Daniel Blackland’s clearest memory of his father was from the day before his sixth birthday, when they walked hand in hand down Santa Monica Beach. That was the day Daniel found the kraken spine in the sand.
It was a slate-gray morning, and Daniel shivered without a jacket, but he wouldn’t complain. The soggy air carried roller-coaster screams from the pier, and Daniel hoped for a ride. Maybe he and his father would even drive the bumper cars, teaming up to bash other kids and their parents. But then he spotted the bone splinter in the foam of the receding surf, a silvery fragment the length of a knitting needle, rising from the sand like an antenna. Years later, he would wonder if his father had planted it there for him to find, but on this day, he hadn’t yet learned that level of suspicion.
The sliver drew him like a magnet. Breaking contact with his father’s grip, he ran across the wet-packed sand to claim his prize. When he brought it back, his father held the spine to his long, bent nose, and his dark eyes focused like a microscope over a glass slide. He took an aggressive sniff, as though he were trying to suck the soul out of it. In his white dress shirt and gray slacks, he resembled one of the seagulls wheeling overhead, and Daniel imagined him spreading his long arms to catch the wind and take flight.
Daniel’s mom once said his father was made of air. “Sebastian Blackland’s not down here with us. That’s why he’s hard to understand. Spend too much time searching the sky for your father and you’ll just crimp your neck.”
Sebastian held the sliver up to the weak sun. “Kraken. We hardly ever find these anymore. Not outside of the Ossuary, anyway. But something must have dredged it up from the sea floor, and then the currents carried it here, right in your path, just for you. It’s not surprising. I’ve used a lot of kraken in my work, so it’s in my bones, and I’ve passed some of that affinity to you.” He handed the spine back to Daniel. “The kraken used to live in the great deeps. They were creatures of storms and wind and rain and lightning. Not much in the way of solid skeletons, so their remains are rare.”
He paused and looked at Daniel, and Daniel felt as though he were being measured. He held his father’s gaze, struggling to triumph over squirms and fidgets.
“This is a good find, Daniel. Better than most of the La Brea fossils. The kraken is even older, with deeper osteomancy.”
Daniel glowed. His father didn’t lavish idle praise.
“Find me a seashell,” he instructed Daniel. “Abalone would be perfect, but I’ll take anything from the ocean I can use as a crucible.”
Daniel raced off. He found no abalone, but from a tangle of seaweed swarming with sand fleas, he excavated half a large mussel shell. He rinsed it in the surf, dug out some stubborn sand grains with his fingernails, and rinsed it again before bringing it over for Sebastian’s inspection.
“Good,” Sebastian muttered. “This will be good.”
They sat cross-legged on the sand together.
“Do you trust me?”
This was a serious question. An important one. Usually his father’s eyes roamed when he spoke, looking at things Daniel couldn’t see. Now, they saw only Daniel.
Daniel loved him with the uncomplicated desperation with which small boys l
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, Greg van Eekhout's 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.