Pacific Fire (Daniel Blackland #2) by Greg van Eekhout
Genre: Adult urban fantasy
Publisher: Tor Books
Release date: January 27 2015
Source: ARC from publisher
The nitty-gritty: A worthy follow-up to California Bones, Pacific Fire is infused with even more magic and danger and humor.
“How’s your stealth osteomancy?” she asked.
The same sint holo that concealed objects in his bone-lined box was in his cells. A skilled osteomancer like Daniel could summon it and make himself vanish, or least make himself hard to spot.
“Not great,” he said.
“How impenetrable are you?”
“You mean like to bullets and things?”
“I am utterly penetrable,” Sam admitted.
“How about offensive magic? Kraken energy, fire breathing?”
“Not so much.”
Em shined her light on him, as if searching for some defect. “You are the Hierarch’s golem, aren’t you?”
“I don’t live up to my potential.”
If that quote made you chuckle, then you are going to love Greg van Eekhout’s series. This is the second book, and therefore this review will contain some unavoidable spoilers for the first book, California Bones. Proceed with caution if you are worried about such things!
I love so many things about this series! van Eekhout’s magical system is one of my favorites, and while there is a certain “ick” factor to osteomancy—it requires you to eat the flesh and bones of powerful magicians and magical creatures, thus absorbing the magic into your own body and making you more powerful—I’ve never read anything quite like it. Add to that the utterly original setting, characters that are full of human flaws and desires, and perfectly timed humor, and you have a *magical* combination.
Second books in series often fall into that murky “middle book” territory, but I didn’t feel that way about Pacific Fire. For one thing, we have a new character named Sam who completely stole the thunder from Daniel, the main character from California Bones. I dearly loved Sam, and I wanted the book to keep going so I could keep reading about Sam and his friend Em and their adventures.
The author takes a risk (in my opinion) by setting this story ten years after the conclusion of California Bones. Daniel has left Los Angeles and is on the run after killing and eating the heart of the Hierarch, the most powerful osteomancer in California. With him is Sam, a golem created from the Hierarch who has all the power of his “father,” even though that power hasn’t yet surfaced. Daniel has sworn to protect Sam from the evil osteomancers of Los Angeles who would do anything to get their hands on him.
When the story begins, Daniel and Sam are living in a trailer on the edge of the Salton Sea, when Daniel’s friend Gabriel comes to warn them that Daniel’s uncle Otis, along with a couple of other shady and power-hungry osteomancers, are hatching a diabolical plan to bring to life a Firedrake dragon, a magical creature that has been extinct for a long time. Daniel knows he must stop the project, and so he begins to make plans to infiltrate Catalina Island, Otis’ stronghold where he plans to bring the dragon to life. But it won’t be easy, because everyone is looking for Daniel and Sam, and there are only so many places to hide. Plus, resurrecting a Firedrake? Now that takes a hella lot of magic, but if anyone can figure it out, it’s Otis.
Pacific Fire is steeped in magic, which practically oozes from the pages. Greg van Eekhout has turned Southern California into his own personal magical playground, and he gleefully shows us how wonderful that playground is. From the crazy idea of his watery canals that take the place of L.A. freeways, to unexpected creatures that roam the hills of Catalina Island, each familiar Southern California location is turned on its head and given new life. In van Eekhout’s world, Gabriel is the head of the Department of Water and Power, and is a powerful water mage who controls the water of Los Angeles. Not only can he monitor traffic on the canals and adjust it as necessary, but he draws his power from the water and knows everything that happens in the city.
As I mentioned before, I loved the character of Sam. At first it was hard to picture what he looked like, as he’s a golem and has been created from the DNA of the Hierarch, which I suppose is a lot like cloning. But he appears human, and in fact he’s a teenaged boy in this story, with all the inherent quirks of any normal teen. For one thing, he’s girl-crazy, and he tends to fall in love with every girl he meets. He has incredibly powerful magic deep inside him, but for some reason he’s unable to draw from it. When we first meet Sam, Daniel is trying to teach him how to use his magic so he’ll be ready to defend himself when the bad guys come calling—and don’t worry, they will! But poor Sam, he just wants to be a normal kid and live in a proper house and go to school, where he’s sure to meet girls.
On his journey to help Daniel stop the dreaded Firedrake project, Sam meets another golem named Em who joins up with him. Em is the sort of girl who looks normal on the outside, but inside she’s more like a ninja with mad fighting skills. She and Sam were adorable together, and even though I wouldn’t call their relationship romantic, you could see the potential was there.
My only complaint is that the book felt a bit on the short side. There was one scene in particular that takes place on a submarine (yes, you read that correctly!) that could have been so much more developed. Sam and Em wind up on a submarine and head to Catalina Island (and I won’t tell you how they wind up on it!), but the scene literally cuts from the moment they board to the moment they arrive on the island. I so wanted to find out what took place on the submarine trip!
But I’m still giving this book five stars, so obviously it didn’t bother me too much. The ending, oh how I wish I could tell you how Pacific Fire ends!! I didn’t know whether to scream or cry at the end, but I can tell you I am even more excited about reading book #3, Dragon Coast, which luckily comes out later this year.
Big thanks to Tor Books for supplying a review copy! The above quote was taken from an uncorrected proof and may differ in the final version of the book. Check back here tomorrow for my interview with Greg, and you can enter to win a copy of Pacific Fire!
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