The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Paige Mahoney is a clairvoyant, or “voyant,” in a world where clairvoyants are known and feared as unnatural. She belongs to a crime syndicate and ends up, cornered, fighting for her life. Her defense strategy ends up sending her on a spiraling journey which will take about seven books to completely unravel and understand. The bulk of the book takes place not just in the underworld but in a hidden underworld beyond ours peopled with humans and angelic/demonic creatures (none of whom are completely what they seem). Paige finds herself caught in a web of slavery and rebellion, soldiers and gods. The subtext and indeed a major setting for the character interactions is the “aether,” a realm of the mind and dreams connected with voyants’ auras or psyches.

Many reviewers have compared Shannon’s debut with the Harry Potter books and not just for the obvious fantasy storyline and 7-book story arc. Shannon’s ability to build a world within a world rivals JK Rowlings’ and then ratchets it up by writing an alternate history of our own world. Shannon’s writing is completely immersive: she manages to construct a complicated backstory and relay it effortlessly to the reader. She also manages to weave a sophisticated alternate history with a wholly original magical system (a prerequisite for a fantasy series) while drawing complex characters with believable depth and personality into a smart and engaging plotline involving murder, betrayal, twisted loyalties, and just the right level of heated romance. Rich storytelling skill combines with layers of plot twists and top-notch characterization and the heady mix that emerges is intoxicating.

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