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The Bone Season



Ambitious clairvoyant fantasy is gripping, violent.

What parents need to know

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

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.

Not applicable
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.

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Samantha Shannon
Genre:Science Fiction
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and underdogs, Monsters, ghosts, and vampires
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:August 20, 2013
Number of pages:480
Publisher's recommended age(s):15 - 17
Available on:Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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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 others said about it, when I saw the reviews I have to say that I was shocked. The Bone Season has many great qualities and I think is great for teens above the age of about 13. The main character is a strong willed female with a fierce determination of what is right and wrong and that it is important to help others. The book does have some sexual content but overall it shows that the character was able to overcome what happened and realized that taking out her feelings the way she did sexually was wrong (I don't like to give away spoilers, sorry). The Bone Season does contain some swearing but it is fairly limited compared to what kids watch or read nowadays. Another thing parents might want to be aware of is the drugs, there are a few characters in the story who use "aster" which is a drug, however the main character does not believe in using it and the book clearly doesn't support this use. One of the major draws in my opinion, as a 15 year old, is the love part of the story. Most teenage girls love some romance in their books and The Bone Season has the perfect amount of just that. It is not full of the love part though, which I think is another great aspect of the book because it means that guys can read it, too! To me and my friends, Samantha Shannon has created many fascinating ideas and woven them together into one jaw-dropping story. Please read this book, I am just dying to share the Bone Season with others and for people to pick this up and discover another great book.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much swearing
Adult Written bycelysen November 17, 2013

Strange, but intriguing

This book is very strange. It is sci-fi which might be why I perceived it as strange. There are a couple of instances of adult language which I did not like. I do not think this is a book for kids mostly because of the language. I actually did not finish it because of the language. I wanted to but I made a promise to myself long ago not to read a book with adult language despite the fact that I am an adult. That being said, I was intrigued by what I had read. Samantha Shannon is a very engaging author. I just don't like her choice of language.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
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 very enthralling to me, I honestly couldn't put it down, and I'm very picky on books. There is talking of sex but it's natural for the lifestyle that the characters in the later part of the book is in, and it doesn't go into detail, its third parties saying that they need to becareful so they can't have kids. There is also a bit of long-ago and violence