Review: California Bones, by Greg Van Eekhout

California Bones, by Greg Van Eekhout

California Bones by Greg Van Eekhout
Published by Tor Books on June 10, 2014
Series: Daniel Blackland, #1
Genre(s): fiction, adventure, dystopia, fantasy, young adult
Format & Pages: hardcover, 304
Find on GoodreadsAmazonBarnes & Noble

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 Bonesis 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 received California Bones in an And the Story Begins book box back in October, which was the first I had ever heard of both the book and of Greg Van Eekhout. But something about this book has been calling to me from my TBR shelf ever since, and I finally made it a priority. And I’m so glad to have read it!

If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be unique. Based in an alternate history of Los Angeles, with a magical system of osteomancy where energy and power is drawn from bones, and a plot centering around a heist, there was absolutely nothing about this that stood out as being like anything else I’ve ever read.

Although there is a full cast of interesting characters here, the one who is most fleshed out is the main character, Daniel. This is really more of a plot based story, with lots of action and adventure serving to keep the pace moving at a nice clip from page one. The world building was intriguing, mixing touches of actual history with fantastical elements to make something that is both recognizable and extraordinary.

Van Eekhout’s writing was nearly perfect for this type of story. Compelling and snappy, reading the action scenes felt like I was watching a movie in my head. There were a few sections of description, however, that I found myself re-reading a few times to fully comprehend what he was trying to say. But then there were gruesome and gory bits where I found myself saying, “Ewwww!!!” out loud but reading on faster still like I couldn’t look away.

“These were not safe thoughts. And once a thought took root, it was only a matter of time before it found its way to your tongue, and then your tongue found its way to being nailed to a wall.”

Overall, this was an incredibly entertaining story and I can’t wait to see what happens in book two! Are you a fan of Rachel Caine’s Ink and Bone? Do you think you can stand a bit of gore (think eating and drinking bones)? Do you love heist stories? Then I highly recommend this for you!

4-b&w

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