Friday, 24 February 2017

The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon

Publication date: 27th January 2015
Published by:  Bloomsbury
Genre: Sci-fi/Dystopia (YA)

Publisher's synopsis
Paige Mahoney has escaped the brutal prison camp of Sheol I, but her problems have only just begun: many of the survivors are missing and she is the most wanted person in London...

As Scion turns its all-seeing eye on the dreamwalker, the mime-lords and mime-queens of the city's gangs are invited to a rare meeting of the Unnatural Assembly. Jaxon Hall and his Seven Seals prepare to take centre stage, but there are bitter fault lines running through the clairvoyant community and dark secrets around every corner. Then the Rephaim begin crawling out from the shadows. But where is Warden? Paige must keep moving, from Seven Dials to Grub Street to the secret catacombs of Camden, until the fate of the underworld can be decided.

The Mime Order is the second instalment to The Bone Season series.  I first read it when it came out in January 2015 and I read it again more recently (in January 2017).  I had completely opposing experiences/views of the book with each read.  I was rather disappointed with it the first time, possibly because it was so different from the first book, whereas, I enjoyed it a lot the second time around.

2017 Review

Like all good sci-fi/fantasy fiction, this book is wonderful escapism. I felt I had entered a new world where I was completely immersed and was in no hurry to leave.  The novel is quite complex and rather sophisticated (much like The Bone Season was but in a different way).  There are many layers to this story: there is what is happening in the clairvoyant community (including a murder mystery intertwined in the plot), then there is the constant threat of Scion and what is likely to result in a clairvoyants' revolution, and there is the danger posed by the Raphaim.  

The writing style is quite descriptive (as opposed to demonstrative), with a lot of explaining of both historical and current significant events.  Some readers prefer a 'show' rather than 'tell' approach, but I believe there is merit in both styles - it is all about the context (in this case descriptive is necessary because a demonstrative approach would take volumes of books).  That said, the first time I read this book parts of it felt a bit like an academic lecture, whereas it did not seem that way the second time around and I found it really interesting.

A novel that is novel, and not-so-novel
I have read quite a lot of fantasy fiction but I have never come across one centred on clairvoyants before this series, making it a novel reading experience. That said, I would argue there are influences coming through from other popular YA fantasy/sci-fi stories.

I alluded to this in my review of The Bone Season, but here are two examples pertaining to The Mime Order:

  • Twilight - I would say the relationship between Paige and Warden is as disturbing and he is as much a threat to her.  Although not a vampire, Warden is immortal and, instead of blood, he requires a clairvoyant's aura to sustain him.  He resists taking it from her (and other clairvoyants), much like Edward does.   He is part of the Ranthen, Raphaim who reject the cruel ways of their own kind (much like the Cullens).  Unlike Twilight, the romance in this book scores zero on the fluff-o-metre (see below). 
  • The Hunger Games - Paige is emerging as the face needed to promote and persuade the clairvoyants to unite with the Ranthen to expose Scion and defeat Nashira. Spoiler Alert!  Also, the reason for the meeting of the Unnatural Assembly is a competition that requires clairvoyant contestants to fight to the death in front of hungry for violence spectators.

Raphaite + Clairvoyant + Love = ?
Writing romance is a lot harder than one may think.  Where fluff (i.e. sentimentality) is concerned, you need a balance.  The trouble with this book's complete absence of sentiment is that it renders Paige and Warden's intimate exchanges unconvincing and, in my view, is a weakness of the book. 

Nerd alert! It is a tricky one because we just don't know enough about Warden or where he comes from.  We know that, although humanoid, the Raphaim do not procreate like humans. There is no such thing as a Raphaite child since they are not birthed (they are produced in adult form by the Netherworld itself).  Perhaps, therefore, (from a biological point of view) there is no need for sex (and therefore no need for intimacy). As a result, I struggle to understand Warden's motivation for his relationship with Paige. 

On the other hand, gender exists among the Raphaim and we know matrimony exists - since Warden is the Blood Consort. The way a Raphaite is created, and the existence of the golden cord (the bond that connects two souls) suggests the aether has something to do with the why and the how; but what? These are questions that need answers if Paige and Warden's relationship is to make sense (to me).  Perhaps all will be revealed in future novels.  So far, the narration has been first person perspective, so unless the stories switch to a different voice (in this case Warden's), I see a problem getting answers to those questions.

The next instalment
The Song Rising, is out the first week of March. I am finding it hard to control my excitement, but, perhaps this time, I will do well to do just that to avoid disappointment, and maybe even read it twice before I pass comment [embarrassed face].

No comments:

Post a Comment