The year is 2059, and 19-year-old Paige Mahoney lives in Scion London. In an alternate reality, Jack the Ripper was rumored to be Edward VII, who Scion believes brought the "curse" of clairvoyance to the world, through his misdeeds. In Scion England, it is illegal to use any kind of clairvoyance (accessing the ӕther), even though there are many different kinds of "voyants" to be found (there is a chart at the beginning of the book), and it is considered treason for voyants to use their abilities for financial gain. Scion puts offending voyants in the Tower, and many are eventually executed (or so society believes).
Paige is a special kind of voyant, a "dreamwalker," whose spirit can leave her body and invade the minds' of others. Her ability forces her to work in the criminal underground of voyants, within the syndicate system (a surprisingly well organized system) for the mime-lord, Jaxon. She uses her ability as "surveillance" on any activity in the ӕther that is going on in Jax's section.
On a trip home to visit her father, Paige's train is checked, and she is forced to use her ability in a way she never has before, which leaves a man dead. She is not caught immediately, but during the night at her father's apartment, men in red shirts (not the Scion's) burst into her father's apartment looking for her. She tries to get away, but they manage to catch her. When Paige wakes up, she finds that she was not taken to the Tower, as she thought she would be. Paige, along with thirty-nine other voyants and amaurotics (non-voyants), has been brought to Sheol I (the "lost" city of Oxford) by the Rephaim, an alien race from the Netherworld.
The Rephaim are working with Scion, with the ultimate goal of ruling Earth. The Rephaim need voyants (the red-jackets), supplied by Scion, to help them protect humans from the Emim, another more bestial groups of aliens that, the Rephaim claim, wants to feed on humans. The group Paige is in is part of the Twentieth Bone Season, a period that only comes once every ten years and exists to add to the number of the red-jackets. There are two tests to become part of the red-jackets, though. The first is tied to the person's ability. The second is a fight with an Emim. Failure in either task leads to becoming a performer, one that provides entertainment for the others and is looked down upon by all.
Each member of the group is assigned a keeper (one of the Rephaim), who train their voyants and take "care" of them. Paige is the only one taken in by the Warden, a really strong Rephaite who seems to have secret motives of his own. As Paige, named XX-59-40 by the Raphaim, learns more and more about her new situation and the Rephaim, the more she wonders if the situation is as clear as the Rephaim, especially one of their leaders, Nashira, would have her believe. She also knows that she needs to get out of Sheol I, for the sake of her life and the protection of her syndicate. One attempt at rebellion, twenty years ago, ended in failure, but failure is not an option for Paige.
The Bone Season was one of the titles that I had put in the Popular Reads for the Fall Season blog post, as it has been highly anticipated on many of the popular fall reading lists. I was intrigued by all of the genre-blending that Shannon seems to be using in the story. There are elements of a dystopia: Scion is not the salvation from clairvoyance that the amaurotics believe it is; science fiction: a future setting with advanced technology and social issues; fantasy: paranormal elements and two groups of aliens that did not come from the stars but another dimension, and there is also some romance and action mixed in there, too. With so much genre-blending, though, you really have to pay extra attention to the first few chapters. Shannon throws a lot of terminology and world building that will be important to the plot later on in the book. It was a story that very easily sucked me in, and even though there were a few issues that I had with some of the elements of the story, I look forward to reading the next book in the series.