Completed 9/22/2015, Reviewed 9/23/2015
“The Bone Season” has a terrific premise. Paige is a Voyent. That is, she and many others have clairvoyent powers that can manipulate spirits trapped in the ether. They live an underground existence in gangs because the government has declared them unnatural, illegal, and the sentence is death. Paige is captured but rather than facing capital punishment, she finds herself a slave to the Rephaites, an alien race trying to protect the world from an even greater terror. This is definitely good buildup, but I thought it a little flat. I found myself more preoccupied with the idea of Stockholm syndrome than the details of the story itself.
Before the text, there is a diagram of the hierarchy of the seven categories of Voyents and their sub-types. In the back, there’s a glossary of slang. Together, this peaked my interest in the world building of the book. When I actually began reading it, I didn’t find it all that interesting. It took me a long time to figure out where the problem lay. It’s not the prose. The book is quite readable, reminding me of the prose of “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell”. The plot was decent enough, a dystopian future where mental control over the supernatural is becoming dominant but under attack, like a modern day witch hunt.
I think the problem lay in the character of Paige herself. There’s something about her that just did not interest me. The descriptions of her felt very wooden. She’s angry about her gift, her captivity and the way she and the other Voyents are treated, we get that. But there was little depth to her personality other than this anger. The author provides us with her background, but there just seemed to be no heart, no warmth, nothing to make me care what was happening to her other than the general knowledge that this was a bad thing and she needed to get out of it. As the story progressed, I became a little more involved with her, but actually felt that the supporting characters were much better developed, having real feelings and reactions to the situation. Arcturus, aka Warden, Paige’s Rephaite guardian, was particularly intriguing in his conflict between his heartless role as her trainer and his compassion for humans, particularly her. On the other hand, Nashira, the leader of the Rephaites was a two-dimensional evil queen.
What intrigued me the most about the story was the whole concept of Stockholm syndrome. The captive Voyents develop varying levels of faithfulness to the Rephaites, as they provide a safe, though second-class haven for their “unnaturalness”. Those who give themselves over to the Rephaites are honored with better duties and status, while those who don’t are abused and humiliated. Paige herself has varying degrees of hate and compassion toward her captor. It made me wonder if the author realized she was playing with the syndrome when developing the characters’ personalities.
I give the book three stars out of five. The book is basically entertaining but I was just not as engaged as I would have liked to have been. It’s the first of a series, with more planned. I’m not impressed enough with it to continue on. The book has been optioned for a film, and I expect that this would make a good, strong young woman action/sci fi flick if they can produce the supernatural action well.