California Bones is the first volume in my trilogy about Daniel Blackland, a wizard trying to survive in a world that eats wizards. It’s a book about friends and family, trust and betrayal, the love of power and the power of love. But at its core, it’s a heist novel—and you can’t have a heist without a crew. So, here they are, wonderfully rendered by Goñi Montes.
Daniel Blackland is an osteomancer, a person who acquires power by eating the remains of extinct magical creatures. That bone he’s picking his teeth with probably came from some kind of dragon or griffin, and he no doubt stole it. Because, in addition to being a wizard, Daniel is a thief. If he looks a bit disheveled, it’s because he’s probably been roughed up recently. Thieving is dangerous work, especially when you’re the realm’s Most Wanted and you’d rather take a beating than use your magic and expose yourself for who you really are.
Every crew of thieves needs muscle, and that’s Moth. If he can’t beat you, he’ll outlast you, an ability enhanced with the magic of the hydra, a creature so resilient that you can cut off its head and watch it grow a new one. Those holes in his shirt? Bullets. The smile on his face? Love. Because more than muscle, what Moth brings to the team is a big heart.
The Hierarch is many things: the ruler of Southern California, the most powerful osteomancer around, and the man who ate Daniel Blackland’s father. You can see him holding the fork he used to pick Sebastian Blackland’s magically potent bones. One day, he hopes to use it on Daniel. His Ossuary is a giant vault stuffed with griffin skeletons and dragon teeth and kraken spines, and Daniel and his crew are going to break into it to take one of his treasures, a sword crafted by Daniel’s father that contains Daniel’s own magical essence.
Nearly every successful heist in history has benefited from having someone on the inside. Emma Walker is one of the Hierarch’s R&D osteomancers, and when she shows up to offer Daniel and his crew invaluable intel about the Ossuary, Daniel can’t say no. But while she may be an insider at the Ossuary, she’s an outsider as far as Daniel is concerned, and he suspects she has her own, hidden agenda. Of course she does.
Cassandra Morales can crack open safes, disable alarms, and solve sphinx riddles. If you need a thief, you can do no better than Cassandra. Powerful people took her parents from her, so stealing the treasures of powerful people is how she gets a little payback. The only thing more important to her than acquiring valuables is protecting her crew, and if you hurt one of them, you might discover one of her other skills: the ability to inflict bodily damage.
The only thing Jo Alverado ever wanted to be was an actress. Her parents got her an acting coach, bought her voice and dance lessons, and fed her shape-shifting magic to help her play any role. Her combination of magic, skills, and undeniable talent come in handy when you need someone to pose as a bank manager or security guard. But in a world where you can pretend to be anybody, how can anybody know who you truly are?
You can get started reading California Bones and its sequel, Pacific Fire, right now. And…AND! You can watch Greg van Eekhout and John Scalzi hang out by the La Brea Tar Pits and talk about bones. This is kind of the best, weirdest day, isn’t it? Yes.
This article was originally published May 28, 2014 on Tor.com
Greg van Eekhout is author of the fantasy-heist novel California Bones and its sequel, Pacific Fire, publishing January 27th from Tor Books. Greg is also the author of Norse Code, as well as two middle-grade SF novels, Kid Vs. Squid and The Boy at the End of the World (a finalist for the Andre Norton Award). He lives in San Diego, California.