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California Bones

(Daniel Blackland #1)

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  2,143 ratings  ·  395 reviews
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, year
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published June 10th 2014 by Tor Books (first published May 1st 2014)
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Damien It's mentioned in passing that one major character is gay, but I don't recall if that's in this book or later in the series.

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Average rating 3.74  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,143 ratings  ·  395 reviews

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Jessica ❁ ➳ Silverbow ➳ ❁ Rabid Reads-no-more
Reviewed by: Rabid Reads

I don't like to endorse stereotypes, but Urban Fantasy written by male authors is almost universally darker and grittier than UF written by females. Obviously, within that much larger pool there are nonconformists: Stacia Kane, Jane Wells, even Kelley Armstrong sometimes, but on the other side . . . I can't think of one. You've got Simon R. Green's UF noir, Richard Kadrey's severed heads kept in the closet for information, and even Jim Butcher, whose Harry Dresden series
Jun 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of Lies of Locke Lamora, heists, darker UF
Recommended to carol. by: Carly
You ever have that experience where you finish a book, and are left feeling all discombobulated; not sure exactly what time it is because the sun set while you were reading, and actually kind of hungry because you might have missed dinner? California Bones did that to me.

It wasn’t an instant draw; it had blipped across my radar long enough to make it onto my TBR list, but it wasn’t until bookaneer’s review that I was motivated it to move it up. I picked it up from the library and was sucked into
Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘
May 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ by: Jessica ❁ ➳ Silverbow ➳ ❁ Rabid Reads-no-more

Actual rating : 3.5 stars

A strong stomach - the whole magical system revolves around eating skulls, after all. Strangely it didn't gross me out as much as I thought it would (because I am weird?!), but you might need some "adaptation time", let's say. Also, Daniel licks someone else's cup at some point. Ewww, right? (why this scene struck me like this is beyond me. Okay I lied : GERMS) Purely original, though, and a breath of fresh air in this ocean of vampires, shapeshifters and other fairies
Richard Derus
Sep 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: 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
Mogsy (MMOGC)
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

Have I mentioned how much I love a good heist? I definitely would have jumped on this book a lot sooner had known the treat I was in for. But there’s also a lot more to California Bones aside from being the ultimate fantasy crime caper novel. Author Greg Van Eekhout also wraps it all up in a cool package featuring some amazing magic, setting his story up in a savage dystopian world.

The magic system is based on osteomancy,
Dec 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mimi by: Sword and Laser pick for December 2017
Great ideas
- osteomancy: magic derived from ingesting bones of ancient and mythology creatures (the powers these creatures give off are pretty amazing)
- post-succession California: CA left the Union some years ago and then split into North and South, and now they're constantly at war with each other and the Union
- post-succession Los Angeles is an urban dystopic landscape that isn't void of life or color
- LA is still LA after all
- Southern CA is under the reign of a megalomaniac who's hoarding p
Executive Summary: Fun, quick read. Interesting magic system, so-so characters/plot.

Full Review
This book author wasn't on my radar at all until it was made the pick for Sword & Laser. I wasn't blown away by the blurb, so I decided to borrow from the library instead of buying it.

It was a VERY fast read, not only is it 300 pages, the word density per page is pretty low. It made me feel like a speed reader. It's not just the length though. The plot moves along at a pretty good pace.

It took m
Molly Mortensen
Jul 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Warning: People eat people to gain powers.

My Summary:

Daniel’s father was a powerful osteomancer, someone who can gain magical abilities from eating bones. During one of the Hierarch’s cullings (Bad guy’s excuse to kill people) he’s killed by powerful magicians and then the Hierarch himself ‘gains his powers’. (Yeah it’s exactly how you think.)

Years later Daniel’s become a thief and his ‘uncle’ (a mobster type business man who essentially raised him since he was twelve) wants him to break into th
There's something about a heist. Maybe it's that peculiar combination of recklessness and calculation, that absolute guarantee of unforeseen circumstances and impressive feats of resourcefulness to combat them, that fast-paced and adrenaline-pumping game of strategy and deception. Whatever the cause, heists have a bone-deep magic all their own.

For Daniel Blackland, it all started with a kraken spine. He was a young child when he received his first taste of osteomancy, fed a scalding combination
Elena C.
Read for the 2018 MacHalo Reading Challenge (aka MMFBCE™): Mystery & Mischief.

