It's no wonder 21-year-old Oxford grad Samantha Shannon has been drawing comparisons to J.K. Rowling. With her debut, The Bone Season, she's kicked off a seven-volume series set in an intricately imagined alternate version of London. An organization called Scion is in control, and clairvoyants or ''voyants,'' as they're called in the novel ''commit treason just by breathing.''
Unlike Rowling, however, Shannon occasionally gets bogged down by the nomenclature and textbook-like description of her fantasy world. Though her lovingly conceived pages are stuffed with ideas and eclectic characters, the plot languishes, and the tale of 19-year-old Paige Mahoney an extremely rare kind of voyant called a ''dreamwalker'' never manages to get off the ground. But even if Shannon's inexperience is evident, her potential is too. Now that she's laid the detailed groundwork for her series, future installments may soar. B