This blog post (inevitably) contains spoilers for The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. If you have not read the first book in this series, I highly recommend doing so before going any further. My review for the Bone Season can be found here.
As soon as I finished The Bone Season, I could hardly wait to pick up its sequel and get started. In fact, I was back at the book store the very next day! I did take my time with this book though; not because I didn’t enjoy it (I did), but because it was the book I brought along on our European adventure, and I wanted to make it last. Needless to say, it did not last the entire trip, and I ended up making an emergency trip to Waterstones before our flight home to pick up a read for the excruciatingly long flight over the Atlantic.
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 Paige, 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 center 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. 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.
Picking up immediately after the thrilling conclusion of The Bone Season, Shannon wastes no time getting back into the action, launching Paige and her friends into another series of twisted, dangerous events, the least of which is being labelled as wanted fugitives of Scion. Most of the escapees did not make it out of Shoel I alive, and those who did are missing, injured and separated, making for a difficult go of things.
To make matters worse, the Syndicate is also a mess, and Jaxon doesn’t seem keen on offering his support for an uprising against the Rephaim, choosing to instead ignore Paige’s please for his aid. Quite early on in this book, Paige finds herself among people she once thought were friends, utterly alone and completely without a plan. She quickly falls back into her old routine as Jaxon’s mollisher, unsure of how to proceed when it seems as though no one, not even Warden (who remains noticeably absent), is on her side.
However, as with The Bone Season, this lull in the plot doesn’t last long. Paige is quickly thrown back into action following the death of a high ranking Syndicate member, an event which brings the Unnatural Assembly together for the first time in years, giving Paige the chance she has been waiting for. Yet more games than one could easily count are afoot, and Paige quickly finds herself drowning in a game she’s not quite sure how to play, tugged this way and that by forgotten tales and power players who refuse to follow the rules.
Now, to get into the nitty gritty of it – the characters, the world-building and the plot.
- The characters. If you loved Paige in The Bone Season, you’ll adore her in The Mime Order.
- Paige is everything one could want from a heroic protagonist. She’s brave, she strives to do what is right, and when that fails, what is best. She has had a great burden and much responsibility thrust upon her, and she handles in beautifully, carefully plotting against those who would not support her, and those who would destroy her and her people. She is not, however, flawless, and her clairvoyance isn’t the be all, end all of power, making her struggles more human, more relatable, and far more endearing.
- Warden, when he finally deigns to grace the pages of this book with his presence, is everything the reader wanted him to be in The Bone Season and more. He’s still tall, dark and mysterious, but he’s no longer a monster – he’s brought down to a very human level, giving Paige a certain power over him. Then there’s the undeniable chemistry between him and Paige, blocked by unforgiving times and the forbidden nature of a relationship between a Rephaim and a human. Romance never takes dominance over the story, but it’s such a wonderful addition and I just cannot get enough. I need more of their relationship, and I need more of Warden in the next book!
- Once again, aside from Warden and Paige, most everyong can be considered a secondary character. Jaxon is at the forefront of the category, and readers won’t like him anymore (more likely than not they’ll like him less) than they did in The Bone Season. He’s a despicable piece of human scum, and it makes me sincerely unhappy that it takes Paige so long to see that. Nick turns out to be an invaluable ally and an even better friend to Paige, despite her old feelings for him. In addition, his romantic interest adds an LGBTQ2+ light to this novel, albeit the fact it’s a side-story rather than the main plot.
- The world-building was on point in this book. For those who found the info-dumping of The Bone Season to be overwhelming, fear not; The Mime Order builds upon the world introduced in the prior flawlessly, making for a much smoother, easier read. Now, with the world well established and most of the technicalities out of the way, the reader can sit back and enjoy a richly detailed and immersive world. Shannon does a fantastic job here; the settings are expertly detailed, leaving no rock unturned. The criminal underworld, aka the Syndicate, is much more fleshed out, with thoroughly interesting power dynamics and social conventions (many of which had been mentioned but not seen) coming into play at last. Furthermore, history of the Scion, the Syndicate and the Rephaim comes into play, answering many lingering questions readers may have had from The Bone Season, while also raising a few new ones.
- One (potential) drawback to the rich world Shannon builds in The Mime Order is the slow burn that is the plot for the majority of the book. This was, perhaps, a necessary evil, to counter-act the info dumping and confusion created in The Bone Season. Shannon sets up the pieces perfectly, illustrating how the society works and then in the end she blows you away. Every single scene is purposeful. There’s the obvious moments, but even the quieter moments are important in the long runl nothing is coincidence, and everything is connected. While I loved the world-building, detail oriented focus of this book, it is not for everyone – but get to the end, because its worth it. Shannon more than makes up for a rather dull middle section of this book with an action packed, twisted finale that I most certainly did not see coming (in fact, I thought the exact opposite!).
Overall, Shannon did a fabulous job with this book. Truly, she outdid herself on the world-building, and the finale absolutely blew me away. True to form, just as you expect the plot to go one way, it goes in the exact opposite, making for a thrilling ride from start to finish, despite the lulls in action throughout the novel. I would definitely recommend reading this book, especially for readers who are a fan of the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genres.
For those of you impatient for the third book, titled A Song Rising, be sure to check out Delicate Eternity‘s blog for an exciting preview of the prelude!