I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Dragon Coast by Greg van Eekhout
Series: Daniel Blackland #3
Published by Tor Books on September 15 2015
Genres: Adult, Urban fantasy
Buy on Amazon
The nitty-gritty: A fantastic end to a unique and magical story, and a world that I didn’t want to leave behind.
Sam lived in a world of bones. He found them throughout the dragon, wherever he walked, embedded in the tissues lining every artery, every organ, every cavity, like fossils in rock. The bones came from griffin and basilisk and garuda raptor and lesser dragons, from creatures of earth and fire and flight. The Pacific firedrake was a patchwork creature, constructed of bits and odds and ends from hundreds of other creatures, and Sam figured all the bones he found were leftover parts. He couldn’t be sure. He was alone inside the dragon, without anyone to explain his world to him.
Unavoidable spoilers ahead! Just sayin’…
I’m really going to miss this series, now that it’s ended! I’ve enjoyed all three books immensely, and I have this weird hope that Greg van Eekhout will write a spin-off series next, set in the same world but centering around one of the side characters instead. If you’re not familiar with this series, you should start at the beginning and read California Bones, because this is one case where the books absolutely need to be read in order. After reading all three, I’m still in awe of how much I love the world-building, an alternate-type California where magicians called osteomancers gain power by ingesting not only the bones of magical creatures like dragons and kraken, but the bones and flesh of other magicians. The state is broken up into two kingdoms, the South and the North, each with their own rulers called Hierarchs. Daniel Blackland is one of the most powerful osteomancers around, having killed and eaten the last Southern Hierarch, but now everyone is after him because he’s so powerful, and you can just imagine how another osteomancer might gain power by eating Daniel. Uh, yeah.
At the end of Pacific Fire, Daniel’s son Sam has sacrificed himself to the firedrake in order to save humanity, and his essence has been absorbed by the dragon. Now Sam resides inside the dragon, not quite alive but not dead either. But Daniel, distraught over losing Sam, has not given up hope of getting him back. He’s devised an elaborate and very risky plan to reclaim Sam’s soul and put it back into a new body. His plan involves stealing a rare and very powerful bone called the axis mundi, of which there are only a few in existence. But in order to steal the bone, Daniel must venture out of familiar territory, because the axis mundi resides in the palace of the Northern Hierarch.
With his crew along to help, Daniel must infiltrate the lair of the Hierarch by pretending to be his dead golem brother Paul. Oh, did I mention how dangerous Daniel’s plan is?
At its heart, Dragon Coast is a caper story. Daniel Blackland is a thief, and his latest job—stealing the axis mundi from the Hierarch—is treated as such. In other words, he gathers his crew (Gabriel, Moth, Max and Cassandra) and devises a plan. OK, so the plan is risky and only has a small chance of success, but that’s what makes this story so much fun. The author splits these characters into two groups and we get to follow each one as they inexorably make their way to the Northern Kingdom. I loved how Daniel decides to pose as his dead brother Paul, trying to fool everyone in the castle, and you can imagine the sorts of trouble he gets into pretending to be someone he’s not.
Storming the castle (so to speak) from the tunnels is water mage Gabriel and his trusty hound Max, along with Cassandra, who just happens to be clever with locks. Their journey is fraught with danger, and there were some very tense moments that made me fear for some of my favorite characters’ lives. The author does a fantastic job with pacing and keeping both viewpoints interesting, as he jumps back and forth between them. I loved reading about Daniel’s very uncomfortable time in the castle, trying to keep everyone from figuring out who he really is. But I had just as much fun with Gabriel and friends, especially with Max, the human hound who can sniff out magic like nobody’s business. Max remains one of my favorite characters, and I especially love his back story, which you’ll know about if you’ve read California Bones.
Interspersed between these two storylines is Sam’s story. Sam is now literally “part” of the Pacific firedrake, and we get to see the world through the firedrake’s eyes, since Sam has a cockpit where he attempts to control the dragon. (That doesn’t go too well, by the way.) This part of the book was both odd and wonderful for me. Wonderful, because I loved Sam, and I was happy that he’s still part of the story. But odd in the sense that Sam no longer has a physical body, and yet he runs through the dragon’s innards like he’s playing in the crawl tunnels at Chuck E. Cheese. He gets poked by the bones that litter that dragon’s insides, so he must still feel, and he sweats when the dragon get too hot. But despite these physical characteristics, Sam’s story is more of a spiritual journey than a physical one, and I couldn’t wait to see how it played out.
Once again, the humor is one of the stand-out parts of this story. van Eekhout has a wry way of looking at things, and his dialog is still some of the funniest I’ve ever read. There are lots of inside jokes that you may only get if you live in California, like the mention of someone nicknamed “The Butcher of Bakersfield.” Only a Californian will understand how uproariously funny that is!
I think I said this in my review of Pacific Fire, but my only complaint about this book is that it felt a bit too short. At barely 300 pages long, I can think of two or three scenes that could have been longer and more detailed, and quite frankly, I love this world so much that in the end I didn’t want to leave it. Mr. van Eekhout, if you’re wondering what to write next, may I suggest a spin-off series with Max as the main character?
Now that all three books are out, it’s a great time to get started on this series if you haven’t already. That’s right, people! Time for a binge-read! Highly recommended.
Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. Quote above was taken from an uncorrected proof and may differ in the final version of the book.
Read my review of California Bones.
Read my review of Pacific Fire.