Bloomsbury, out January 27, 2015
Paige returns to London determined to expose the truth, but each way she turns, she faces frustration…
Although Samantha Shannon’s first book in this series had a confidence that belied the author’s age, this second volume is much more assured in style and content. Whereas in The Bone Season, you felt confident that Shannon herself knew the world she was describing, here she pulls you down into the world of Scion London, imparting information in a way that makes you feel as if you already knew it – a skill that many writers lack.
The Mime Order is a story in part about masks and disguise. London itself isn’t what it seems, and Paige and the others who escaped from Oxford are determined to expose it. Those who live within the clairvoyant underbelly of the city often present one face to the world, even to their compatriots, and another to their confidantes – and in some cases, there are sides to them which they keep so deeply hidden that even those who have known them for many years don’t suspect the truth. Paige herself makes more than one misjudgement that nearly proves fatal.
For those who read our interview with Shannon around the time of the release of The Bone Season, there are some nice payoffs of the areas she thought might be included in this novel. We also learn a lot more about the history of the arrival of the Rephaim, and the way that the rest of the world regards them, as well as getting to know the members of the Seven Seals in much more detail. Certain hanging threads from The Bone Season are tied off, but new questions are posed – not least by the unexpected ending of the novel. If you reread the first two books before the third appears, you’ll have some very different perspectives on characters and events… the ramifications are huge.
Essential to the story is Paige’s ability to fight, and there’s a sequence towards the end which is brutal – in The Hunger Games, the contestants try to get inside each other’s heads metaphorically; here it’s literal. It’s not the only horrific part of the book: there are some particularly gruesome deaths, and Shannon ensures that we understand that in this world, the death of the physical body is by no means the end of things…
Verdict: A step up from an already high quality novel, this confirms Samantha Shannon’s place in the fantasy pantheon. 9/10