Why you should read Samantha Shannon’s The Bone Season series

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. Image courtesy Bloomsbury Publishing
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. Image courtesy Bloomsbury Publishing /

With the release of the fourth novel in the series approaching, here’s why you should make time to give Samantha Shannon’s The Bone Season a try.

The Mask Falling, the fourth installment in Samantha Shannon’s bestselling The Bone Season series is slated to hit shelves this January and if for whatever reason you’ve skipped this massive fantasy saga up until now, well. It’s the perfect time to correct that mistake.

Shannon’s series is epic in every sense of the word, a dystopian drama set in a future version of London that’s full of spirits and those known as “unnaturals” – humans with clairvoyance, or the ability to access the spirit realm and by doing so command a variety of special abilities.

It centers on Paige Mahoney a young girl with a tragic past and a special gift, who serves as a mollisher, or second-in-command, to Jaxon Hall, one of the Mime lords, or leaders, in the underground London criminal syndicate. But that’s only the beginning of her story.

Here are four reasons The Bone Season series is worth your time – and why you should dive in before The Mask Falling hits shelves.

A surprisingly complex premise

At first glance, The Bone Season appears as though it’s simply going to be another pseudo-historical, vaguely dystopian tale of a London that’s similar – sort of – to the one we know, but that’s packed with people with borderline magical abilities. The clairvoyant residents of this London all have different abilities, but the criminal underworld they are forced to hide in – thanks to an oppressive corporation and a national government that literally calls them “unnaturals” and names them as outlaws -has its own ridiculously detailed hierarchy. It’s a lot to take in.

Granted, this is all quite a bit more detailed than many series of its ilk, but it’s all of a piece of things we’ve seen before: Humans with magical abilities, oppressed for who they are, turn to lives of crime to survive, that kind of thing. And The Bone Season is about that too – until it isn’t.

When the series’ main character is drugged, kidnapped, and transported to a prison camp in Oxford – a city she’s been told was destroyed 200 years earlier – she discovers that her oppressive government is working hand-in-glove with a mysterious, otherworldly race known as the Rephaim, who have been secretly running things in England for hundreds of years.

As Paige must reevaluate everything she’s ever known about the world around her, she must also survive life as a Rephaite slave and find a way to get back to her home and gang at Seven Dials.

A great but deeply flawed heroine

The story of The Bone Season is about a lot of big things – otherworldly creatures, a creeping fascist government, and the literal fate of the human race, to one degree or other. But it’s also the story of a girl named Paige Mahoney, born with a rare clairvoyant ability – to dreamwalk, or enter’s others’ minds – which makes a target of not just the government that wants to hunt her down, but other voyants who either envy or want to use her gift for their own ends.

When Paige is kidnapped and thrust into a war that’s been going on for hundreds of years, she not only discovers strength she never knew she possessed, she is also forced to make hard choices about the kind of person she wants to become.

Paige is a wonderful heroine — and thank goodness for that since she’s our primary POV character and every book in this series thus far has been upwards of 400 pages on the short end. But she’s far from perfect. A natural leader, she’s also reckless and prone to make decisions without thinking them through. She lies often, doesn’t trust those closest to her when she should, and keeps information to herself that would be much more helpful if she shared it.

But while her choices may turn out to be problematic – or even disastrous at times – Shannon is careful to always make sure that her decisions are understandable ones, based on Paige’s character and the things that are happening to her at any given moment. Paige is a mess sometimes, but she’s a wildly compelling character who is on a journey you’ll find hard to look away from.

Rich, detailed worldbuilding

Given the length of Shannon’s works – both individually and as a series – no one should be terribly shocked that her worldbuilding is next-level good.

From the complex system of voyant powers and abilities to the difficult histories that exist between the London underworld’s various leaders and the intricate abilities of the spirits that inhabited the realm between life and death, it’s clear that Shannon has carefully plotted out every possible corner of her universe. And unlike many similar series, The Bone Season doesn’t go out of its way to explain its most complicated elements.

Instead, readers are dropped directly into the action of the story, with few explanations of how its world works or what its rules are. We’re asked to sort of pick it all up as we go, which admittedly can be confusing at times, but ultimately makes the world feel more lived-in and real than it might otherwise. (But the charts and maps are in the appendices for a reason, folks.)

Real, dangerous stakes that matter

Far too many fantasy series try to establish a universe full of dangerous threats, some where the fate of humanity itself hangs in the balance – but refuse to illustrate the very real dangers that come along with those stakes.

In contrast, Shannon’s world feels wildly threatening – the rigors of surviving everyday life within a group that must hide its very existence are difficult and repeatedly show to be that way. And that’s before you factor in the hidden prison slave colony, the ever-present threat of an increasingly authoritarian state, and the mysterious otherworldly creatures with immortality and superhuman strength.

This is a story full of blood and violence, where people die – or are forced to kill others – regularly, and fight for their lives in all matter of circumstances. Characters betray one another, threaten each other, and change allegiances often. The stakes are real – and very high – throughout.

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The fourth installment of The Bone Season series hits shelves in January.