Title: The Song Rising (2017)
Author: Samantha Shannon
Read: 19th – 25th February
Genre: fantasy; dystopian
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The third book in Samantha Shannon’s The Bone Season series, The Song Rising sees Paige and her not-so-merry band of clairvoyants venture outside of the Scion-controlled environs of London’s streets and into a much darker and deadlier world. The stakes are raised, the risks are higher, and the outcome is a riveting and heart-breaking addition to this ongoing dystopian/fantasy series.
“War has often been called a game, with good reason.
Both have combatants. Both have sides. Both carry the risk of losing.”
Immediately following on from the shock cliffhanger of the second book in the series, The Song Rising marks the third outing of dreamwalker Paige Mahoney and her voyant friends and foes alike. Having battled against the other cohorts in the scrimmage in The Mime Order, Paige is now crowned Underqueen and rules over the criminal underworld of London. However, though her victory means she can finally spread the truth about Scion and its Rephaim masters, with it comes the unenviable task of uniting the fractured gangs into a community that is able to survive the oppression it faces on a daily basis. To be a clairvoyant is treason and so every member of the Mime Order commits a crime by simply existing.
“Years of oppression never crushed it, that flame that has led each of us to resist an empire that strives to destroy our way of life. Even if we’ve acted on it in the shadows, everything we’ve done, in the century the syndicate has existed, has been a small act of rebellion, whether daring to sell our gifts for coin or merely continuing to exist, and to profit.”
I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the fringe Mime Order characters fleshed out into fully-fledged personalities in their own rights. As Paige creates her own syndicate of sorts, we begin to learn more of how Scion developed in Europe and also get a sense of how this ties into the pasts of established characters such as Nick Nygard and Ognena Maria. What actually happened during the Molly Riots is also explored through flashback, and it was satisfying to get some answers, even if those answers only prompt further question. If I may have one qualm with The Song Rising it would be this – the book felt a tad too brief, it seemed too short to cover all the backstory it was beginning to develop, whilst its predecessor was given much more room to cover much less content. Although, perhaps that is personal taste and I just wanted this book to never end!
“What I will tell you is that you cannot force yourself to mourn.
Sometimes, the best way to honour the dead is to simply keep living.”
Through their experiences as part of the London syndicate, Paige and Co finally begin to properly form into an organisation built purposely to fight against the oppressors which would seek to hunt them down. Distinct branches are established for the purposes of strategy, recruitment, and provisions, presenting much more of an established and coherent group than seen in the previous Unnatural Assembly. Through this, the book takes a much darker and serious tone – now they must unite or face extinction, as the much-anticipated Senshield (a device that can detect clairvoyants on sight) is up and running in the capital city, not only forcing the voyants underground but also forcing them to seriously think about how they can work together to survive. Gang politics are still rife, but there is a much more prevalent sense of having to unite under Paige Mahoney’s name (like it or not), in order to fight against Scion.
” ‘Permission to disregard your orders, Underqueen.’
‘Permission not granted. Permission categorically denied.’ “
The Ranthen must be part of Paige’s Mime Order and that brings its own challenges. For my part (and without spoiling too much of the third book), I enjoyed seeing Warden and Paige disagree again – it would be much too easy to have the pair of them unite and cooperate peacefully despite both of their (let’s face it) baggage – I’m glad to see that Samantha Shannon allowed them to have tiffs. Seeing Warden once more become teacher was also an interesting development within the third book, showing the Rephaim as teachers rather than guardians, and it hinted at a much more equal footing for the two races moving forward into the rest of the series. I am intrigued to see how long that will truly last.
“Even in the situation we found ourselves in, I could appreciate the beauty of the Old Town. Its buildings were beautiful and motley, with spires and rooftops that clambered skyward – as if they longed to reach the same heights as the nearby hills, or to touch the sky the sun had warmed to a finger-painting of amber and coal.”
Seeing Paige and her Mime Order venture into other parts of the UK was a welcome development – so often dystopias barely even mention places outside of their primary setting, let alone explore them by having the characters pass through them and see what different effects the dystopia has had on these places. Personally my heart is inordinately swayed by Edinburgh so seeing Paige and the gang venture deep beneath the city into the Edinburgh Vaults was like a dream (or perhaps nightmare) come true. Manchester and Stoke also made appearances, in suitably run-down and industrial form, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading how the clairvoyant communities in those areas had developed and what their opinion was on Scion London since they were “outside of the system” but still contributing to it, in a way. With the promise of action now turning to other Scion citadels in the next books in the series, I have no doubt that Samantha Shannon’s beautifully fleshed-out world will continue to grow and develop in compelling ways. I cannot wait to go on that journey with Paige.
“The wonderful thing about living in a morally bankrupt world is that every human being can be bought in one way or another. Everyone accepts a currency. Money, mercy, the illusion of power – there are always ways to purchase loyalty.“