Title: The Mime Order (The Bone Season #2)
Author: Samantha Shannon
Genre: Fantasy > Paranormal
Synopsis: Paige Mahoney has escaped the brutal prison camp of Sheol I, but her problems have only just begun: many of the survivors are missing and she is the most wanted person in London… As Scion turns its all-seeing eye on the dreamwalker, the mime-lords and mime-queens of the city’s gangs are invited to a rare meeting of the Unnatural Assembly. Jaxon Hall and his Seven Seals prepare to take centre stage, but there are bitter fault lines running through the clairvoyant community and dark secrets around every corner. Then the Rephaim begin crawling out from the shadows. But where is Warden? Paige must keep moving, from Seven Dials to Grub Street to the secret catacombs of Camden, until the fate of the underworld can be decided.
Final Rating: ★★★★★
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I’m going to start off by saying that I absolutely loved The Bone Season. I thought it was very well done; the characters felt real, the chemistry between our protagonists was tangible, the world was well-crafted, the plot was engrossing and the writing was absolutely gorgeous. Often, I look back and wonder how such a complex and intricate plot can fit in approximately 500 pages. I forgot how The Bone Season made me feel until I picked up the sequel. I was blown away. This series is fast becoming one of my favorite series, if not my absolute favorite (well, apart from Harry Potter of course.)
Samantha Shannon is a freaking genius. I don’t know how she does it. I don’t know how she can find inspiration in a place, and build such a complex, rich world based on this place. For those of you who haven’t scoured the internet for this beautiful writer’s interviews, Shannon has mentioned several times that the books’ inspiration lies in the Seven Dials in London. Yes, it’s an actual place. Inspired by said place, Shannon decided to build a paranormal world around it full of supernatural creatures, monsters, clairvoyants, disturbing politics, an intricate underground gang-like system. She discusses themes like slavery and racism (speciesm?), of good and evil, of leadership and submission, of forgiveness and emotion.
I loved the plot of this book. I thought it was just as dense (if not more) as its predecessor. There was a lot going on at the same time. Of course, the setting of the sequel is drastically different from the setting of the first book, and a change in ambience and tone was bound to occur. While it may bother some people, it just increased my appreciation for the author. She can effectively construct multiple aspects of a dystopian society, giving us a taste of life on two ends of the spectrum, and this technique really gives the reader an engaging, immersive experience. Like I mentioned previously, I become lost in these books. Often, I would look up and have to register my surroundings. This is not exaggeration. I would look at my shelf and stare at the Bone Season, and then at the Mime Order and wonder how such a vivid universe can fit in these books. I was genuinely living everything that was happening.
There were twists and turns. A lot happens in this novel that has the ability to completely turn the tables of the situation at hand. These twists are not predictable. I was taken completely by surprise at the end, and sometimes in the middle.
I will, however, say that it took me a little while to completely get involved in the story. I wasn’t devouring the book until the 70-page mark, and that was exactly what had happened in the first book. I just think this is something to do with Shannon’s writing, because I feel she likes to take things slow, set up a lull before jumping full-fledged into the action and turmoil.
The characterization amazes me. I can’t say enough good things about Shannon’s ability to craft well-developed, refined, complex, nuanced characters. Since I am the kind of person who takes the characterization in a novel very seriously, I have an elevated sense of appreciation for this. Her main characters are beautifully written; flawed but likable, complex but relatable. Paige is perhaps one of my favorite female protagonists ever, full stop. I respect and admire her ability to do the difficult thing if it’s right. I admire her ability to lead, to not be dragged around on a leash. I especially like how she feels about Warden- she is obviously attracted to him. There’s something there, yes, but she will never forget the foundation of their relationship was that of a captor-captive. The fact that I love this so much is saying something, because I don’t think I’ve ever shipped two characters as much as I ship Warden x Paige.
While we’re on the topic of Warden, let me just say that his character is flawless. I mean, is the character flawless as a person? No, because he’s just very stoic and sometimes, this would get on my nerves, but in a good way. It just made him so much more real. The power he exudes, his respect and attitude towards Paige, his ability to accept her decisions while making his own clear fascinates me. He’s not a puppet- he’s a strong character, a strong Rephaite, a strong character.
The thing about Shannon’s characterization is that she spends just as much time developing the secondary characters. Some are very likable, others not so much but none of her characters are flat. Each character has a refined personality, a back-story, an attitude, an opinion. I enjoyed her incorporation of an LGBTQ character. She doesn’t make a big deal about it; Nick’s gay. It’s a fact- it’s just there, and I think treating an LGBTQ character as a person first and foremost, and as a plot device later (if at all) is something a lot of writers need to learn to do.
You know in English class when teachers are up on your case, asking you why George Orwell put a comma after the ‘and’ or why Gatsby is describing the heat the way he is? Remember the time when we all sat back and thought with the utmost exasperation, “I don’t know. Maybe he’s describing it because it was just really fucking hot?” Reading these books takes me back to the classroom and makes me stand in the teacher’s shoes.
Everything Shannon does is there for a reason. I feel like this is especially relevant to her use of gesture. And I’m not talking about the very well-done action scenes in the novel. No. I’m talking about how the characters glance at each other. How they furtively sneak glances. How they creep and breathe and whisper. Everything they do makes you feel something.
(Potential spoiler, but not really: there is a scene in the book where Paige is injured and sitting in a room with Warden. The sexual tension between them is tangible- you can literally reach out and touch it. Both Warden and Paige aren’t acknowledging this tension. Paige sits on the couch, while she listens to Warden talking about the Rephaim’s history. She lays down on the couch, and Warden glances at her before continuing to speak. That’s it. That’s the description. Warden glances at her, but this simple sentence, meaningless out of context, gave me butterflies and shivers. I was astonished.)
I said this before, and I’ll say it again. Samantha Shannon is a genius, and I’m honored to have been someone who has read her writing when she’s still taking, relatively, baby steps into the writing industry. This woman is going to do fantastic things. She’s going to blow people’s minds with words, and she is someone everybody needs to keep on their radar.
Would I recommend? One hundred times, yes.
Would I re-read? After writing this review, I’m tempted to re-read it right now. But I have school tomorrow and I should be writing my creative writing assignment, so, oops.