Spoiled: Samantha Shannon's The Bone Season

Dubbed "The New J.K. Rowling," author Samantha Shannon created a buzz when it was announced that UK publisher Bloomsbury had bought the first three books in her seven book series in a very generous deal. Shannon's first novel, The Bone Season, is a dystopian paranormal adventure that follows heroine Paige Mahoney, a clairvoyant working in London's gritty underbelly, until she's kidnapped and brought to Oxford, where her life changes forever. Intrigued by this new series, we asked the author to share some details about her September debut.  

Oxford is a familiar name. You might know it as the place where people read books, engage in strange traditions and pore zealously over illegible fragments of Old English; or you might just know it as the place where the dictionary comes from. In The Bone Season, however, it’s a place where people go to die.

I started writing my novel a year ago, when I was studying for my first batch of exams at St. Anne’s College, Oxford. I’d been in love with dystopian fiction since reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and I was itching to create my own “bad place”. There was something about the genre that struck me deeply. When a character is almost permanently in extremis, their life becomes a constant battle for survival. It was into this battle that I thrust my narrator, Paige Mahoney: a passionate, mistrustful young woman, driven by the need to survive. Paige is a member of a criminal gang based in Seven Dials, London. Her employer is Jaxon Hall, a man who cares far more for money and notoriety than he does for his six dependents.  

There have been so many beautiful, imaginative dystopian novels since 1984, it was hard to imagine how mine could possibly be unique. Then I started to read the poems of John Donne and Emily Dickinson, many of which are preoccupied with what comes after death, and I wondered: what it my dystopia dealt with the supernatural? What if there was a repeat of the Salem witch trials — and that the world had targeted people with “unnatural” gifts? The idea was incredibly exciting. I set about crafting my clairvoyant underworld, created in response to a repressive government party called Scion. It is Scion’s mission to root out clairvoyance, and to banish it beyond the limits of “normal” society. Beyond those limits lies Oxford, a city stripped down to little more than a shell.  

The Bone Season follows Paige’s journey from the cut-throat streets of London to a disavowed prison city. Her story begins in 2059, two hundred years after an event that changed the world as we know it. Paige’s rare “gift” constantly endangers her life. Her fight for survival brings her into contact with many strange and dangerous people — one of whom is her “keeper”, the esoteric Warden. Warden is a member of a second, even more forbidding faction: the Rephaim. Paige soon discovers the link between Scion and the Rephaim, and the reason her people have been preyed upon since 1859. What she has yet to discover is whether or not she can fight back.

A parallel past and a dystopian future. It wasn’t the easiest of tasks to bring it all together, but the final product will be ready for September 2013. Here’s hoping it all works out for Paige.

- Samantha Shannon

You can pick up a copy of The Bone Season when it releases worldwide September 2013. For more dystopian adventures and magical heroines, visit our Everything Paranormal & Urban Fantasy page.

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