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Is it a cop-out to review a debut novel with the caveat “depending on how the next book in the series is”? It is? Well, too bad. I’m cautiously positive about THE BONE SEASON, but my opinion may change completely with the next book in the series. As a first book in a series, I think it’s solid, and the series has promise. The fact that I want to read the second book is probably review enough of the first. Paige is a heroine I want to follow, and Shannon’s worldbuilding is phenomenal.

The year is 2059, in a London under the firm control of the all-encompassing global corporation Scion, and Paige is a rare type of clairvoyant known as a dreamwalker. Her very existence has been outlawed, and she survives in a criminal underground of others with special abilities. When she becomes a killer, she is sent to an unusual prison and finds herself under the control of Warden. While there, she learns about the history of Sheol (the prison) and the relationships among the various inhabitants there. This is the first of seven books, so there’s quite a lot of setup in THE BONE SEASON–only future books will show if it pays off.

Paige is tough and smart, but she isn’t a know-it-all. She was a female character I could relate to, admire, and hope for. My one complaint (and it’s not a tiny one) is the beginning of what I fear (and dread) will be a series-wide romance. I could see it coming and every time there was a hint of it, my whole being screamed, “NOOOOOOOOO!” I fear it’s going to haunt me throughout the series.

The worldbuilding really is amazing. And there are two phases to it – first, we have to become acclimated to Paige’s world, then to the world of the prison, each of which has its own hierarchy, rules, and divisions. One of the criticisms I’ve read of THE BONE SEASON is that there is too much info-dumping. The reader is going to have to do a certain amount of work in a series of this scope, and I didn’t find it excessive. That said, there is a lot of information Shannon has to share, so if your patience for being dropped into a completely unknown world and slowly coming up to speed is limited, this may not be the book for you. If, however, you’ve breezed through the even more intricate worldbuilding of THE LORD OF THE RINGS or GAME OF THRONES, you, like I did, will wonder what the fuss was about. There is a glossary. And maps. If that scares you, skip this one.

Does it live up to the hype? (Shannon has a seven-figure book deal, and more than one source insists on calling her “the next JK Rowling.”) I’m reserving judgment until I see how the series pans out. It’s really nothing at all like HARRY POTTER so far, but it does have a magical, timeless feel. We’ll have to see what Shannon does next. As a first book in a series, it certainly did its job — I like Paige, and I look forward to seeing what she does next.

Source disclosure: I received an e-galley of this title courtesy of the publisher.