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Book Reviews: California Bones

Theo Prineas, Reporter

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9780765328557_p0_v1_s192x300California Bones by Greg van Eekhout is an upper YA/adult novel that follows an osteomancer, Daniel Blackland, through the dystopian kingdom of Southern California, ruled by a dictator known as the Hierarch. The world-building is fabulous, from the idea of the country of Southern California to the very word ‘osteomancer’. A new word and completely unique magic system, an osteomancer is a wizard who must consume magic-imbued bones and fossils to gain magic. Despite the amount of information, Greg van Eekhout avoids information dumps and excessive exposition. Greg van Eekhout was inspired by “growing up in LA near the La Brea Tar Pits,” natural deposits of tar and asphalt in California. “Animals get unwittingly stuck in the tar and die, and this has been going on for at least 38,000 years,” he said. “For my book, I imagined what it would be like if there were also the bones of dragons and unicorns and griffins in the pits.”

“I like when the characters joke around with each other. They’re friends, and they insult each other the way I’ve always done with my friends,” said van Eekhout. They were funny, diverse, and easy to get along with. But if I had one complaint, they were sometimes a little transparent; something terrible would happen, and the character wouldn’t have any sort of trauma afterwards. For example, the Hierarch, also an osteomancer, devours Daniel’s father to steal his magic. This moves Daniel into thievery on the streets but has no bearing on his character, while real children would be disturbed if they “heard the Hierarch’s molars grind his father’s rib cage.” Also, I really would have wanted to see some of the relationships developed a little more. Specifically, his relationship with another thief, Cassandra. They pull heists together, and it’s hinted that they used to be a couple. However, I felt like I barely saw them together in California Bones.

On the whole, I give California Bones a 4.5/5. The action was fabulous, and the world beyond brilliant–but the characters were not so realistic. I would recommend California Bones to teenagers who want a fast, funny, action packed read. There are two sequels, Pacific Fire and Dragon Coast, for those who enjoy it. It is available at the ICPL, Prairie Lights, and other local bookstores. Keep an eye out for Greg van Eekhout’s next book. “I just finished a middle-grade novel about dogs in space that my agent is currently trying to sell. It’s less violent than my adult stuff and doesn’t have any profanity.”

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Book Reviews: California Bones