27 December 2013

The Bone Season - Samantha Shannon

So you all know I have A Thing about debut authors and how their books are generally... not so great. That's not to say that they won't get better, of course, and if your first novel is the best thing you ever produce and your name is neither Harper Lee or Margaret Mitchell, I'm going to be pretty sad for you.

Maybe the thing that irritates me the most about these debuts is the superlatives that are used on the dust jackets. If someone's first work is stunning, gorgeous, groundbreaking, and phenomenal; where do they go from there? That's a lot of pressure! Especially when people are calling you the next JK Rowling because you're young, English, blonde, and (to be fair)  a pretty talented wordsmith at 23.

Correlation vs. causation, my dear Watson.

Now, don't get me wrong: The Bone Season is a grand ol' time and I not only enjoyed it thoroughly, I also look forward to reading more of Ms. Shannon's work while I weep in the corner about how I've done nothing with my life and young whippersnappers are published authors. But she's no JK, and The Bone Season is not "the next Harry Potter," so kindly ignore all that stupid hype.

The world Shannon has created is a kind of neo-Victorian clairvoyant Brave New World (although that's also one of my favorite books so y'know - also not the next Aldous Huxley, yadda yadda). It's got a whiff of Neverwhere about it, as well as some Soylent Green.

Paige is a clairvoyant in a London that diverged from ours around 200 years ago, when Edward VII went crazy at a dinner table, killed 5 people, and thus unleashed the clairvoyant curse on some of the population. The government operates as something of a junta, and most voyants have either joined the underground crime syndicate or sold out to the government for safety and work as terriers, sniffing out the illegal voyants. And of course Paige's strain of voyancy is special if not unique, and of course she doesn't know exactly how to use it. Clearly she needs a mentor.

You could just use honey, Mr. Miyagi, but whatevs.
There are twists and turns and Shannon does an excellent job of doling out information in just the right doses to intrigue her readers. There are some inconsistencies, and the pacing isn't super-refined. But I expect that she'll develop into a pretty phenomenal author if she can avoid the trap of writing novels in order to make movies, and it's all pretty engaging, especially if you threw it into you library request list without knowing anything about it except a vague feeling of "I heard this was good and maybe saw it on my goodreads feed."

7.5 out of 11 Ribbons for Dangling from in a Circus Act that No One Watches