Samantha Shannon's The Bone Season, a dystopian novel that follows a 19-year-old clairvoyant in 2059 London, is being published tomorrow to almost unimaginably high expectations.
A steady drumbeat of press for the 21-year-old's debut has led to comparisons to nearly every mainstream female fantasy and sci-fi novelist with name recognition.
In an interview published online today, Vanity Fair breathlessly suggested that The Bone Season (the first in a seven-novel series) will stir up "a Hunger Games–like frenzy and blockbuster franchise," making Shannon the new Suzanne Collins. Not to be outdone, The Independent called her the next E.L. James, even though there is no suggestion that The Bone Season is overtly pornographic. There have also been comparisons to Divergent by Veronica Roth, since Roth also got a film deal for a sci-fi novel she wrote as an undergraduate.
The seven book series, to be published by Bloomsbury (as in, Harry Potter Bloomsbury) earned Shannon, a completely untested new author, a reported six-figure advance for the first three books. And the particulars of the series — Bloomsbury, seven books, the fact that she's a Brit — have lead to a flurry of comparisons to the queen of the blockbuster YA-novel: J.K. Rowling. It's a comparison she says she has mixed feelings about. Shannon recently told Vulture that The Bone Season is a darker, more morally ambiguous series:
“I was born in 1991, and Harry Potter came out in ’97, so, you know, I was really obsessed. I used to read them in one night. [...] I think it’s just because it was seven fantasy books with Bloomsbury that the comparison came out,” Shannon explains. “But The Bone Season is violent. There’s sex.”
And she told Vanity Fair that she'd rather be her own person:
I am obviously a massive fan [of Harry Potter], so it is kind of uncomfortable for me, because if you say that someone is the new something, it suggests that there is something wrong with the old. We don’t need a new J. K. Rowling, so, you know, I’d rather be the first Samantha Shannon.
But hype aside, reviews for The Bone Season have been good, if not exactly glowing. Stephan Lee of Entertainment Weekly gave the freshman effort a "B," writing that "even if Shannon's inexperience is evident, her potential is too. Now that she's laid the detailed groundwork for her series, future installments may soar." Jane Ciabattari at NPR is less reserved with her praise and writes that "it's terrific—intelligent, inventive, dark, and engrossing enough to keep me up late to finish." Helen Brown at The Telegraph says that "like so much recent young adult fiction, I suspect this series will appeal to the fearless teenager dwelling within many adults." We're about to find out.
(Screenshot and book cover via Bloomsbury.)