By Greg van Eekhout
Available now from Tor
You are what you eat. In the world of CALIFORNIA BONES, magic exists even though there are few sources of it left. At the top of the heap are the osteomancers, who get their power through consuming bones. At the top of their heap is the Hierarch of Southern California, who keeps his power by periodically consuming his most powerful subordinates, including Daniel Blackland's father.
Greg van Eekhout has created an inventive type of magic and a nightmarish bureaucracy that fuel a heist plot. Now, I love a good heist. But this one falls to pretty standard heist beats and ends up being a little disappointing because the world of CALIFORNIA BONES is so compelling that it cries out for something a little riskier. At the same time, while the book reaches a satisfying conclusion, Eekhout seemed to be maneuvering things into place for a sequel and I will be there with bells on.
CALIFORNIA BONES follows two very different young men with similar backgrounds. Daniel was raised as an osteomancer by his father and went into hiding after his death. Gabriel's mother kept him from the power to keep him safe, and he grew up to join the government himself. When Gabriel discovers that Daniel faked his death and is still alive, he becomes embroiled in the dangerous politics he so long avoided. Meanwhile, Daniel is brought back into the fold by a major grifter for the chance to take back something the Hierarch stole. Gabriel is out for revenge, while Daniel just wants to survive.
I liked the way the two plots inter-weaved, the way their goals both conflicted and came together. I think I liked Gabriel's chapters a touch more. He develops a relationship with a human "dog" named Max that really shows he isn't what he first appears to be. Daniel's chapters are enjoyable too, but just a bit more standard and predictable.
So much of this book lingers in my mind. The first chapter, for one. The exquisitely grotesque imagery is going to haunt my darker dreams for awhile. Gabriel's chapters show the senseless violence and dehumanization employed by the government in harrowing detail. Daniel's crew exhibit their own strange and wondrous powers. There's a beautiful mix of horror and the fantastical. Urban fantasy fans will not be disappointed.