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California Bones (Daniel Blackland, 1) Paperback – January 6, 2015
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When Daniel Blackland was six, he ingested his first bone fragment, a bit of kraken spine plucked out of the sand during a visit with his demanding, brilliant, and powerful magician father, Sebastian.
When Daniel was twelve, he watched Sebastian die at the hands of the Hierarch of Southern California, devoured for the heightened magic layered deep within his bones.
Now, years later, Daniel is a petty thief with a forged identity. Hiding amid the crowds in Los Angeles―the capital of the Kingdom of Southern California―Daniel is trying to go straight. But his crime-boss uncle has a heist he wants Daniel to perform: break into the Hierarch's storehouse of magical artifacts and retrieve Sebastian's sword, an object of untold power.
For this dangerous mission, Daniel will need a team he can rely on, so he brings in his closest friends from his years in the criminal world. There's Moth, who can take a bullet and heal in mere minutes. Jo Alverado, illusionist. The multitalented Cassandra, Daniel's ex. And, new to them all, the enigmatic, knowledgeable Emma, with her British accent and her own grudge against the powers-that-be. The stakes are high, and the stage is set for a showdown that might just break the magic that protects a long-corrupt regime.
Extravagant and yet moving, Greg van Eekhout's California Bones is an epic adventure set in a city of canals and secrets and casual brutality--different from the world we know, yet familiar and true.
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"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
About the Author
- Publisher : Tor Books; Reprint edition (January 6, 2015)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0765376911
- ISBN-13 : 978-0765376916
- Item Weight : 8 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.71 x 8.5 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,696,226 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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1. People are treated as poorly here by those in power as in anything I've ever read. Human beings are abused, randomly tortured, chopped up, and used as less than human tools on a regular basis. The only thing I didn't see were people customized for particular uses, like in Frank Herbert's _The Lazarus Effect_, but that probably relates to my second point. The thing is, all this goes on, and all the npc's shrug it off like "That's how it is, kid. What's ya gonna do?" There's no resistance movement. There's no refugees trying to cross the deadly desert. Most all the members of the society just shrug this off as the norm and seem to focus on hiding from it by immersing themselves in the minutia of their daily lives.
2. This story's world's relationship to technology is strange. Mention is made of cd players, televisions, and spreadsheets. But no one in the story uses an electronic computing device even as complicated as an addition and multiplication only type calculator (I think there's cash registers, but for all you can tell, they could be entirely mechanical). There's a video monitoring room in a museum, but none of the primary characters in the story uses a phone or any other electronic communications device or even two tin cans with a string between them. The main characters are doing a heist, but with the exception of refined firearms (maybe) and some flexible mylar mirror, it seems like all the technology for and encountered by the heist is involved with magic or from the 1950's. The one time you hear a character talk about something besides magic for providing the basic infrastructure of society, he advocates for replacing magic with a well run bureaucracy (of presumably idealistic or unimaginative persons who won't attempt to manipulate that bureaucracy for more than minor personal gain). It seems as if every technological creation is an import from otherwhere and no one thinks to devise a new solution to a problem that isn't osteomantic in nature. Like the lack impetus for organized political resistance, it seems like another big blind spot. I'm not saying that I think this story needs cell phones and a character who's a technological wizard, but just that there's a background of lots of mundane technology that people use, but no apparent presence of the sort of minds that might have brought it into being.
Of course, it's possible that these aspects of the story could be a satiric reference/reaction to current urban life in Southern California, and I'm just insufficiently familiar with that to recognize the satire.
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.
Daniel Blackland is a rogue osteomancer, his family destroyed by a tyrant, leaving him to a life of crime. This novel begins as a well-constructed heist in which Daniel has a strong personal stake. Had it continued along those lines, CALIFORNIA BONES would have been a very different - and perhaps much better novel. Unfortunately, though, van Eekhout takes a hard turn in another direction midway through the book, pointlessly derailing the story and rendering much of what came before moot. The novel never recovers, slogging toward the least thrilling resolution ever. One gets the idea that van Eekhout got behind on his deadlines and simply rushed an ending that feels sloppy and unconvincing. I can't really recommend it (especially at the price point of over $10 on Kindle), but I can't say it has no redeeming value, either.
I will say this for the book: It is the best alternate world fantasy novel featuring Walt Disney as a villain ever written.
Top reviews from other countries
The writing, at times, and flow of story is not the best, but the concept of osteomancy and development of magical ideas is absolutely great and, ultimately, It was an enjoyable read.
I'll certainly be looking to read the next one in the series soon.