'The Bone Season': the new book earning 'Harry Potter' comparisons

Debut author Samantha Shannon has received plenty of pre-release buzz for her novel 'The Bone Season,' which comes out today.

'The Bone Season' is by Samantha Shannon.

Six years after the last novel about the boy wizard was released, readers may roll their eyes at the number of times a book is hailed as “the next Harry Potter.”

But “The Bone Season” by Samantha Shannon is making the book world sit up and pay attention. “Bone” follows a girl named Paige Mahoney who is living in London in the year 2059, where she uses her abilities to enter others’ minds to help criminals. However, Paige is soon taken prisoner by the government and brought to a jail that is controlled by a strange race known as the Rephaim. The book is the first in a projected series of seven books. Shannon wrote it while still an undergraduate at Oxford University.

The novel by Shannon, who is 21, has received Potter comparisons from NPR (“Could This Be The Next Harry Potter? Maybe!”) and USA Today (“Is Samantha Shannon the next J.K. Rowling?”) as well as many others. The book is “being published ... to almost unimaginably high expectations,” Atlantic writer John Arit noted, adding that Shannon has been compared to “nearly every mainstream female fantasy and sci-fi novelist.”

Shannon herself says the comparisons to Rowling are a little startling.

“I think it’s just because it was seven fantasy books with Bloomsbury that the comparison came out,” she said in an interview with Vulture. And speaking with Vanity Fair, she said, “I don’t think the book is particularly like anything by J. K. Rowling…. We don’t need a new J. K. Rowling, so, you know, I’d rather be the first Samantha Shannon.” 

However, the book, which was released today, is earning mainly good reviews so far. USA Today writer Brian Truitt, who gave the book three stars out of four, first addressed the elephant in the room and wrote that “Samantha Shannon is not J.K. Rowling, and 19-year-old Paige Mahoney is no Harry Potter. Not that either is a bad thing. Shannon's debut novel, 'The Bone Season,' is awfully familiar in certain aspects, yet the first in a proposed seven-book series – just like that boy wizard had – features fresh ideas, excellent original concepts and, best of all, an impressive new voice for fantasy literature.”

NPR writer Jane Ciabattari said she was similarly won over, calling the book “terrific – intelligent, inventive, dark, and engrossing enough to keep me up late to finish.”

Helen Brown of the Telegraph said that “despite the fight and flight scenes, the pace burns slowly at times. But Shannon writes so well that you stay interested…. And although many of the paths walked by 'The Bone Season' will already have been well travelled by fantasy readers, Shannon shows real skill in combining them so easily into an original and enjoyably escapist fictional world.”

Entertainment Weekly writer Stephan Lee complained that the book “never manages to get off the ground,” and that Shannon “occasionally gets bogged down by the nomenclature and textbook-like description of her fantasy world.”

However, Lee said he had hopes for the already-planned other six novels.

“Her potential is [evident],” he wrote. “Now that she's laid the detailed groundwork for her series, future installments may soar.”

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