The Bone Season
By Samantha Shannon
Published by Bloomsbury
All the hype about The Bone Season before its August publication suggested it would be "the big one" this year. Author Samantha Shannon was called "the next JK Rowling"; the book and film rights to her debut novel (the first of a seven-book series) were bought for huge sums.
This classy-looking dystopian young-adult novel - with its stark, pick-me-up cover - has been translated into nearly 20 languages, and been tipped to knock both Twilight and The Hunger Games off their perches.
Yet can a new author really have the imagination and ability to pull off the global success expected of her? Yes, she can. Shannon has true talent and has created an intriguing and gripping new reality.
The story is set in 2059, when the world's major cities are controlled by an all-powerful security force called Scion. London is one of the main citadels of this brave new world, managing as best it can under a totalitarian, iron-fisted rule.
Shannon's heroine, Paige Mahoney, 19, is part of a specialised criminal gang working in the city. The gang's mysterious leader, Jaxon Hall, protects them in any way he can - all the while exploiting Paige's special ability as a clairvoyant. Paige has the talent to dreamwalk - to leave her own mind and enter those of other people.
However, Scion has made all forms of paranormal activity illegal: Paige would be put to death if the authorities discovered her ability.
Shannon skilfully builds up the background to the complex world of Scion, and later, when her plot takes off, she cleverly tightens the screws around her captive readers.
Paige is suddenly kidnapped and taken to the city of Oxford - a place wiped from all official maps 200years before, which is now controlled from outside Scion by a sinister race of extra-dimensional beings called the Rephaim.
She has been taken there to be trained as a weapon in a secret and terrible war. Paige must adapt to the unknown, or she won't survive.
One of the book's many strengths is the fascinating internal mythology that Shannon presents to readers. It is gripping and original.
Readers of both sexes will also be drawn to Paige, a central character of great personality and conviction.
Shannon's impressive debut suggests her series will triumph. Read this book now - and be in at the beginning of something really extraordinary.
John Millen can be contacted at MillenBookshelf@aol.com