed as part of Scion’s genetic cleansing program so Paige lives in fear and works in the criminal underworld. Scion is the government/corporation that took power in London after Edward IV was found guilty of serial murders and suspected of being Jack the Ripper.

Paige is captured after she killed someone in an attempt to escape authorities. She’s deported to Oxford, now a city-state ruled by Rephalites.

Many different kinds of clairvoyant specialities emerged in the 200 years since the Rephalites came to Earth through a tear in the Netherworld. The Rephalites use human clairvoyants for food and cannon fodder in their aetherial war. They feed on human clairvoyant auras like vampires on blood; blood is even spilt when feeding.

The Rephalites don’t feed their humans – or at least don’t feed them regularly by official channels – in Bone Season. Every ten years human clairvoyants are deported to Oxford on a train that arrives laden with food. It appears the ten-year train is the sole source of food upon which human servants must rely when their Rephalite masters fail to feed them.

Humans feed their livestock; we understand that if we don’t feed cows and sheep, they die. If livestock die of starvation this means no food for humans. Humans fuel machinery that functions to serve, whether it’s plugging in the vacuum cleaner or putting petrol in a car. Without fuel the machinery doesn’t function. Apparently the Rephalites are too callous and cruel to absorb these empirical facts.

Why the Bone Season, the time clairvoyants are delivered to the Rephalites, only takes place every ten years and not at least once a year, was not explained in the portion I read.

Rephalites control Scion therefore Rephalites are responsible for removing clairvoyants from the population, hence removing them from the breeding pool. Humans are not allowed to breed while in the Rephalite city. Clairvoyants are regularly killed by Scion anti-clairvoyant enforcers. It appears the Rephalites are intent on culling the human clairvoyant population and yet it is this diminished population that serve as Rephalite food and cannon fodder.

Apart from these holes Samantha Shannon has built an extraordinarily detailed world, especially for a debut author. Relationships are established early on between characters like Liss and Paige to provide a core cast, although I was rather skeptical about Liss’s easy acceptance of Paige after Paige’s initiation. Paige builds a relationship of sorts with The Warden, her Rephalite owner, while living with and serving him. The stage is being set for this SEVEN NOVEL series.

The Bone Season features competent prose and detailed world building with foreshadowing of the plot developments to come. I read the first 145 pages and predict a 3 star-rating for the book at most, but for me to commit to a seven novel series with novels of 452 pages or thereabouts each, I want more.

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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