Click here for the review of California Bones and here for the sequel Pacific Fire.
The Daniel Blackland trilogy wraps up in spectacular, if a bit rushed, fashion with Greg Van Eekhout’s latest. The powerful osteomancer and thief, who defeated the Hierarch of Los Angeles in California Bones is trying to save his adopted son Sam, the teenage golem of the Hierarch whose soul melded with a resurrected dragon at the end of Pacific Fire.
The dragon is wreaking havoc on Southern California, but Daniel is convinced that Sam’s consciousness is intact and can be rescued from the mighty creature. To accomplish this, he enlists the survivors of his criminal crew the safecracker and master of disguise Cassandra, and the unkillable heavy Moth, and then heads north to San Francisco to steal a rare bone from the Hierarch of Northern California’s crown jewels.
The plan is simple impersonate his dead brother, Paul, one of the most influential osteomancers in the Northern Kingdom, in order to get close enough to the Northern Hierarch to steal the bone. Of course, everything starts to unravel when he arrives at San Simeon, his brother’s home in this magical version of California, and he discovers that he not only has absolutely no idea of Paul’s life and history, but he also doesn’t know that Paul had a daughter with a rival osteomancer.
In the meantime, Sam’s consciousness is waging a battle with the soul of his Heirarch father for control over the powerful Pacific Firedrake. And Daniel’s sometime rival Gabriel, a powerful water mage and head of the Los Angeles water department is searching for the dragon for his own reasons.
It’s a lot to cover in one book. And while Van Eekhout manages to tie all of the loose story threads from the previous books together, the novel still comes a bit frayed at the end. In truth, Dragon Coast, opened up more plot lines than it closed, leaving plenty of room for Van Eekhout to explore other characters, like Paul’s daughter Elethinda. And he couches everything in layers of snark and some of the best banter this side of Scott Lynch’s “Gentleman Bastards” series.
But despite feeling a bit rushed, and not closing as neatly as I would have liked, I still enjoyed the character arcs and overarching themes of family, redemption and power that the Van Eekhout explores throughout the trilogy. Daniel’s willingness to do anything to save Sam clashes with his guilt at leaving Elethinda without a father, like the Hierarch of Los Angeles had done to Daniel as a child; and Gabriel grapples with his own sense of inadequacy despite being one of the most powerful men in Southern California.
And those are where the Dragon Coast soars, in Van Eekhout’s examinations of families and our relationship with them. And if everything isn’t neat and tidy at the end, that’s okay. Because what family is? And like all families, there will be another generation to make up for the misdeeds of the previous and make its own mistakes.
I hope that Van Eekhout tells those stories as well. ~~ Michael Senft