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Pacific Fire, by Greg van Eekhout

Review copy provided by Tor Books.

This is the sequel to California Bones, and while having read the first one adds a lot to one’s understanding of the characters and setting, I think it would be a perfectly reasonable place to dive into this world. There are lots of weird things going on, but I think they’re weird things a reader could pick up on readily: golems who are functionally pretty human, osteomancy as a major force in human culture, an alternate Southern California that’s filled with institutions that are close but not quite the same.

The main character of California Bones, Daniel, returns older, wiser, and with a teenaged golem in tow. Sam, the golem, has been learning magic and life from Daniel, not that it’s a great life under the circumstances. Sam is the late Hierarch’s golem, and everyone expects him to be one of the greatest osteomancers ever. To date he has been completely underwhelming. He has to stay mostly hidden, because he looks like the Hierarch, so–no friends, no school, no home, nothing stable, nothing normal. Nothing a young golem’s heart yearns for, nothing but more magic practice and more truck stops.

Until the powers-that-be in LA start putting together a Pacific Firedrake. Sam and Daniel know that this is the magical equivalent of the H-bomb, the super-weapon, the one thing you do not want the other guy–or pretty much any other guy–to have. So they set about stopping it. Naturally, this doesn’t go quite as planned, and they need a series of allies–old friends, new clones, a throwaway reference to a pretty cool creature–to help them achieve…something. That is sort of like their goal, sort of? In a goal-like way? Look, I try to avoid spoilers. There’s closure, I will say that. Definitely closure. Fun stuff, and the LA references feel more geographical and less cultural to me this time around, so there are fewer “really, alternate history got there?” moments. (Also, I like second books for a reason, and one of them is that my expectation structure is set.) Recommended.

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