My paperback edition of the original US cover
My paperback edition of the original US cover


Author: Samantha Shannon

Publication Date: August 20, 2013

Pages: 452

Genre: Supernatural Dystopian

Recommended Age: 17 & up

Rating & Verdict: 5 stars & Buy It

I picked this up in December of last year a book store. I had heard nothing about it, save for a couple of mixed reviews on Goodreads. But I read the first couple pages there in the store and I felt the story call to me. You know that feeling when you know you’re reading something different and just clicks with your own, unique reading tastes? So I bought it, read in January and loved it. Let’s break it down!

World Building: Now, many people struggled wit this aspect of the book. Many think it’s too slow for 452 pages. But just know that since that clairvoyancy as the magic system, there’s 7 different classes of clairvoyancy. From Berserker, Whisperer, Oracle, Dreamwalker, etc. The author needs a little slower pace at times to explain what these abilities are. No one will know what a rhabdomancer is right on the dot. (I have never seen that term used at all in fantasy) But what Samantha Shannon is complex and requires you to think and even reference to the glossary or chart. But that’s ok! Having a complex system of abilities or magic that requires attention shows a deep level of dedication and design for the series.

Plot: From the first chapter, this book grabs you by the wrist and yanks you into a somewhat frightening world of 2059 London. Clairvoyants exist and both the government, and the global company Scion, are trying to rid the world of clairvoyants. They have different police forces that are trained to spot clairvoyants, simply by seeing their aura and deal with them. Paige Mahoney is a 19 year old Irish girl who is the  “Pale Dreamer” in her crime syndicate. But when she encounters a sudden situation in the beginning, she ends being taken to a prison colony and learns some very interesting, and even shocking, secrets.

The plot, while twisty at times, gives you juicy morsels as you read along. Paige is a character who looks out for herself and rarely trusts people. But this new environment pushes her dream walking abilities and sanity to the test. While some people not completely connect with her at first, Samantha Shannon gives the story plenty of time to try and test Paige and bring secrets and emotions out of her that causes a great character arc.

The prison colony is run by these “people” who access the aether like the clairvoyants but in much different ways. You see all these different kind of clairvoyants as their tested, beaten, starved and even corrupted to follow the ideals of these people. Paige teeters between these people, trying to escape and return to her syndicate. But of course, it’s more complicated than that. You may have the seen world “dystopian” in the genre description. But I would call this more an urban fantasy.

Characters: The main characters you pay a lot of attention to are: Paige, the Warden, Nashira and a couple side characters in the prison colony. The members of Paige’s syndicate do make appearances, but they mostly take a backseat. As previously mentioned, Paige has a hard time trusting people. She fights against her emotions and the things being done or attempted to be done to her in this place. The Warden becomes her keeper in this colony and is a very complex character that has very well hidden intentions. Their interactions are the meat of the story and offer great messages to the reader, such as not being in denial of emotions and that people can often surprise you. I won’t say anything else because you’ll get a much richer picture when you read it. There is very minimal romance in this book which is very refreshing.

Writing Style: Samantha Shannon was only 20 years old when she signed this book deal. It’s impressive to see this  young woman’s writing create such vivid, complex images, politics, abilities and characters. The writing is not flowery. Instead, it’s in first person POV and this one actually works. Paige is an observant girl and you see so much of the world and learn a lot through her eyes. Shannon even said in an interview (linked below) that writing in first person was essential for her to really help this story take off. Here’s an example of good, efficient writing:

“We are the minority the world does not accept. Not outside of fantasy, and even that’s blacklisted. We look like everyone else. Sometimes we act like everyone else. In many ways, we are like everyone else. We are everywhere, on every street. We live in a way you might consider normal, provided you don’t look too hard.” (pg. 1)

Pulled from the’s YouTube channelBook Reviews

Overall: I went into this book pretty blind and I suggest you do the same. It’s fun, intense, realistic, sometimes emotional and great uses of symbolism and psychic abilities. There is some profanity and violent scenes, while not explicit nor gratuitous, I would not recommend this book to younger or more sensitive readers. But this is a fun ride that brings huge potential to an already great series. Go check this out!