REVIEW: Bookshops & Bonedust by Travis Baldree

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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.

Dear Mr. Baldree,

Last year another of our reviewers read and enjoyed “Legends and Lattes” and I was intrigued by the cover, the great review and the idea of a female orc warrior opening a coffee shop. Alas I haven’t had time to read it yet but decided to go ahead and start with this book as it is a prequel. 

I guess this is “Viv – the early years.” Young, basically untried but very enthusiastic, orc fighter Viv is hacking and slashing her way through an army of wights in a scene that made me think of the Ray Harryhausen movie “Jason and the Argonauts.” She distantly hears her fellow fighters calling for her to hold up but with her blood singing through her veins Viv waits for no one. She’s going to have this all sewn up by the time those slow pokes reach her. 

Only she doesn’t as she takes two deep slashes to her right thigh. Rackam shakes his head and tells her that he gave her even odds to rise to glory or flame out. Having flamed out and needing a lot of recuperation, Viv is left outside the town of Murk (which is a little better than the name might lead one to believe), in a beachfront tavern, to heal and wait until Rackham and the others finish finding and killing the evil necromancer they’re after. 

Viv is not one to take lying down and healing … well, lying down. Aggravating the elf doctor (whom she almost strangled in her fever delirium), Viv starts hopping around town with her crutch and the determination to Heal Quickly. Poking around some of the shops, Viv discovers a dusty bookshop run by a rattkin name Fern (who has a darling gryphet named Potroast) as well as a bakery with buns to die for. Viv frets that Rackam will forget her while taking down the necromancer but she soon discovers that she’s going to be dealing with more danger than she dared dream of. 

This was delightful. As I said, I’ve not read the first book but as this is a prequel, I don’t think it mattered at all. I loved watching Viv grow in self discovery as her forced recovery makes her stop and “smell the roses” a bit as well as realizing that the right books can make reading fun. Bookstore owner Fern tells Viv that part of why she continues to do what she loves is for the pleasure of putting the right book into the right hands. While an orc handyman begins devouring poetry, Fern puts first fighting and then “moist” books in Viv’s hands. Yes “moist” is a catchphrase that was coined for the books that Viv would rather read in the quiet and solitude of her room, thank you very much.   

But that necromancer isn’t going to catch and kill herself, is she? When a person who makes Viv’s hackles rise appears, Viv knows that Varine is out there and for Reasons, Viv is worried that she has put Murk and the friends she’s developed there in Varine’s crosshairs. And of course she has. While Varine has an army of skeletal wights though, Viv has stalwart friends including one with a grudge against the necromancer. Bosses never remember not to piss off their assistants. 

I was holding my breath to see how Viv and Co would deal with this horrid person and wasn’t it done well! Nothing came out of the blue, there was no deus ex machina, and the delivery of justice was on the nose. Brava! As book one is set in a different town with different people, I knew Viv wouldn’t be staying in Murk but that was okay. The friendships she made were lovely and she/they always knew Viv still needed to make her mark in the world. Fern with her soft spoken swearing, Potroast with his eye on falling bits of pastry, Maylee who has already done her fighting, and Satchel who finally gets a chance at freedom were delightful and I enjoyed my time with them all. Now I really need to go back and read book one. B+              

~Jayne

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Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 25 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there’s no TSTL characters and is currently reading more fantasy and SciFi.

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