"A children's story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children's story. The good ones last." --C.S. Lewis
As when I read Blue Lily, Lily Blue, I thought, while reading The Mime Order, how am I going to review this without everything being a spoiler? And again, instead of reviewing TMO, I'm going to make a case for why you should start The Bone Season, a series of seven very immersive novels and very well suited for movie adaptation.
First, a little about The Bone Season:
The Bone Season - Samantha Shannon | Goodreads
Release Date: August 20, 2013
Published by: Bloomsbury
It is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others’ minds. Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing.
But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city—Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army.
Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives.
The Bone Season introduces a compelling heroine—a young woman learning to harness her powers in a world where everything has been taken from her. It also introduces an extraordinary young writer, with huge ambition and a teeming imagination. Samantha Shannon has created a bold new reality in this riveting debut.
Now, about the book & series:
1.) It drew comparisons to Harry Potter for a reason. Here's the thing: I know a lot of people say, "NO WAY, don't go into this book with that level of expectations! She's nothing like J.K. Rowling!" Well, yes, no one is like JKR especially because JKR is still alive and writing. And two, I'm not advocating saying that this is the next Harry Potter, but I do think that the comparisons were there for a reason beyond the fact that it's a seven book series written by a UK author and published by Bloomsbury. If you look at these books from an objective standpoint, you see a few facts: they are both plot-oriented, with series and individual book plots intertwined and building on another, with characters secondary to world and plot but still possessing individual motivations and personalities that would influence world and plot, and very immersive worlds in which you can easily picture yourself, what sort of job you might have, and the level of roleplay I'd normally associate with video games. Which Harry Potter has, and I imagine, if TBS becomes popular enough, it would have in the future. So in other words, if you liked that there was a new adventure to HP in each book, that's another similar element to TBS. If you liked feeling like you could participate in that world and imagine yourself going to Hogwarts, you can do the same with TBS. And so on and so forth. Harry Potter was an ambitious series. So is The Bone Season.
2.) Each book can stand on its own in terms of plot. One of the main enemies of series everywhere is when you pick up the later books and don't understand the plot because you can't remember the plot of the previous book and this plot is mostly driven by series plots. It's true that The Mime Order does rely on a reader's knowledge of the powers and dreamscape described in The Bone Season, but I imagined myself reading without that knowledge of the world and figured that others would do just fine - there's enough context (in addition to an extensive glossary) to help lost readers. Shannon also reviews the plot of the previous book and continues with the plot of the Mime Order. It's one of the best workings for a series because everything feels richer, all intertwined and interconnected and building on already established themes.
3.) The world-building is phenomenal and imaginative. This is probably the element that most reviews agree on most frequently. A futuristic London. An alternative history for that future. Another race. A set of powers based on a spiritualist world and seven orders of them. The ether/aether of the nineteenth century brought to life. Spirit combat. So, so much more -- but I'll let you explore it for yourselves. Also you can read my original review of The Bone Season.
4.) Cinematic writing & improvement in writing. When I first read TBS, I was very impressed by the cinematic action. There are several scenes that read "MOVIE I WANT IT NOW" and indeed it's not at all surprising that Shannon's novel was optioned for film. I love this kind of writing because it appeals to non-visual reader me. I love too that when I read The Mime Order, it felt like Shannon's writing had already improved a LOT. I saw complaints about too many short sentences, abrupt pauses, etc. etc. -- I can tell you that I did not personally notice any of these things while reading the Mime Order. The Mime Order to me is a testament of how much Shannon can improve and again how cinematic this entire series and her writing is.
5.) The romance isn't everything but is steamy. Here's the thing: I also know that a lot of people were squicked out by the idea of romance in this novel simply because the summary makes it obvious that Warden has so much more power than Paige and there's a potential Stockholm Syndrome like dynamic between the two of them. But here's the thing: every book I read in this series, I think, so much potential. So when I read TBS, I remembered the six others and thought this chemistry is very well done for the first book. I'm already on board for their relationship. I personally like relationships that have tough barriers like this a lot more than ordinary relationships because it makes the dynamics more fascinating to explore as a reader. I trust Shannon to explore those dynamics and her first book already established that she can write steamy scenes. Same for The Mime Order. For readers less interested in romance, another great thing is that the romance enhances the main plot but does not take over the book/series entirely.
6.) Layers and predictions and all the fun things of series. One of my favorite part of series is the level of potential. Potential for the kind of layering you can't do in a standalone; for the kind of predictions about future plots and character deaths that again a standalone can't fulfill. With the first book of this series, I had the privilege of being involved on a group email thread with predictions for future books. One person suggested Beauty and the Beast and I was suggesting The Bell Jar for a certain symbol. Another was wondering more about the Rephaim and I'd pointed out She'ol, but neither of us could predict the extent of the internal mythology Shannon would develop in future books like The Mime Order (some predictions were half correct, others entirely off-base). It's already that kind of series. And those, for me at least, are the most fun. Kirkus Reviewseven mentioned that "this book is for those who like their dystopian science fiction multilayered, philosophical and complex."
7.) Paige is and isn't a Everywoman. Paige is one of very few dreamwalkers, so she does have a level of Chosen One ness to her, but Shannon helps to ground this element of Paige's power by making Paige's desires feel commonplace and Everywoman-like. A common element in various books is to point out how people are more than what you see, greater than the sum of their parts. One of Paige's most insidious fears is that no one will see her for her and will only ever see her for her power and what she represents. What person hasn't wanted to be seen? To be known for who rather than what you are? And in that it is easy to empathize with Paige.
8.) Adult/New Adult/Young Adult - HUGE crossover potential. This reminds me of Red Rising. Neither is a young adult novel, but both have younger main characters and could slide into the young adult category and draw some of its readers. If you're on the older end of YA or are looking for something a little darker, a little edgier and sexier than most YA, this fits the bill exactly. That's part of why, I'd imagine, the book was being marketed as New Adult fantasy/science fiction and thus would also appeal to fans of new adult looking for something different from the genre's usual offerings. And for the adult crowd, this is still an imaginative sampling in the fantasy and science fiction crowd.
To me it all comes down to whether you believe in the potential of the series and the author. I 100% believe in this author and I hope that you'll give her work a chance too.