by Greg van Eekhout
Cover Artist: Cliff Nielsen
Review by Wes Breazeale
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765328564
Date: 27 January 2015 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Pacific Fire returns readers to the fascinating world that Greg van Eekhout introduced last year in California Bones--an urban fantasy/heist mashup with a strong dose of young adult, coming-of-age-in-an-oppressive-regime flavor to boot. And it is a fun, exciting addition to the ever growing list of quality books in the urban fantasy genre.
Pacific Fire picks up right where California Bones left off. And though it could theoretically be read as a stand-alone novel, readers will likely enjoy it more with the foundation that van Eekhout lays in the first book. Some California Bones spoilers are unavoidable from here on out, so reader beware!
In California Bones, van Eekhout introduced us to a similar-but-different Los Angeles where wizards use osteomancy, the consumption of the bones of magical creatures, to endow themselves with the abilities of said creatures. And in van Eekhout's world "magical creatures" includes the wizards themselves.
Daniel Blackland is one such wizard. Having defeated the Hierarch of Los Angeles and consumed half of his heart, Daniel is now one of the most powerful wizards in the Kingdom of Southern California. Despite that, he has spent the last 10 years trying to stay below the radar in an effort to raise his adoptive son, Sam. And Sam just happens to be the Hierarch's golem (in essence a clone), whom Daniel rescued from captivity during his battle with the Hierarch.
As two of the more osteomantically powerful individuals in all of the Kingdom, Daniel and Sam are constantly watching their backs to avoid bounty hunters sent out to find them. Sam has been training with Daniel in an effort to tap into his innate abilities, and Daniel has been teaching him how to survive a life on the run. But their past is finally catching up to them.
The power vacuum created when Daniel killed the Hierarch has resulted in a fracturing of the city's leadership. Three of those vying for power include Otis Roth, a criminal who just so happened to raise Daniel; Gabriel Argent, a distant relative of the Hierarch who is now a hydromancer in charge of the Department of Water and Power; and Sister Tooth, one of the Hierarch's former inner circle and a powerful osteomancer herself. Together, these three are looking to resurrect a Pacific Firedrake to serve as their ultimate weapon. But doing so will result in a shift of power on the West Coast that would lead to the deaths of multitudes, and that's not something that Daniel can let happen.
A series of events leads to Daniel and Sam being separated, and for Sam to need to take the lead in the effort to stop the plot to create the Pacific Firedrake. Joining him in his effort is Em, part of the Emmas, a group of freedom fighting golems who are all cloned from the same osteomancer. Returning to LA for the first time since he fled as a boy, Sam will do whatever it takes to save the world, and perhaps impress Em in the process.
Pacific Fire is a fast and fun return to the world of California Bones. It follows a similar path as well, with just enough variation that it doesn't feel overly derivative. Sam's journey has a particular YA feel to it, with lots of angst and longing for the girl. But within the context of Sam's life and all that he has been through, it's perhaps justified. The sections featuring Daniel feel more adult and deal with the complexities of his life and those he loves.
Pacific Fire is a must-read for those who liked California Bones, and should serve as an incentive for those who didn't read California Bones to get on board and read them both!