Review: California Bones by Greg Van Eekhout

July 16, 2014 4 stars, Book Review 23 ★★★★

Review: California Bones by Greg Van EekhoutCalifornia Bones by Greg Van Eekhout
Series: California Bones #1
Published by Tor Books on June 10, 2014
Genres: Adult SFF, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher

*This book was provided by the Publisher for review. No compensation was provided and all opinions are strictly my own.

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.


I’ll suck the power from your bones!
*Imagine me saying that with some old crone’s voice*

California Bones has a fresh, I’ve never seen it done before, magic system in a alternate Los Angeles that hot damn, I would be scared to live in! You know how you’ve always been a bit jealous of those characters in movies or books that are magic users? Alright so maybe you haven’t, but I know I always have been – so much so that whenever I play games I always roll myself as a mage. They may be squishy and not have much muscle power but they can usually throw a mean fireball. But in California Bones – oh hell no – count me out. Because if you’re a magic user it’s eat or be eaten. Osteomancers eat the bones of animals to absorb their special powers, and when there aren’t anymore special animal bones to be had – your fellow osteomancers are what’s for dinner. Are you making faces? Come come now you need a stronger stomach.

Being all you can be

Daniel is everything his father made of him. Not only is he an osteomancer because his dad was feeding him bones since he was 6 years old but he’s so concentrated with the stuff that he IS magic. Where most osteomancers have to take in a regular diet of the bones to use their powers, Daniel can call the essence of those abilities up from within him at will. It makes him pretty kick ass. Unfortunately, his dad was cannibalized by the Hierarch of the city about ten years ago when Daniel was just a teen he has been hiding out ever since. He’s a thief and a con but still a pretty cool guy, at least to his friends. And boy does he have some extraordinary friends!

The folks that make up Daniel’s heist team are pretty cool. You’ve got Moth, who is pretty much indestructible. Ok so he is destructible but he has a way of regrowing organs, limbs and heck he doesn’t seem to stay dead. Cass is a master thief – I don’t really see that she has any other thing going for her other than that but hey she can pick any lock out there. Then there is Jo – she can be anybody. She is a shapeshifter and I tell you that is one awesome special ability to have. Lastly there is Emma – she’s the inside man – not really a friend to the crew but the person that is going to help them get inside the Hierarch’s vault. Just what you don’t really want on your team an unknown entity – but hey you gotta do what you gotta do when the take is as big as they come.

An alternate Los Angeles more intimidating than the real one

Given that I kind of think of Los Angeles as a dog eat dog town, the magic of eating bones and other people for their magic fits perfectly there. But the United States is different too. California is not part of it being it’s own kingdom, country, ruling body, however you want to think of it. And Los Angeles itself is it’s own smaller little kingdom ruled by the Hierarch. This is still a very modern book, with guns, technology, and coffee bars – but where the real L.A. has cars and freeways this L.A. has boats and waterways similar to Venice. The residents seem like they are trapped there and rarely ever able to escape. Oh Sweet San Francisco save me.

The faceless oogey boogey

The Hierarch falls into that faceless boogeyman category of villains. You essentially don’t get to see this guy until the end. For me I don’t know if that made him more intimidating or less so. I’m tending to say it generally makes villains less scary for me – because if I can’t see the bad buy, how am I supposed to know he’s so bad or fear him in any way? I am firmly in the camp of – I like to know more behind what drives the evil of the main villain in any story. Of course the system of government in place, now that is pretty evil and you get to see quite a bit of nasty stuff done by the personnel then work within the system – so in a way yes that reflects upon the Hierarch because he’s the one RUNNING the system. But still figurehead evil doesn’t always instill much fear in me personally. If I would have gotten a bit more of The Hierarch and his dastardly deeds I would have been much more pleased with the villain piece of things.

Just enough kick ass, dark grit, and bottom of the barrel to fill you up

California Bones has definitely put Greg Van Eekhout on my list of authors to watch. I can say for sure I will be picking up the next book and looking into anything else this guy might turn out. The magic system was such like I hadn’t seen before and I want more, I want more right now. There were a few sticking points for me that kept this from a glowing 5 stars but those things I actually think were an important part of the book that I didn’t realize and didn’t come together until the end. But alas it didn’t change my feelings during so kudos though to the author for making me appreciate this particular thing. Alright you’re going to bug me if I don’t tell you right? So I though Daniel was a bit lacking in personality, lacking in reasons that he would be such a leader to his team. But as I said it all comes together in the end with an ‘ahhh hah’ moment. Read it and enjoy my urban fantasy friends.

Stalk me!

Tabitha (Pabkins)

When I'm in the zone I can flip book pages faster than the eye can see - screaming "More Input!" I'm a book, yarn, & art supply hoarding goblin who loves to draw, make toys and craft all sorts of creepy cute things. My current habit is to listen to audio books while I'm arting it up!
Stalk me!

Latest posts by Tabitha (Pabkins) (see all)

23 Responses to “Review: California Bones by Greg Van Eekhout”

    • Tabitha (Pabkins)

      Yes, almost loved it is an apt description. I mean I probably could give it a 5 stars because like I said the part I was a smidge dissatisfied with had a reasonable explanation and all came together perfectly at the end. Some others might not notice it at all! I definitely recommend it!
      Tabitha (Pabkins) recently posted…Review: California Bones by Greg Van EekhoutMy Profile

  1. Melliane

    Oh it’s a lot of iriginal ideas in there. I didn’t know this one but I’m curious about the bone thing even if it’s a little weird I confess. Thanks for introducing me to the book!
    Melliane recently posted…Black Rook by Kelly MeadeMy Profile

  2. Mary @ BookSwarm

    See, this is why I love following your blog — you intro me to books that I might dismiss otherwise (cover, blurb, or whatever reason) and make me want to read them ASAP! I’m pretty sure I’d be eaten pretty quickly in this world, considering I like to do my dirty work from afar or invisibly (I’m a big fan of the Hunter’s crossbow or Rogue’s invisibility).
    Mary @ BookSwarm recently posted…Pre-Release Squee (3)My Profile

    • Tabitha (Pabkins)

      Yeah at first glance that cover isn’t too impressive but it you look at the cover closer you’ll notice that circle is a manhole cover – like for the sewers I think? Or that’s what it looks like to me. And it has what I think would be the skull bones of some animal.

      I would totally be soup and bones for dinner in this world because I’m always rolling a mage!
      Tabitha (Pabkins) recently posted…Review: California Bones by Greg Van EekhoutMy Profile

  3. Jessica @ Rabid Reads

    So when you first said to imagine you sucking the power from my bones, I wasn’t sure whether or not you meant LITERALLY, but then I saw, “osteomancer,” and I figured you were . . . gross man. But really–this sounds great. And I can totally handle not understanding why someone is the way they are, or in the position they’re in, if it’s all revealed at the end. Added!
    Jessica @ Rabid Reads recently posted…Review: Midnight Thief by Livia BlackburneMy Profile

  4. Megan

    This book sounds awesome! I hadn’t heard of it before, but now I’m super interested!

  5. Mogsy

    Definitely glad I have this on my wishlist as it’s getting some good reviews! Especially after you told me it was a heist story. I just don’t know when I’ll find time to read it, ARGGGHHH! Hoping to run across a good deal on the book some day, because if I actually own the book it will automatically be higher on my to-read list.
    Mogsy recently posted…Tough Traveling: Pirates!My Profile