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June 10, 2014

Published today: California Bones, Greg Van Eekhout’s wild heist caper set in a literally eat-or-be-eaten LA
Posted by Patrick at 05:58 PM * 36 comments

CaliforniaBones.jpg On sale today in hardcover and e-book. Opening three chapters here! Special dedicated website here! Tour schedule here! “Big Idea” post on John Scalzi’s Whatever here!

My flap copy:

“Our bodies are cauldrons,” he said, “and we become the magic we consume.”

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 Angeles—the capital of the Kingdom of Southern California—Daniel is trying to go straight. But his crime-boss uncle has a heist he wants Daniel to perform: break into the Hierarch’s storehouse of magical artifacts and retrieve Sebastian’s sword, an object of untold power.

For this dangerous mission, Daniel will need a team he can rely on, so he brings in his closest friends from his years in the criminal world. There’s Moth, who can take a bullet and heal in mere minutes. Jo Alverado, illusionist. The multitalented Cassandra, Daniel’s ex. And, new to them all, the enigmatic, knowledgeable Emma, with her British accent and her own grudge against the powers-that-be. The stakes are high, and the stage is set for a showdown that might just break the magic that protects a long-corrupt regime.

Extravagant and yet moving, California Bones is an epic adventure set in a city of canals and secrets and casual brutality—different from the world we know, yet familiar and true.

Some advance reviews and quotes:

“Great story, great characters, and a truly cool/creepy alternate Los Angeles built on magic, blood, and bone. This took me to places I didn’t expect. I like books that do that. You’ll like this, too.”
—Steven Brust

“I both love and am terrified by Greg Van Eekhout’s vision of Los Angeles. I already want to go back.”
—John Scalzi

“L.A. noir as dark as La Brea tar meets magic drawn from ancient bones.”
—Steven Gould

“It’s got subterranean halls with pillars of bones, a magic sword, magical duels and some of the coolest bone magic ever, but that’s all interwoven with the taste of an LA burrito, the concrete waterways of Los Angeles, and the neon glow of the Ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier. Van Eekhout has written a 21st century alchemy.”
—Maureen F. McHugh

“Wonderfully imaginative…The story is structured like a caper novel, and fans of stories about heists will enjoy it, but its fantastical elements make it an absolute must for urban fantasy readers, too.”
Booklist (starred review)

“In Van Eekhout’s first hardcover for adult readers, a combination of caper novel and urban fantasy packs a wallop. Daniel and his team banter even while up to their necks in danger, and the magic system in which eating the bones and flesh of creatures can grant you their power is unique and fascinating (if a little icky). Highly recommended.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“Set in an alternate Los Angeles ruled by authoritarian sorcerers and corporate moguls, California Bones is an engrossing story about political malevolence. But it’s also a caper about the ultimate magical heist. You won’t be able to put it down….This is a book about what happens when magic is just another weapon in the arsenal of a dictator—and in the pockets of his rivals. It’s action-packed and intense to the last, bringing in weird twists that add psychological complexity to the fireballs and earthquake fights. California Bones reaches a satisfying conclusion, though you can tell there’s more to come—and indeed, Tor will soon be releasing the sequel, Pacific Fire.”
—Annalee Newitz,

(PNH: I said that I was going to more regularly post about my and Teresa’s editorial projects on their dates of publication. But I want to add that I really love this one, for its crazily reimagined Los Angeles and for its lovably snarky ensemble cast. And honest to God, having also read books two and three, I can honestly say they get even better and even better. Greg is great.)

Comments on Published today: California Bones, Greg Van Eekhout's wild heist caper set in a literally eat-or-be-eaten LA:
#1 ::: ebear ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2014, 06:32 PM:

I started flipping through it while boothsitting for Tor at Phoenix Comicon while somebody ran to the bathroom, and then went back to the hotel room and pre-ordered a copy.

#2 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2014, 06:56 PM:

Wait, did part of this appear as a short story or something in Asimov's a number of years ago? Because I could swear I've read that initial setup in story form.

#3 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2014, 07:08 PM:


The "Big Idea" post mentions that there is an earlier short story (“The Osteomancer’s Son”) in the same setting that appeared in Asimov's.

#4 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2014, 07:23 PM:

Aha, yes, that sounds right.

#5 ::: Steve Halter ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2014, 07:28 PM:

Sound really interesting. Sold!

#6 ::: Steve Halter ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2014, 07:30 PM:

Sounds--grr, iPhone keyboard.

#7 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2014, 07:42 PM:

I enjoyed his earlier novel Norse Code. He's a dab hand with the titles.

#8 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2014, 08:51 AM:

Seems reminiscent of John Meaney's _Bone Song_ and _Dark Blood_ (a series about which I'm not sure whether to be sad it's finished, or happy: it's so very unremittingly dark...)

#9 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2014, 09:53 AM:

I read a proof of this a couple of weeks ago and liked it. I don't know how much is Patrick's editing and how much is van Eekhout learning his craft, but it seemed to me to be much better put together than Norse Code -- plausible motivations and only necessary rifles-on-mantelpieces, instead of many things pitchforked together. He also manages to get into some of the mechanics of magic without hitting one of my pet peeves; too much fantasy today reads like a plot patched onto the author's cute magic system instead of a magic system that's part of a story. I'm definitely looking forward to books 2 & 3; when do we see them?

#10 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2014, 12:54 PM:

I read the sample chapters last night, and it rocketed to the top of my I Want It Now list.

#11 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2014, 02:29 PM:

I really liked this book for so many different reasons, and am glad there's more coming.

Also, hey, fossils! Bones!

#12 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2014, 02:41 PM:

*pops book in bag*

#13 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2014, 11:53 PM:

Nix @8 - Meaney's books came to my mind too. I think the end of the second should have led to a third; that grave was not quiet. Dark but fascinating was my take on them.

#14 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2014, 12:03 PM:

My flap copy:

So, Patrick, is writing jacket-flap copy one of your duties?

How flaps and back-covers get written, and who writes them, is a process a bit mysterious to us readers.

We imagine that Tor employs a number of Blurbsmen and perhaps ambitious young Assistant Blurbsmen. (It's no longer fashionable to refer to the female specialists as Blurbswomen.)

#15 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2014, 12:39 PM:

Actually, they're now referred to as Blurbers and Blurberlings.

#16 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2014, 01:13 PM:

And the former colloquial usage, Blurboys and Blurbettes, is strongly deprecated.

#17 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2014, 01:19 PM:

Although the Victorian usage, Blurbster, has been seeing a comeback of late in steampunk gears*.

* theyre like steampunk circles, but more steampunk

#18 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2014, 02:45 PM:

Is that why that show about a scientific genius kid growing up in the Victorian era is called The Wonder Gears?

#19 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2014, 04:18 PM:

abi @15: Actually, they're now referred to as Blurbers and Blurberlings.

Xopher Halftongue @16: And the former colloquial usage, Blurboys and Blurbettes, is strongly deprecated.

abi @17: Although the Victorian usage, Blurbster, has been seeing a comeback of late in steampunk gears*.

* theyre like steampunk circles, but more steampunk


I have no useful response to this comment series; I merely wish to see it repeated, and framed for posterity. Or at least framed for me, where I can admire it a little longer.

*admires it some more*

#20 ::: Slakko ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2014, 06:04 PM:

Blurbmongers, surely?

#21 ::: Dr Paisley ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2014, 09:43 PM:

In New York's fair city, with the editors so gritty
I first set my eyes on sweet Patrick NH
As he wheeled his book-barrow
Through streets broad and narrow
Crying blurbings and flap-copies, alive, alive-O!

I'll show myself out.

#22 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2014, 01:50 AM:

I have consumed California Bones, and eagerly await the sequels.

No, I have no plans to conquer LA or engage in cannibalistic consumption of magic.

#23 ::: PZ Myers ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2014, 12:49 PM:

Ah, so this is the California portrayed in its early days in the movie Ravenous.

#24 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2014, 09:47 PM:

"Eat as if you live in the early days of a better-tasting nation"

#25 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2014, 08:20 AM:

This tickles the same parts of my brain as the books I've been reading by Max Gladstone (Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise; will definitely get Full Fathom Five). I very much enjoyed it.

On the other hand, I'm reasonably certain that I'm pronouncing Greg Van Eekhout's surname incorrectly (which is to say, differently than he does). Must see to that.

#26 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2014, 03:12 PM:


... sequel please?

#27 ::: Velma ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2014, 07:39 PM:

Harry Connolly mentioned the reading at UW Bookstore in his blog, and I went yesterday, and picked up the book. It's captivating, with touches that remind me of Donald Westlake capers, as well as darker elements. Want more!

#28 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2014, 05:15 PM:

I really liked “The Osteomancer’s Son” when I heard it on PodCastle: I look forward to reading the long version.

#29 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2014, 12:59 AM:

@PNH: This is going on my wish list, which it probably would not have absent this post and the followups. While I know these aren't sales pitches, the posts and ensuing threads are definitely selling books to me, at least.

#30 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2014, 11:10 AM:

Answering several questions:

Book two of the three, Pacific Fire, is totally done and will be published in January 2015. The third book will be published later that same year, in September or thereabouts.

Yes, I write the copy on most of my books. We don't have separate employees doing that for us. This is fairly typical of modern trade publishing.

It may surprise some of you, but the word "blurb" isn't much used inside modern publishing, or at least at Tor. I think the problem is that, in popular usage, "blurb" has come to mean just about any sequence of words on the exterior of a book--not just quotes or endorsements, but also sell lines, story descriptions, and everything else. So it's not really a useful word. We have lots of terms for different kinds of jacket copy and promotional copy, but "blurb" isn't one of them.

Yes, we all know the old gag definition of "blurb"--"(v.) to make a noise like a publisher." But basically it's a word that people outside publishing imagine is one of our terms-of-art, and it's really not.

#31 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2014, 03:36 PM:

I have consumed the book. It is extraordinarily rich in conceits, and complex in effects. I want the sequels yesterday.

#32 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2014, 04:10 PM:

Patrick @30 -- that's not really the "old gag definition" of the word -- it's part of the actual definition made by the coiner of the word, in its first appearance (in Burgess' Unabridged, a collection of words that Gellett Burgess thought would be very useful in 1914). The current usage grew from that.

#33 ::: Chris Lawson ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2014, 10:19 PM:

I really, really want to read this book, but it's not available as an ebook in Australia. Sad face.

#34 ::: Steve Halter ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2014, 11:25 AM:

I finished this last night and quite enjoyed it. I'll be quite interested in where book 2 heads.

#35 ::: pnkrokhockeymom ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2014, 05:29 PM:

I just popped over here to quickly skim what's new--for the first time in I think weeks--and I decided in a split second (on skimming "wild heist caper set in a literally eat-or-be-eaten LA") that I must own this book. Sold! Now I'll order it, and then it will come, and then until work slows down it can keep my unopened copy of *My Real Children* company on the end table.

#36 ::: Michael Johnston ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2014, 01:13 AM:

I'm reading this now, and loving the hell out of it. In addition to the plot and the worldbuilding, Van Eekhout is to be congratulated for coming up with a fantasy world in which I do not want to be one of the magic practitioners.

Also loving the alternate Los Angeles; in fact I did a lot of reading on Venice and the lost canals thanks to this novel. I really love the way he took a minor part of LA area history and turned it into a totally reimagined city. As Jim Macdonald said at VP, I can't read this without looking "under the hood" a bit, and I'm learning a lot here while enjoying the story.

Really looking forward to the rest of the series.

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