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Samantha Shannon’s “The Bone Season” is the first pick for the new TODAY Book Club. RSVP to join a Google Hangout with Shannon and Natalie Morales on September 16. Keep up with the TODAY Book Club by subscribing to our newsletter and follow @TODAYsBooks for book club conversation starters and special free giveaways. Tweet your insights and favorite quotes using the hashtag #TODAYBookClub.
Set in a dystopian futuristic London under a regime called Scion, "The Bone Season" protagonist Paige Mahoney struggles to harness her powers of breaking into others' minds in a world where clairvoyants are hunted down. Read an exclusive excerpt of chapter four. Want to catch up? Read chapters one through three here and use the discussion questions below as a guide through the rest of the book.
Chapter four: A Lecture upon the Shadow
"Welcome to Sheol I.”
The speaker was about six and a half feet tall.Her features were perfectly symmetrical: a long,straight nose, high cheekbones, deep-set eyes fixed in her face. The candlelight ran through her hair and across her burnished skin. She wore black, like the others, but her sleeves and sides were slashed with gold.
“I am Nashira Sargas.” Her voice was cool and low-pitched. “I am the blood-sovereign of the Race of Rephaim.”
“Is this a joke?” someone whispered.
“Shh,” hissed another.
“First of all, I must apologize for the harrowing start to your time here, especially if you were housed first in the Tower. The vast majority of clairvoyants are under the impression that they are going to be executed when they are summoned to our fold. We use Fluxion 14 to ensure their transmission to Sheol I is safe and straightforward. After being sedated, you were placed on a train and taken to a detainment facility, where you were monitored. Your clothing and belongings have been confiscated.”
As I listened, I examined the woman, looking into the æther. Her aura was unlike anything I’d ever sensed before. I wished I could see it. It was as if she’d taken several different types of aura and forged them all into one strange field of energy.
There was something else, too. A cold edge. Most auras gave off a soft, warm signal, like I’d walked past a space heater, but this one gave me deep chills.
“I understand that you are surprised to see this city. You may know it as Oxford. Its existence was disavowed by your government two centuries ago, before any of you were born. It was supposedly quarantined after an outbreak of fire. This was a lie. It was closed off so we, the Rephaim, could make it our home.
“We arrived two centuries ago, in 1859. Your world had reached what we call the ‘ethereal threshold.’” She assessed our faces. “The majority of you are clairvoyant. You understand that sentient spirits exist all around us, too cowardly or stubborn to meet their final death in the heart of the æther. You can commune with them, andin return they will guide and protect you. But that connection has a price. When the corporeal world becomes overpopulated with drifting spirits, they cause deep rifts in the æther. When these rifts become too wide, the ethereal threshold breaks.
“When Earth broke its threshold, it became exposed to a higher dimension called Netherworld, where we reside. Now we have come here.” Nashira leveled her gaze on my line of prisoners. “You humans have made many mistakes. You packed your fertile earth with corpses,burdened it with drifting spirits. Now it belongs to the Rephaim.”
I looked at Julian and saw my exact fear mirrored in his eyes. This woman had to be insane. Silence filled the room. Nashira Sargas had our attention.
“My people, the Rephaim, are all clairvoyant. There are no amaurotics among us. Since the rip between our worlds occurred, we have been forced to share the Netherworld with a parasitic race called the Emim. They are mindless, bestial creatures with a taste for human flesh. If not for us, they would have come here from beyond the threshold. They would have come for you.”
Mad. She was mad.
“You were all detained by humans in our employ. They are called red-jackets.” Nashira indicated a line of men and women, all clad in scarlet, at the back of the library. “Since our arrival, we have taken many clairvoyant humans under our wing. In exchange for protection,we train you to destroy the Emim—to protect the ‘natural’population—as part of a penal battalion. This city acts as a beacon to the creatures, drawing them away from the rest of the corporeal world. When they breach its walls, red-jackets are summoned to destroy them. Such breaches are announced by a siren. There is a high risk of mutilation.”There is also, I thought, a high risk that this is all in my head.“We offer you this fate as an alternative to what Scion would offer: death by hanging, or asphyxiation. Or, as some of you have already experienced, a long, dark sentence in the Tower.” In the row behind me, one girl began to whimper. She was shushed by the people on either side of her. "Of course, we do not have to work together.” Nashira paced along the front row. “When we came to this world, we found it vulnerable.Only a fraction of you are clairvoyant, and still less have marginally useful abilities. We might have let the Emim turn on you. We would have been justified in doing so, given what you have done to this world.”
Seb was crushing my hand. I was aware of a faint ringing in my ears.
This was ridiculous. A bad joke. Or brain plague. Yes, it must be brain plague. Scion was trying to make us think we’d gone insane. Maybe we had.
How does Samantha Shannon create a different world in "The Bone Season"? How is Scion London different to the London of today?
Do you think a voyant’s abilities are the result of the roll of genetic dice or a response to character?
Why is Paige’s type of clairvoyant ability so valuable? How does the nature of her discovery of her clairvoyance affect her relationship to it?
Paige’s job is obviously very different from most, but how are her “office” dynamics reminiscent of any other office environment?
The struggle for freedom is a major theme in this book. Paige is constantly fighting for control of her own life against groups small (Jax and her Seven Seals criminal group) and large (Scion). Does Paige gain a measure of independence? At what cost?
Clairvoyants are the “other” in Scion, persecuted for being born different. Is it a relief for Paige to be in a place like Sheol I where her abilities are a cause for envy, not fear?
Does Paige just develop her fighting skills when she is in Sheol I? What else does Paige discover about herself while she is there?
The voyants who adapted favorably to Sheol 1 have not cast themselves in a very flattering light—they are seen as traitors to their race. At the same time Paige finds that her experiences in Sheol 1 have forced her to reevaluate the persona she developed within the syndicate, as Jaxon’s molisher. How else does the theme of acceptance run through the book? Do you think the author is making a comment on acceptance? Or on freedom?
When does the nature of the relationship between Warden and Paige change? When does she start to trust him, and he trust her?
Excerpted from The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. Copyright © 2013 by Samantha Shannon. Excerpted by permission of Bloomsbury. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.