Bone Season: a story of magic and romance. Sound familiar?

bone season samantha shannon

The hype on Bone Season is this: It’s like a mix of Harry Potter and Twilight. As a bookseller, that kind of marketing is supposed to get me excited, but mostly it makes me roll my eyes. I want a novel, not a weird publisher science experiment, test tube fiction that comes out somehow overdramatic and boring at the same time.

That’s what most fiction that gets compared to Potter and Twilight is: boring. Dull fiction is what happens when you publish books based on whatever genre is popular instead of on what’s actually good (Ahem, Amazon. Ahem, Barnes and Noble). But I digress.

Actually, I’d describe Bone Season more like this: 25% Potter, 40% Twilight, 30% Hunger Games with a healthy dash of Fifty Shades of Grey and an inkling of the soon-to-be-released-as-a-movie City of Bones. But, here’s the thing — despite lighting up like a Christmas tree with publisher hot topics, it’s actually good. Really good.


photo(1001)An inkling is a valid unit of measure, right?

The book is set in London, almost 50 years in the future. Secret magic is everywhere, but this isn’t your usual potions-and-spells sort of thing. This is clairvoyance, magic of the mind: mediums, soothsayers, tarot readers, etc. Paige, our heroine, is part of a rogue gang of psychics — that is, until she’s shipped off to a secret society in Oxford, where she’s placed under the control of the mysterious Warden.

Is Bone Season derivative? You bet your crystal ball it is. But it’s also a lot of fun. The writing is solid, the book gains momentum as the plot builds, and the clairvoyant world is a different and interesting twist on magical fiction. Samantha Shannon avoids the two biggest pitfalls of the new genre writer: She doesn’t spend too much time world-building at the expense of plot (there are detailed charts at the beginning, but they’re really bonus material and you don’t need them to enjoy the book). And, even though it’s the first in a planned seven-book series, this book also works as a stand-alone, complete with satisfying conclusion. That means you’re reading a whole story, not just an extended setup for book two.

Should you run out and buy Bone Season right now (or download it from this link and support the blog you’re reading)? If you like books about magic, especially involving some kind of romance, absolutely. I’m no clairvoyant (thankfully — I have enough trouble processing my own thoughts), but I can tell you this book got me through an eight-hour delay at La Guardia without no complaints about boredom, not even the obligatory “I’m stuck in an airport” tweet. And, even Cal, my notoriously picky bookstore co-owner, devoured the book. It doesn’t get any more glowing than that.

Carrie Rollwagen is book buyer and co-owner at Church Street Coffee & Books.









Reader’s Note: I got a review copy of this book for free at Book Expo America.



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