Khanh the Killjoy

The Bone Season (Scion 1)

The Bone Season - Samantha Shannon In short: the publisher's overblown hype set this book up for judgment and failure, but the book itself provided the rope.I hate hype. The thing about hype is that it---unfairly, at times---sets the bar up so high that there is really nowhere to go but down. This is true especially in the case of such a young author. You throw in the name Bloomsbury, and the "seven book series" bit, and the J.K. Rowling comparison surely comes. It certainly sets standards extremely high, unrealistically high, that inevitably one is disappointed with anything less. And this book, while technically acceptable, is in no way comparable to the enjoyment I had from reading the first of the Harry Potter series.Granted, the premise is not the same, the audience is not the same. One fact remains: my enjoyment of the book is just not there. Take away the hype, take away the expectations, and I am only left mildly impressed at this freshman effort of a book.It is an overly ambitious infodump. It was difficult to read. I sludged through this as I would a school textbook: it was just not an enjoyable book at all, for me. Action and information takes priority over a a sensible plot and character development. The addition of a massive cast serves to only disguise the fact that the plot is a hot mess. This is not science fiction. It is fantasy, it is paranormal, there is nothing remotely resembling science in here for a book that purportedly takes place in the future.The premise: This is Gameboard of the Gods, with a glossary. I oftentimes joke that in sci-fi, there really needs to be a glossary because oftentimes the terms and concepts are neither well-explained enough, nor are they explained in a timely manner. Well, ta da! I got my wish...and I wish I hadn't. It is really bad when there is a glossary of this length. It is not a good sign when within the first 20 pages, I am confused out of my mind, and have to read the book on two mediums, my reader and a netbook, just so I could have two versions of it open so I could constantly (and I mean constantly) refer back to the glossary. It is one thing to create a new world, it is another to immerse the reader so that they feel like they're drowning, holding onto the fucking glossary as a flotation device. It took me a long, long time to read the initial chapters, because I kept having to look things up and then memorize what they actually are. And there are. So. Many. Terms.It took me awhile to realize that this is an alternate universe of the UK; I didn't know this was so until it was mentioned that Oxford (a not-so-subtle-reference to the author's pedigreed university) was destroyed in the year 1859. Oh. That answers a lot of questions, like why the fuck is the UK, not even half a century from now, so goddamned different. Why are there oxygen bars?! Isn't oxygen kind of required for living? Etc. Alternate London. Well, that was easy.The world building is at simultaneously overly detailed and extremely vague. Very, very, very specific information is given only when it pleases the author to do so. There is a lot of information (information is the word of the day, in the context of this book) given to us when it's convenient for the author to do so. People with clairvoyance are feared and hated and hunted down---the reasons is never explained clearly enough for my satisfaction. There is little history, little background, little explanation to why things are this way or that, nothing to make us feel like this could be an actual world. As quickly as we are dumped into this setting from a 50-foot plank, we're immediately plunked into yet another underground world. An secret world set in an alternate universe. It's so very Inception, is it not? We've got clairvoyants, seers, etc., in one world, and we're dumped into Sheol I, in which there are Emims and Rephaites, and there's more info-dumping on them. God save us all.The characters: The characters and the setting are gloriously sterile. They left me emotionless. You could easily kill any of the main characters off 90% through and I wouldn't even blink, much less shed a microscopic tear. The book didn't give any of the characters personality or character development until the author suddenly remembers, oh, I should probably insert _____ poignant moment in here at _____ appropriate time.Paige Mahoney is our special snowflake of the day. She is the daughter of an eminent scientist within the Scion scientific research division, and has had a very privileged life due to her father's status and importance. She doesn't want it.I’d always hated school: the uniform, the dogma. Leaving was the high point of my formative years.I always hate it when characters act stupidly contrary like this. Guess what, Paige? It's life. You are not special. School is expected, as are following the rules. Nobody likes it, but we do it because it's the mature thing to do. Making a character a special snowflake is a surefire way to guarantee that I will not like her. Paige just doesn't feel like she belongs in the average life. She's meant for something more. So instead of settling into a mundane life like the rest of us (and therefore saving me from having to read this book), Paige joins the clairvoyant version of the Mafia.For a book that is told from a first-person narrative, I got no sense of Paige's personality or any sort of complexity or development as the book progresses. Her narrative is comprised of more action than thoughts. Take away the plot, and you are left with a book of YA PNR tropes and clichés. The jealous queen bee, the darkly mysterious guy, the girl with special powers.There is a very large cast of characters about whom I could not care less. Short of a few main characters, the rest of the cast are largely extraneous and utterly forgettable.The romance: utterly forced. Utterly unnecessary. Not well-built at all. Came out of nowhere. To summarize: Paige gets rescued/captured by the Rephaim as she is about to die (so terribly convenient), and is told that she is part of Bone Season XX---which starts...NOW!(Again, so terribly convenient). The Rephaite captures people and save them for every 10 years to compete in this special contest to see who gets to be their special servants, a red-jacket (as opposed to the regular servants, who are just performers---harlies). Shock of all shocks, Paige notices one particular Rephaite, a very-super-extra-good-looking one (among the merely really-good-looking ones).One of the Rephaim was looking at me.His gaze cleaved straight to mine, as if he’d been waiting for me to look, watching for a flicker of dissent. His skin was a dark honey gold, setting off two heavy-lidded yellow eyes. He was the tallest of the five males, with coarse brown hair, clothed in embroidered black. Wrapped around him was a strange, soft aura, overshadowed by the others in the room. He was the single most beautiful and terrible thing I’d ever laid eyes on.Shockingly, he picks Paige to be his Special Girl. She gets to be his servant! She's soooooooooooo special, because guess what?“You have attracted the attention of the blood-consort: Arcturus, Warden of the Mesarthim. He has decided to be your keeper.”“It is rare that he takes interest in a human...You are very, very fortunate.”Fuck me. Facepalming so hard.Their romance is forced and stretched. It is a prison-guard/mentor type of a relationship, only...not, because clearly, certainly the author is setting us up for romance somewhere along the way. The "like,", the love, the gradual building up of the relationship never felt realistic, it never felt natural; when it finally came, it just left me utterly cold and disbelieving.The writing is technically well-done, the action scenes are acceptable, but is entirely too dependent on the use of Deus ex Machina as a plot device. The plot is a mess. It is peppered through with flashbacks that tried to give me insight into Paige's character, and while that worked somewhat, it just took too long to get to the point, and I felt the majority of the with the book...were largely useless and noncontributing to the book in general.Undoubtedly, this book has a lot of fans already, based on the huge numbers of glowing reviews. I, for one, remain highly skeptical. If this is indeed to be a 7-book series, I'm not sure where it will lead, but I know will not follow.The ending is meant to leave us wanting more...but I'd rather spend my summer at the Dursleys.