The Bone Season

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
The Bone Season Book Poster Image
Ambitious clairvoyant fantasy is gripping, violent.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Set in 2059 in an alternate England, The Bone Season has any number of fantastic elements, but much of its language is based on 19th-century slang. With an intricate backstory, the novel is not particularly easy reading but has many pleasures for readers who dig a little deeper.

Positive Messages

The Bone Season is largely concerned with issues of freedom and trust. It asks whether it's better to have security at the expense of personal individualism. It also explores the different levels of trust that people use to navigate their lives.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Paige Mahoney, the protagonist of The Bone Season, lives in the criminal underworld of Scion London, walking into people's dreams and stealing their secrets. Once captured and brought to the penal colony Sheol I, she continually rebels against her captors, exhibiting great bravery, resourcefulness, and compassion for her fellow inmates.


The Bone Season has a large amount of violence. The main character, Paige, is beaten, drugged, attacked by demons and psychically assaulted, and she dishes out a similar amount of mayhem in return. A young boy has his neck snapped in front of her, and his death spurs Paige need for vengeance throughout the book. In general, however, the novel's violence is not described in gory detail.


There's some sexual content in The Bone Season, but not to excess. As a teen, Paige falls in love with the older Nick, not realizing that he prefers one of her male associates. She acts out against this revelation by picking up a stranger in a bar and having sex with him in an alleyway, an event more implied than graphically detailed. Later, in Sheol I, Paige gradually develops romantic feelings for Warden, eventually connecting with him in an interrupted embrace that leaves her reeling.


"Hell," "damn," "pissed," and "s--t" are used a few times each, "f--k" in one or two heated exchanges.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Supporting characters use drugs, but mainly of a magical/herbal nature. The villains sometimes inject clairvoyants with Flux, a psychotic drug that causes pain and disorientation.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Bone Season is an intricate fantasy -- the first of a planned seven-part series -- set in an alternate future where clairvoyants are able to access the spiritual plane know as the "aether" and are sent to a secret penal colony if they are caught doing so. The language is fairly mild (the occasional "hell," "damn," "piss," or "s--t," with a rare "f--k" in one or two heated exchanges), and there's some sexual content in two scenes where the action's more implied than described. The level of violence is high but not overly graphic (a character's beaten, drugged, attacked by demons, and psychically assaulted, and she dishes out a similar amount of mayhem in return). The neck-breaking murder of a young teen may disturb sensitive readers.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 3-year-old Written bylostintomes December 4, 2018

Unique and fun to read! A gateway to adult fantasy.

I am so glad I ignored my first impressions and gave The Bone Season a try!
I don't know how many times I read the synopsis for this book and thought,... Continue reading
Adult Written byELIZABETH B. August 21, 2016

I loved it

The book is on more of a supernatural sci-fi than just an ordinary sci-fi, there are characters who see ghosts and people who can read minds, etc. The book was... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byTheReader April 10, 2014

A must read!

I've read this book three times now and fall more in love with it every time! I looked this book up on this website because I was curious to see what othe... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byKendall.raee May 3, 2017

My favorite book

This is absolutely my favorite book of all time! I would recommend it for teens who are older due to the complex ideas and the violence that comes with it.

What's the story?

In 2059, in a London ruled by the corporate overlords of Scion, teen girl Paige Mahoney works as a "dreamwalker," breaking into people's minds for the benefit of her gang of criminal clairvoyants. After she unwittingly kills two Scion operatives, she's hunted down, kidnapped, drugged, and sent to Sheol I, a secret penal colony located in what used to be Oxford. Sheol I is ruled by the Rephaim, a mysterious, otherworldly race who claim to be protecting Earth from invasion by a legion of demons. Paige is assigned to the "blood-consort" Warden for training, but she never stops seeking a means of escape. But as time goes on, her loyalties are tested, and Paige must decide whom she can save and whom she must trust.

Is it any good?

THE BONE SEASON brims with ambition. Its world-building is intricate, its premise original, its prose more than merely serviceable. Debut author Samantha Shannon hit the ground running and expects the reader to keep up. For the most part, her strategy works. Although the climactic scenes pay off, a repetitiveness creeps into the series of tests and trials Paige Mahoney must endure. And there's something predictable in the development of Paige's relationship with her captor, Warden.

Those are quibbles, though. The Bone Season is likely to attract a wide audience for its young author and leave readers ready for the next volume in the proposed seven-part saga.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about freedom vs. security. Is it better to be free and face unknown dangers or to live in security while being a slave?

  • The Bone Season was written for adults but features a teen main character. Do you think it will appeal to the young adult audience? How does it compare with the YA books you've read? How is it different? How is it similar?

  • Why do some victims of totalitarianism side with their oppressors? Is it merely fear that motivates them?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and dystopian novels

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