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California Bones (Daniel Blackland) Hardcover – June 10, 2014
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*Starred Review* Daniel Blackland, a professional (if fairly small-time) thief, is hired by his uncle, a crime lord, to break into a supposedly impenetrable stronghold and steal something so rare, so important, that others will kill to get it back. Sound like a typical caper novel? Let’s add in some details. Daniel is the son of a powerful magician who was killed many years ago by the Hierarch, the ruler of the Kingdom of Southern California, and the object he’s trying to steal is a sword, made by Daniel’s father, that possesses the magical essence of Daniel himself. This wonderfully imaginative story is set in an alternate-reality Los Angeles that will seem both familiar (the author mentions Topanga Canyon and Rhino Records) and weirdly unusual (the city has an elaborate canal system, like that in Venice, for example). In this world, the bones of magical creatures contain remnants of their powers; if you consume these ancient bones, or the bones of magical people living today, you acquire their magical properties (when the Hierarch killed Daniel’s father, he, um, ate him). The story is structured like a caper novel, and fans of stories about heists will enjoy it, but its fantastical elements make it an absolute must for urban-fantasy readers, too. --David Pitt
"The story is structured like a caper novel, and fans of stories about heists will enjoy it, but its fantastical elements make it an absolute must for urban-fantasy readers, too."―Booklist
"A combination of caper novel and urban fantasy packs a wallop."―Library Journal
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The issue was that it was all of those things, but not Enough of them. We get a few lines and explanations of how osteomancy works and that Daniel is different, but after that it's mainly listing off the ingredients in people. I wanted to see more Osteomantic baddassery.
The world building was very well integrated into the story, almost to the point of being immaterial. Yes there are canals rather than boulevards, but WHY? What does that DO for us? A few lines near the end up the book don't sate my curiosity. The North/South split, the secession, and so many more things mentioned in passing... I want more of those. I want to know things.
And finally the heist plot was almost rudimentary, sketch like. It wasn't the piece de resistance like it was in Ocean's Eleven, or the Heist, or Fast Five, or any other number of heist stories. It was just some scenes, and didn't seem like it was meaty enough.
This book had so many great parts in it, but it never seemed to gel together. I dithered between 4 and 5 stars, but in the end, while I definitely want to read more from Greg, and am hoping for more in the same world, it didn't have that Something to push it into five star territory. I'd recommend this novel to teens and up with an interest in fantasy and/or heist novels.
That said, I'll read the next one, as soon as it goes on sale.
The Kingdom of Southern California?! What?
And then I was like;
Los Angeles with Venice-like waterways? What?!
And then I was like;
Eating bones of mythical creatures to gain their powers? What?!!
Then a team of misfits led by the chosen-one try to perform an impossibly hard task, there is a doublecross, a setback, some new allies, and a glorious battle at the end.
I almost cared about the characters, almost.
4 stars for world-building
I really liked the world and the characters here. There is always a feeling of forward movement and that the danger is just around the corner.
Overall, decent work.