Disappointed by The Bone Season

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

The Bone Season

For this much-hyped book, I’ll admit I had high expectations. Maybe that’s an unfair burden to place on a book that touts it’s being published in 21 countries and is a “Today Show’s Book Club Pick”, but…no, it’s totally fair. I was just being sarcastic.

Samantha Shannon’s bio explains that she’s an academic of literature. But a good reader does not necessarily make a good writer. For another example of this, read The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic, which quickly turned into a DNF for me. On the other hand, do yourself a favor: don’t read it and save your time for more deservingly hyped books, such as: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, The Passage by Justin Cronin, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, or The Magicians by Lev Grossman. 

Problems with The Bone Season

  • Clunky “tell” rather than “show” writing chock full of infodumps, meaning long paragraphs of expository writing that stand out separately from the actual story and screw with the pacing.
  • Yhe main character, Paige, has graduated high school and no longer lives at home, but that does little to change this book from YA into something else. I was disappointed to find out it’s another wannabe Hunger Games or Divergent or a million other teen dystopia books. I thought we were over that fad by now. (BTW, I loved me some Hunger Games, so don’t think me too much a hater.)
  • The world building is confusing and dumped into the story with a heavy hand. A master would use more finesse and integrate the world building with fewer raw seams.
  • Disconcerting blending of genres. I’m not saying genres can’t be merged, but  this story more often uses jerky switches rather than smooth blending. There is high tech science, low tech magic, aliens, dimensional travel, 1984 style Big Brother politics, and fantasy, and they often seem to have partitions between them.
  • This book is Harry Potter’s grumpier, moodier, less charming, older sister. I thought it was just me, but then I looked up other reviews and saw this was a common comparison. Feels so good to be justified. Without trying to give too much away, the main character is whisked away (somewhat violently) to a darker, grittier, sexier (?) version of Hogwarts. There’s no magical train or enchanted dining room, but there is a sorting ceremony and “houses”. The  training is a lot more compulsory than Harry’s magical lessons, but it’s a similar idea. Oh, and if you’re a fan of The Golden Compass, you might see some of that in here, too.
  • *SPOILER ALERT* I had a bad feeling from early on that Paige was going to bond with her captor, Arcturus aka Warden. First off, they aren’t similar species. Second, he’s ancient and she’s only 19. Third, he’s got complete power and control over her. So, that’s not romantic. That’s Stockholm syndrome. That’s creepy! Oh, but then I guess that happens all the time in vampire romances, so there’s precedent for it. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Forgive me while I get  on my soap box for a second. I promise to try to make it short. To me, The Bone Season is a perfect example of how, when a publisher decides to put its influence and money behind a book, it doesn’t matter how good it is. It’s going to be a success. People are going to read it, regardless.  To be fair, sometimes they put their money and influence behind books that truly deserve it. But The Bone Season, in my opinion, is not one of them. 

I don’t recommend this book, but …



2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Widdershins
    Oct 29, 2013 @ 19:14:11

    To K.B. Sluss – just read your story in DSF … nicely done!


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