"Excuse me," the Hierarch said in a sandpaper voice. "I'll have him fresh."

For a while California Bones threatened to be just another heist book. You know the story: a gang of thieves gets back together for one last grand theft. What's worse, Daniel Blackland himself looked suspiciously like a Gary Stu: beloved leader, brilliant thief, powerful magician in-hiding with a scarred, tragic past, everybody wants a pie
Jul 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
This book popped up on a friends(Hi Carol) update list a week or so ago and she was very enthusiastic about her experience with the book so I added it to my tbr list. I was perusing the new release section of the library and what do you know, this was sitting there waiting for me.

I blew through this in a couple of days and am really excited about the world building possibilities. The setup is familiar, the son of a powerful man...king, wizard, warrior-insert your own favorite here-has to learn h
Jun 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
This review was originally posted on Avid Reviews:

It is not often that you run across a story that is completely unique, but California Bones definitely can be described as such. It is a genre-bending novel that is somewhere between urban fantasy, alternate history, and dystopian science fiction. It takes place in Southern California (where I lived throughout my college years- though now I am back in Northern Cali) and it was fascinating to read about the pla
Jun 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
4.5 Stars

Van Eekhout is an author who I wanted to check out long ago and never did. This novel made me regret it. It’s a character driven heist, with an outstanding supernatural cast of characters.

You are what you eat…

I wonder if this was a statement that Van Eekhout thought about when he created his magic system. It’s a very unique take on magic where the mages consume the bones of animals and people to gain power. Mostly the consume fossils of extinct/mythological creatures. Animals like mast
Jun 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, 2014
Imagine that all the mythical creatures—dragons, krakens, basilisks, and so on—were real, but now extinct, leaving only their bones. Now imagine that consuming their bones bestowed upon you their magical abilities.

Welcome to California Bones.

Greg Van Eekhout has constructed a fantastic alternate universe Los Angeles, where osteomancers can breathe fire, turn invisible, breathe underwater, and even fly, but he's gone much further than that: the existence of osteomancy has changed the development
 Charlie - A Reading Machine
Jan 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 4-5-stars
The start of this book is like a grisly car crash you can sense is coming but cannot look away from and I was sucked straight in. In the opening scene we meet a Daniel Blackland who is being fed a piece of Krakken bone fragment by his father. He is an Osteomancer meaning he draws magic from bone and flesh. It is his first taste of magic and the start of his journey to become a living and breathing weapon. Six years later his father is brutally killed and EATEN by the big bad Hierarch and Daniel ...more
Apr 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I’ve been meaning to read this for a while, and then got out of the mood for it when I had started it. This time, I read it almost straight through! It’s basically a fantasy heist novel set against a really intriguing background of magic, politics and alternate history. The magic is really interesting, and mostly it’s introduced organically: it’s pretty much explained in the opening chapters, but that makes sense because Daniel is being taught osteomancy by his father. The rest, we need to pick ...more
Decent story. I'll probably pick up the next two eventually. Definitely a unique magic system... #yum.
Melissa McShane
It's not the book's fault that it feels like B-grade Tim Powers; that's all on Tim Powers for being both a master of the contemporary fantasy genre as well as intricately woven into the Californian landscape. Van Eekhout does a wonderful job creating a clever magical world and overlaying it on southern California, which in his history seceded (as did Northern California) from the United States and is now a kingdom ruled by an ancient and tyrannical wizard called the Hierarch. It's gritty and dar ...more
May 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
California Bones is a gritty, slightly canabalistic urban fantasy, but trust me, it’s quite a good read. I know, how can something be “slightly canabalistic“? Either there are canabals or there are not. Well, there are. But, it’s osteomancers that eat other osteomancers once they run out of their special magic bones to chomp down on. (Osteomancers are the magic users). But not all osteomancers go to that extreme. There is definitely one rather creepy scene that sets the tone for this, and leaves ...more
Feb 06, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a bit of all right. Apparently I'm into magic now, as long as it involves detective constables or, here, criminal undergrounds and heists to steal magic swords, with all of the intricate planning that goes into such endeavors. While I've done away with my Editing Woe Meter for the most part since I started freelancing since I know now that editors - yes, even me - aren't as infallible as I'd like them to be, there are some egregious things here that stuck in my craw a little. For exampl ...more
Kristin  (MyBookishWays Reviews)

The California in California Bones is not like the one we know. It’s not part of the United States, and it’s ruled by a shadowy figure called the Hierarch and his powerful Council of Six. Los Angeles is in the Kingdom of Southern California, and is full of canals, a la Venice, and it’s rumored that a place called The Ossuary is located below ground, full of the Hierarch’s personal magic stash: basilisk teeth, griffin claws, the works. The magic in Greg van
Jun 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing

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
Apr 28, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc
I was provided an advance copy by Tor.

