OXFORD, England - Samantha Shannon, a young British writer some are calling the next J.K. Rowling, is uncomfortable with such lofty expectations.
But with Tuesday's publication of The Bone Season, her first novel, the Rowling parallels are proving irresistible.
Shannon, like Rowling, is starting her career with the venerable British book publisher Bloomsbury. She writes in the fantasy genre and is expected to produce a seven-book series (there are seven Harry Potter books).
The Bone Season begins in the year 2059 and follows the story of 19-year-old Paige Mahoney, a talented clairvoyant whose allegiance to a criminal gang in the totalitarian-like state of Scion leads her down a dark path from which it is difficult to return.
Hopes are high.
"Because publishing is such a messy business and very unpredictable, most publishers generally take a punt (chance) on first novels," says David Godwin, Shannon's London-based agent. "However, they rarely throw masses of marketing money at them to support that effort."
Shannon may be the exception.
As an expression of faith in the untested, 21-year-old Oxford University graduate, Bloomsbury flew Shannon to the USA three times ahead of the book's publication to meet booksellers and reviewers.
"We've put all our trans-Atlantic resources behind The Bone Season," says Nancy Miller, editorial director of Bloomsbury USA. The book is being published simultaneously by Bloomsbury UK.
"This is not typical in any way," Miller says, "but Samantha has created something totally unique and completely her own with The Bone Season - a dazzling, brilliantly written post-apocalyptic page-turner with a strong female protagonist set in a fully conceived parallel world."
Shannon has called this world a "retro-futuristic" environment, home to fading Victoriana and tech-savvy oxygen bars, and the book invokes both the political tyranny of George Orwell and the bucolic mythmaking of J.R.R. Tolkien.
The Bone Season is being published in 21 countries, and film rights have been optioned by Andy Serkis' Imaginarium studios. Serkis is known to many as Gollum from the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies.
Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY