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Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Bookshops & Bonedust by Travis Baldree (Reviewed by Shazzie)

 Book Review: Bookshops and Bonedust by Travis Baldree 

Buy Bookshops & Bonedust here - U.S.U.K.

Official Author Website

Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Legends & Lattes here

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: I love stories, and I love telling them.

I’m the author of Legends & Lattes, a low-stakes cozy fantasy novel.

I’m a narrator too, and I’ve loved the art since I first heard Frank Muller’s legendary work. I’ve lent my voice to hundreds of books (including my own).

I live with my wife, two kids, and dog in Washington State, and I get up every morning excited and grateful to do this job.

I’m also an erstwhile veteran game developer, and it’s possible you’ve played something I’ve made. Torchlight, Fate & Rebel Galaxy have sold millions of copies on desktops and consoles. I remain the co-owner and CEO of Double Damage Games.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: 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.

FORMAT/INFO: Bookshops & Bonedust will be published in paperback, ebook and audio formats via Tor Books in the U.S. and U.K. in November 2023.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: It's hard for new books by authors who introduced a reader to a new genre to live up to expectations. It's also hard for prequels to live up to make readers worry for beloved characters because it's already known how they'll end up. But there's none of that to worry with this book, because not only has Travis Baldree managed to do all that, but he has surpassed my expectations with this book.

While Legends & Lattes gave us a glimpse of Viv's post mercenary days, this book gives us a great glimpse into her career working as one. During the hunt for an infamous necromancer, she gets wounded and has to rest at a town called Murk, and this follows the events post that.

I don't want to say too much about the plot, but the Viv in this book is exactly the same as we meet in Legends & Lattes in terms of kindness. It's not just Viv, but the entire entourage she ends up with. They are all fair and kind and deserve nothing less than unconditional love. We have seen Viv as a person who was trying to build a life and a family for herself in the first book, but here we get to see her grow into someone capable of that. While the stakes here are higher, it feels sweet and delightfully cozy due to the characters and her attitude toward each other. Viv is also a bit impulsive, but she's mindful of others and their feelings.

We might not have a coffee shop atmosphere here, but rest assured, there are enough mentions and descriptions of baked goods that made my mouth water. I don't have a sweet tooth, but halfway through this book, I found myself walking to a bakery, and that has to count for a lot, right? Read without snacks at your own peril. Apart from this, the prose did a great job helping me feel like I was right in there setting, as well as set up a great feel for the titular bookshop, all without being wordy. I doubt I can give a higher compliment than that.

A large part of the book feels like a love letter to all the work put in by bookstore owners and booksellers, and also touch on the difficulties in keeping one afloat. Overall, large parts of the book lead nicely to future Viv's barista persona, and it ends in a very satisfying manner. There's also a pragmatic and bittersweet romance, which I appreciated.

CONCLUSION: Travis Baldree has worked his magic again to create a story full of heart, and some of the loveliest characters that I've read. There's a wholesome ensemble, some glimpses of Viv's mercenary skills, as well as enough growth to help her grow into her coffee-shop persona, all tightly written. Highly recommended, and definitely one of my top reads this year. 



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