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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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
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.
Violence & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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"Hell," "damn," "pissed," and "s--t" are used a few times each, "f--k" in one or two heated exchanges.
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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.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.