Review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

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The Bone Season

by Samantha Shannon

Rating: 3/5 Stars

     Set in an alternative future London, The Bone Season follows Paige Mahoney who works for a street lord named Jaxon by discovering other people’s secrets.  Discretion is Paige’s biggest ally, not only for the sake of her job, but also because she commits treason just by existing.  Paige is a clairvoyant, who is able to see into people’s dreams to gain information.  In this world, the government hunts these people down and they disappear from society.  At the start of the novel, Paige is captured and taken to an abandoned part of the city, where she is assigned a Warden.  The Wardens are an alien race who control the human government and enslave those with extra abilities.  Paige must use her training and instinct to learn as much as she can about these people so that she can make her escape.

Review: So I picked up this book when I was participating in TBR Takedown 3.0 and trying to complete my reading outside my comfort zone challenge.  The Bone Season definitely fit into this category.  I’m not even sure what genre this novel fits into, it seems part dystopian, part sci-fi, part something else altogether.  Needless to say, I was very wary, going into it.

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised.  While at times I might have gotten lost in the specialized language, for the most part I was engaged and excited to see what happened to Paige next.  Because this book fits into so many different genres for me, it also brought several different experiences to the reader.  There is the mystery of discovering who this alien race is and what their purpose is.  There is a very slow-burning romance that kept my interest when other parts dragged.  The reader gets to see the inner workings of how Paige’s powers work, which was really interesting.

Because it was out of my comfort zone, this was an entertaining read but I don’t feel the need to rush out and read the sequel.  Overall, I do want to keep reading this series, but its one that I will probably read over several years, when I’m looking to read something different than my norm.

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The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons

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The Glass Arrow

by Kristen Simmons

Rating: 3/5 stars

This is a dystopian novel that follows the same premise as 5 to 1 by Holly Bodger, a book I reviewed a couple weeks ago.  Women are no longer seen as free individuals but are held prisoner until they are auctioned off to the highest bidder.  The exception to this are girls like Aya, who have lived in the mountains outside of civilization to escape this fate.  Early in the novel Aya is taken prisoner while trying to divert bounty hunters away from her family.  Over the next year she is imprisoned and subdued until those in charge think she is fit for auction.  Aya uses any measures she can think of in order to avoid this fate.

However, the prison guards are done dealing with Aya’s disruptions and will put her in the next auction whether she is presentable or not.  Aya must take her biggest risks yet in order to escape and try to make it back to the mountains to find her family.  When trying to come up with a plan Aya tries to think of everything, but one factor she never imagined she would have on her side is the alliance of a young man who works in the barns neighboring the prison.

Review:  This was a pretty fast paced novel that had several poignant events throughout the plot.  It was interesting to see the different reactions to their circumstances that girls had.  This often revolved around whether the girls had grown up in this society or if they had fallen in love with someone prior to entering the prison.  I also appreciated the attention given to the religions that different groups of people followed and I thought it helped broaden the scope of the novel beyond the primary characters.  The only critique I had was that I wish it had been made more clear how the society in this book came about.  It seemed as if the majority of the male population just decided to become super jerks at some point and everyone kind of went along with things.

5 to 1 by Holly Bodger

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5 to 1

by Holly Bodger

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

This is a dystopian novel that takes place in India in 2054.  Decades before, India instituted a policy similar to China’s one child policy in order to control overpopulation.  After years of families abandoning baby girls in order to have the preferred son, India now faces a severe imbalance between the sexes.  Now girls are kidnapped and sold due to their rarity.  This happens for years until a small group of women rise up and create a walled city name Koyanagar.  While the rest of India operates as before and girls are constantly scared for their futures, within the city girls are treated like royalty and boys must compete for their hand in marriage.

This novel is told from dual perspectives, one from a girl who is experiencing the competition and must choose a husband, and the other from a boy who is among the five choices the girl has for a spouse.  Although this set-up would appear to be slightly better than the alternative, the main characters reveal that for boys, their life now has very few options.  They now face: arranged marriage, deployment to fight on the wall around the city that usually results in death, or a poor existence on the outskirts of society with menial work.  It is also revealed that girls are little more than puppets who must follow the desires of their elders.  This novel reveals that regardless of which gender or group of people have power, when their is an extreme imbalance in that power the happiness of many is sacrificed for the power of a few.

