What is Bookshops and Bonedust?
Bookshops and Bonedust Blurb, “When an injury throws a young, battle-hungry orc off her chosen path, she may find that what we need isn’t always what we seek.
Set in the world of New York Times bestselling Legends & Lattes, Travis Baldree’s Bookshops & Bonedust takes us on a journey of high fantasy, first loves, and secondhand books.
Viv’s career with the notorious mercenary company Rackam’s Ravens isn’t going as planned.
Wounded during the hunt for a powerful necromancer, she’s packed off against her will to recuperate in the sleepy beach town of Murk—so far from the action that she worries she’ll never be able to return to it.
What’s a thwarted soldier of fortune to do?
Spending her hours at a beleaguered bookshop in the company of its foul-mouthed proprietor is the last thing Viv would have predicted, but it may be both exactly what she needs and the seed of changes she couldn’t possibly imagine.
Still, adventure isn’t all that far away. A suspicious traveler in gray, a gnome with a chip on her shoulder, a summer fling, and an improbable number of skeletons prove Murk to be more eventful than Viv could have ever expected.”
BOOKSHOPS AND BONEDUST is the latest novel from Travis Baldree. After the indie author’s breakthrough success with LEGENDS AND LATTES, everyone was eager to see what he would do next and a lot of people were suddenly speaking of a new subgenre in “cozy fantasy.” Fantasy with absolutely no stakes whatsoever. L&L had the story of a heroic orc barbarian out to open a coffee shop where the primary concerns of our protagonists were whether or not they should let the bard play with his weird magical guitar of if they should serve pastries with the coffee.
Bookshops and Bonedust is a prequel rather than a sequel to the events of L&L with the slight exception of the Epilogue that takes place past the first book. Whether this was necessary for the story or not doesn’t matter as the story still is mostly low stakes. There’s slightly more adventure going on with a necromancer skulking around the hills around the seaside village of Murk but even this is a small issue versus the premise: Viv, while recovering from a leg injury, decides to help a rattkin renovate his book shop.
Bookshops are something a dying breed well more than coffee houses and this comes from a man who got his reading chops started on Dungeons and Dragons paperbacks at the mall. The one in the sleepy seaside village is worse off than most, though, because the owner is objectively terrible at her job. She loves reading books, don’t get me wrong, but Fern keeps her owlbear (sorry, “gryphet”) in the store while not seemingly noticing it’s been urinating on the carpet for years. She also doesn’t engage with the customers until Viv and seems to hold her meat and potatoes sales of sea charts (being a fishing village) in contempt. What follows is an adorable story of Viv being slowly educated in the value of reading for entertainment.
She becomes acquainted with romance novels, adventure novels, and other fun tales that get her invested in rescuing the bookstore. Oh, and as mentioned, there’s a necromancer running around in the hills and that might be a bad thing for the town if Viv’s adventuring life collides with her attempt to get her friend to clean their shop. As before, this is an LGBT friendly novel with Viv’s status as a lesbian recognized even if her canon romance hasn’t shown up yet.
I’m a huge fan of owlbears, sorry gryphets, so I’m going to be biased towards any book that includes them. Potroast is a delightful character and one of my favorites despite its nonsentient nature. The in-universe fiction that Viv reads is also greatly entertaining as we see her slowly warm to spicy romance novels to pass her afternoons. I could have done without the necromancer bits but they don’t detract from the “cozy” narrative that is at the heart of the novel.
Bookshops and Bonedust is a solid follow-up to Legends and Lattes and were the series to end here, I would be okay with that but think that Travis Baldree could probably squeeze out one more novel before the formula starts getting stale. Maybe Viv will be the one to introduce the indoor mall to the world after acquiring a gigantic abandoned palace she can’t afford to maintain for her own. An air wizard telling her he can make the indoors chilled and an illusionist playing music to keep shoppers moving. Who knows. Either way, it was a continuation of what I hope becomes a genre to itself.