I was very excited going into this book. The ideas seemed fresh. Right out the gate I was enjoying the world that was built - a familiar yet greatly fantastic version of Los Angeles. Alternate history California where Walt Disney still lives as a wizard. I was really enjoying it. Then the plot reared its head and opportunities were lost. An incredibly common plotline sits as the backbone of this potentially great story. A thief tricked into pulling heists fo
Jul 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. TOR was kind enough to send a copy for me to review and it did not disappoint. As per my understanding this is Van Eekhout's first attempt at writing a novel for adult readers and he did one hell of a job. The magic scheme was well thought out, granted I wish there was a bit more explanation and development, but super unique none the less. I could have gone for a bit more world building as well but I don't think this book was written in the idea ...more
Aug 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
originally posted at:

Did you already read the first sentence of the synopsis? If you, as a fantasy reader like me, don't want to pick up this book I don't know whats wrong with you. How cool is the promise of California Bones with the synopsis alone? Eating bones fragments to give you magical powers, that sounds pretty awesome! Added to this comes the idea of the heist theme in the story which only further makes California Bones a cracking read. Californi
actual rating: 3.5

Definitely a lot of really interesting world-building ideas going on here. This story takes place in a future version of California that has succeeded from the United States and also in a world where people can eat the bones of various creatures in order to gain certain powers or perform certain kinds of magic. Despite being a very quick read I did find my attention wandering at certain points, but the characters were pretty interesting and the heist aspect of the plot was fun
Stephen Richter
Apr 17, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
There was a bit of promise there in the first book, but a character rubbed me the wrong way, which took a little of the enjoyment out of it. Plus "December Distraction" had a tight hold on me this year which may have made me miss some of the finer points.
Pam ☼Because Someone Must Be a Thorn☼ Tee
CALIFORNIA BONES has some of THE best, most creative world building I've run across in a while. The way magic is handled is drool worthy. I mean, magic from bones! How cool is that.

Sample chapters if you're interested: http://booksforkids-reviews.blogspot....

And CALIFORNIA BONES is well written. The word-smithing is good. READ IT. Chances are you'll find it a satisfying read, be you Adult or Young Adult.

The only problem I had with the book is that I'm a memb
Ralph Ambrose
Jan 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved visiting La Brea Tar Pits as a kid, and a magic system that mines such fond childhood memories is truly enchanting.

I love the "alternate Los Angeles if magic were real" world that Eekhout has created. The reworking of LA history and culture was clever and entertaining. The food references were a nice touch, and the primary magic system (osteomancy) was interesting, unique, and its implications were reasonably well explored.

I would have liked a clearer understanding of(view spoiler)
Jana Brown
Dec 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was a fast, interesting read but not for the weak of stomach.

California Bones is the story of Daniel Blackland, son of a powerful oestemancer and a thief. This is a gritty alternate history/UF world of a California seeped with bone magic which broke away from the US and further into a Northern and Southern kingdom. In the South the Hierarch rules with an iron fist literally consuming anyone who would rise to threaten him as power comes from the bones of old creatures and the bones of those
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Greg van Eekhout writes books. Some are for kids, some are for adults. He lives in San Diego.

Other books in the series

Daniel Blackland (3 books)
  • Pacific Fire (Daniel Blackland, #2)
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“Cowabunga," said Cassandra, impressed.
Daniel grinned. He liked impressing her.
"'All my being,'" Emma whispered, "'like him whom the Numidian seps did thaw into a dew with poison, is dissolved, sinking through its foundations.'
"That's from a poem," she said with some despair to the crew's stupefied expressions.
"Yeah, Shelley," said Moth. "It's just we don't usually do poetry during jobs.”
“The La Brea Tar Pits were a place where the skin of the world broke open to reveal the magic underneath, and the life-sized plaster mammoth sculptures emphasized a very important message: Do not fuck with the tar.” 0 likes
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