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Literature / The Bone Season

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The Bone Season is the 2013 debut novel of author Samantha Shannon. Set in a Dystopian, Alternate History England, the story follows a magic-user (called "voyants", short for clairvoyant, in the book) named Paige Mahoney. Since 1859, when the voyant phenomenon first became public knowledge, England has operated under an oppressive and strongly anti-voyant government known as Scion. Paige belongs to a class of criminal voyants who use their contact with spirits and the spirit world (known as the aether) to commit crime while avoiding the government forces charged with rounding up any voyants. Paige herself is a special kind of voyant known as a "dreamwalker", capable of separating her spirit from her physical body and entering others' bodies through their "dreamscapes."

Paige is captured by the government after using her powers to kill several government agents. She is then transported to the city of Oxford, now a penal colony known as Sheol I. The penal colony is run by a magical race known as the Rephaim. In 1859 the Rephaim arrived on Earth through a rift in the aether, along with a man-eating race known as the Emim. In exchange for the Rephaim protecting Earth from the Emim, the Rephaim have required a tribute of young voyants each decade known as a "Bone Season." The voyants are held in the penal colony and are used a beacon to attract the Emim, as well as a makeshift army to fight the Emim incursions. Voyants are assigned to a Rephaite "keeper" and are kept essentially in slavery. Those who display cowardice or refuse to fight the Emim are forced to perform for the Rephaim as poor and mistreated "harlies."


Paige is chosen by the Rephaite Arcturus Mesarthim, known as the Warden, who has never previously chosen a human. She must learn from the Warden the basics of how to survive in her new environment, all while trying to escape back to her home in London.

The book has met with considerable success. Many media sources have compared the book to the Harry Potter series, due to the similarity of Shannon to J.K. Rowling, including sharing the same publisher. The book has also drawn comparisons with The Hunger Games series, due to its shared nature as a dystopian novel with a female protagonist. The film rights to the book have already been picked up by Andy Serkis' Imaginarium Studios. A sequel is also currently in the works.


This novel provides examples of:

  • Aura Vision: "Sighted" voyants can see the aura given off by other voyants.
  • Alternate History: Splits off with the main timeline around the Victorian Era. In 1859, the rift opens in the aether due to a build-up of dead spirits, allowing the Rephaim and Emim to enter Earth. Edward VII is blamed for the Jack the Ripper murders and accused of being a voyant. He is deposed as King and the government of Scion is established.
  • Big Bad: Nashira Sargas. A nearly immortal Rephaim, she captures rare magic users known as voyants and kills them, forcing them to become her "fallen angels" which protect her eternally and from which she draws all her powers.
  • Color-Coded Wizardry: Each voyant gives off an aura, which has a different color depending on the voyant's gift.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Emim seem to be an example of this.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Nashira's victims are forced to become "fallen angels," spirits which protect her and which grant her their former powers.
  • Future Slang: Played with, in that the book is set 50 years in the future but much of the slang comes from Victorian English.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Nick and Paige.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: the Warden and Paige.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: While the Warden explicitly states in-book that the Rephaim aren't vampires, there are still a number of similarities. They're nearly immortal, feed on human auras, and drinking human blood can heal them.
  • Psychic Link: the Warden and Paige inadvertently form one because of their bad habit of saving each other's lives. Oops.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: Paige caused these in people she was angry at before she fully understood her gift.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: The Seven Seals are set up as a badass criminal gang, but they don't seem to do any actual crime aside from selling sketchy paintings.
  • United Europe: SCION controls nine European nations, not all of them named (Britain, Ireland, France, Greece, Serbia and Sweden are). How much autonomy the various countries governments have isn't really gotten into although Britain and Ireland are completely under its control.


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