Review:  This is an extremely short read.  I finished it all in one sitting, and may be part of the reason I didn’t connect with it as much as I had hoped.  This is a really intriguing premise and I think that Bodger was really effective in using very realistic circumstances to show how this dystopian society came into existence.  The main disappointment I had in this novel was the lack of attention to detail.  Indian culture is so beautiful and unique, I would have loved to hear more about the characters’ setting and cultural practices.  I also think it is important because it is one of the many cultures that is underrepresented in YA literature.  A longer more fleshed out novel would have boosted my experience of it so much!

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

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Ink and Bone

By Rachel Caine

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Ink and Bone follows Jess Brightwell as he tries to navigate a world where the Library of Alexander was never lost and those who control the library, hold power over the entire population.  In this world, books are not legal if they are not catalogued into the Library, and nobody should have copies of physical books.  Instead everyone is given a tablet to read from called a Codex.  Jess and his family are in the illegal business of obtaining and selling lost books to anyone with enough money to pay for them.

Jess is sent by his family to the Great Library to get through the Library’s initiation and work for them as a spy to obtain rare books that only the library has access too.  Conflicted about his mission, Jess tries to figure out who really is working towards the best interest of spreading the knowledge in these books while also trying to pass the difficult tests assigned to them by Scholars who work for the Library.

Review:  This was a hard book for book for me to pin down.  At first I was a bit confused about the premise and I had to read about 100 pages before really diving in.  I think it is because this book seems to be part dystopian/part fantasy.  It is so much more than exploring the idea of a still surviving Library of Alexander.  There is an oppressive government and constant monitoring, as well as magic that is used to update and catalogue the Library.

I think this book does a great job of setting the scene for future books in the series.  We learn about Jess’ character and his initial trials that will push him towards his future decisions.  We meet the characters that are likely to both help and harm Jess’ efforts and we are introduced to the world that all of this will take place in.  With this solid base established, I am interested to see where Caine takes the series in future books.

Rook – Sharon Cameron

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Rook

by Sharon Cameron

Rating: 4/5 stars

Rook is a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel, a story published in 1905 and set during the time of the French Revolution.  I had not heard of the original story until I came across Rook, but apparently it is the first story ever written about a masked vigilante.  Basically, the original Batman or Zorro.

Rook takes place in a future Paris, where technology has failed mankind and people are reduced to a lifestyle that would have been common during the early 19th century.  In fact, the new government that is in charge, expressly forbids anyone from using any type of technology from our current times. A large part of this novel focuses on the theme of history repeating itself, so just like the French Revolution, the government gives the general public someone to blame for their current destitution and appeases them with very public executions of the wealthy.  Regardless, of whether the current state of affairs is their fault or not.

This is where the Rook comes into play.  The Rook is a vigilante who frees prisoners just before their execution and nobody knows who he/she is because all that is left behind is a single red tipped feather of the Rook.

It is revealed early on that the Rook is a wealthy young woman, named Sophia, who must conceal her identity, while also trying to save her family’s home from being seized for debts by marrying a foppish Parisian who she cannot stand.  While the law slowly closes in on her and her fiancee begins questioning her bizarre behavior, Sophia must make sacrifices to protect those she is closest to and use precise judgement to determine who can be trusted with her secret.

Review:  This novel had so many plot twists and so much going on that I was thoroughly entertained throughout the entire story.  Cameron works hard to make all the characters’ actions and motives known without overwhelming the reader too much.  I was really impressed with her ability to keep enough hidden from the reader to continue to make them question how the book was going to resolve while also giving us enough background information so we weren’t bogged down in confusion.  All of the characters had a specific end goal in mind and were driven by a wide variety of motives that helped diversify all the players.  This, with an interesting premise and setting made Rook a fantastic dystopian read, that was really different than any other book I have read recently in this genre.