The second novel in Samantha Shannon’s ambitious seven-book fantasy series set in futuristic London, continues the saga of clairvoyant Paige Mahoney. In 2013, Bloomsbury hyped the first installment, The Bone Season, as the next Hunger Games and sold film rights to 20th Century Fox. That level of publicity merits the obvious question: Can Shannon follow up with another blockbuster?
This sequel begins so slowly that it feels as though the young writer may have lost her grip. But against the odds, its clumsy opening — about 100 pages of jumbled narrative and slow plotting — eventually makes way for real entertainment. Shannon has continued to build on this imagined world with intricacy, and Paige’s voice comes through to deliver a suspenseful story.
After making a daring escape from a penal colony hidden in Oxford, Paige is the most wanted person in London. Scion, the dictatorial government, plasters images of her face all around the city. With no one else to protect her, she grudgingly returns to the Seven Seals, the criminal gang to which she once belonged.
Her old boss, Jaxon Hall, is thrilled to have her back. As clairvoyants go, he and Paige are two of the most powerful types. But he doesn’t believe Paige’s claims that a dangerous and secret race called the Rephaim rule the penal colony. According to Paige, these immortal humanoids from the Netherworld threaten the fate of clairvoyants in London. But Paige also feels torn about the Rephaim because she’s in love with one of them, who helped her escape.
Though the middle of the novel improves greatly, the end becomes unwieldy when several overly engineered plot twists tangle together. And whether the Rephaim pose a real threat never becomes clear, leaving a big question mark as to what’s at stake with Paige’s newfound love. In the next installments of this series, Shannon has the chance to reel her story back in and recapture the startling originality that occasionally emerged in her debut.
Elizabeth Word Gutting reviewed this book for The Washington Post.