Book Review: Pacific Fire

Pacific Fire by Greg van Eekhout, Daniel Blackland #2

I'm Sam. I'm just this guy.

Okay, yeah, I'm a golem created from the substance of his own magic by the late Hierarch of Southern California. With a lot of work, I might be able to wield magic myself. I kind of doubt it, though. Not like Daniel Blackland can.

Daniel's the reason the Hierarch's gone and I'm still alive. He's also the reason I've lived my entire life on the run. Ten years of never, ever going back to Los Angeles. Daniel's determined to protect me. To teach me.

But it gets old. I've got nobody but Daniel. I'll never do anything normal. Like attend school. Or date a girl.

Now it's worse. Because things are happening back in LA. Very bad people are building a Pacific firedrake, a kind of ultimate weapon of mass magical destruction. Daniel seemed to think only he could stop them. Now Daniel's been hurt. I managed to get us to the place run by the Emmas. (Many of them. All named Emma. It's a long story.) They seem to be healing him, but he isn't going anyplace soon.

Do I even have a reason for existing, if it isn't to prevent this firedrake from happening? I'm good at escaping from things. Now I've escaped from Daniel and the Emmas, and I'm on my way to LA.

This may be the worst idea I ever had.


Last year a really exciting book was published, California Bones, which was the first book in the Daniel Blackland series. I praised this book heavily for its creativity, it was something completely different. Luckily for me Greg van Eekhout doesn't only publish one new book in the series but two! Pacific Fire was published back in January already and the third book (finger crossed not the final one, Dragon Coast, will be published by Tor later in September this year). That is enough babble though, onto Pacific Fire. Is it any good? Yes it is! 

There is quite a cap between California Bones and Pacific Fire as the story picks up about 10 years of the events that happened in California Bones. The first book introduced Daniel Blackland as the main protagonist and his rather eventful past, and lets not forget his mission to take down the Hierarch of Southern California. In which he eventually succeeded. Well this time around the focus on the story is not necessarily on Daniel but on Sam. A golem that Daniel rescued from the Hierarch of Southern California. With adopting Sam, Daniel got himself in a precarious situation. As the golem of the former Hierarch, Sam has a lot of magical power, magical power that a lot of people want to use, well lets say abuse. It can fuel a lot of things, lets say also a Pacific Firedrake. An extinct being that Otis (do you remember this guy) would love to bring back, to bring peace in the form of him ruling Los Angeles (deposing all the other warring factions). Of course when Daniel finds out that Otis is after Sam, it gets serious. Daniel is sick and tired of constantely on the run and decides to go to Otis himself and making sure that his plans don;t succeed, because the power that a Pacific Firedrake holds is unimaginable... it is a weapon of mass destruction. Daniel, master thief and skilled planner, does stumble upon some unfortunate events where he gets incapacitated himself and which forces Sam to take the lead. Sam is unknown with many things yet... also the plans that people have with his power. Now the friends get seperated and a race is on for Daniel when he recovers, that of saving Sam who he holds dear and that of the fate of many because if Otis succeeds in unleashing the Pacific Firedrake is will not only end badly for L.A.... AND there is a major twist in the end.... (which I won't spoil other to say that some other relatives of Daniel aren't really gone or just "normal")...

I have to be honest and say that the tone of the story is quite something different that what I had read in California Bones. That first book in the series had something of Ocean's Eleven, something heisty. The events that happen in Pacific Fire, is more of a coming of age and coming to terms kind of story of Sam. I already mentioned that the focus is heavily on Sam, which also gives a compeltely new perspective to the story. I am totally not saying that it is a bad thing at all, I liked this change of pace and it soon became to show that Greg van Eekhout made a very interesting choice. I liked the storyline and the ending also left a nice introduction for a pick up of the third book. 

So far we have seen a various cast of human characters, Daniel and his friends were all human, some with osteomantic abilities but well considered normal. Sam on the contrary is something different. He is golem, constructed out of the magic of another person, however he is a complete being, thinking being with feelings. From the synopsis you can see that Sam wants to do things but he can't as he is on the run with Daniel just to stay alive. From the start I got the feeling that Sam wanted to be and do more but it was impossible. With Daniel getting incapacitated, Sam takes the lead. For the better of his character development. As he is now running free and has to take point making decisions, granted not always for the better but he learns. Sam also learns something much more striking. He gains power the longer he is separated from Daniel... Does this mean that Daniel only used him for his own strength? Sam is a powerful well... he comes to realize a lot. I really liked Sam's character and to be honest the naming a golem Sam, isn't making him dimwitted but it makes him innocent, and this is precisely the feeling I got from him. He just wants to play. 

As for some recurrent characters, Daniel makes takes a step back putting Sam in more of a spotlight position which is ok, Daniel still has an interesting development going on, he also comes to realize that he did something unwittingly... not for the better. Next to Daniel, you also see Moth and Cassandra who make an striking and impressive appearance. The same counts for Otis, though it is short but long lasting. Some other character that I actually don't want to mention are very cool to read about. Cauldron and Tooth. Very cool and very clever thought out. 

The Daniel Blackland series utilizes an awesome magic system. You ingest bones of animals or even mythical creatures and you gain their powers. How cool is that! It was a piece of attention in the first book. Now with the focusing shifting towards Sam, the magical golem, don't think you will see less of the osteomantic powers. Greg van Eekhout gives just as a fiery magic show as before!

With the second book in the Daniel Blackland series, Pacific Fire, Greg van Eekhout continues his amazing series. I loved Pacific Fire from the start just as with California Bones. The emphasis this time around isn't on Daniel but on the Hierarch's golem Sam, which is a very good thing, the story picks up with a different direction and Greg van Eekhout keeps moving very strongly in the right direction with it. There are a lot of itneresting developments going on and I really liked the emphasis on character development and the coming-of-age part of Sam. Don't get me wrong I like the heavy osteomantic displays as well, I praised the series for it, but with the focus on the characters, the story and world becomes much more diverse. A great development overall. I think there is something intentionally going on with the 10 year gap in between California Bones and Pacific Fire. The third book is published later this year, could a fourth be in the offing in between one and two?


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