Bookshops and Bonedust Travis Baldree

Travis Baldree has returned to the cozy fantasy world established in Legends & Lattes with the prequel Bookshops & Bonedust. This time, instead of choosing to stop adventuring and open a coffee shop in the city of Thune, Viv is wounded in battle and dumped in the small backwater beach town of Murk.

The back cover gives about the only spoilers I’m comfortable with: “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.”

This book has it all. It has sword fights and battles of wit – more of the latter – and they’re all great. It focuses on relationships and books as it also examines our relationship to books. Talk about driving home the point.

Baldree has now created, in my eyes, the second classic example of “cozy fantasy,” a term I used a lot in my review of Legends & Lattes. It’s a descriptor that still holds true. 

There is a point where Viv, injured and on doctor’s orders to rest and heal, is like all of us when we are sick or infirm: ready to go anywhere or do anything other than rest. It’s a feeling even the escape of books can’t truly mend within us, but it’s also a great reason why this book resonates so well.

In the first book, Viv shifts her entire world focus from adventuring to entrepreneurship. This time, Viv is not on such a “two roads diverged” mental journey. She’s just sidelined for a bit and has to deal with it. How she does makes up a good portion of this book, because as it would for the rest of us, it doesn’t go so well. 

Also, selfishly, I am so excited that Baldree has a subplot tackling and establishing the importance of reading and, for those new to it, the unexpected pleasure of what reading the right book can do for you. To listen to the discussions in the bookshop and to hear the characters talk about different types of books, even in a fantasy setting, makes this book relatable and poignant.

Generally speaking, readers take reading for granted. I know I do. This book has something to say about a lot of things – patience, relationships of all kinds, literature, commerce, and even some small-town politics where word travels fast. 

And yet, no matter how many other superlatives I add to this review describing the book, it’s still at its heart another great cozy fantasy novel that wants you to curl up in your favorite comfortable seat, enjoy the words, and go somewhere else for a little while – in this case, the small seaside beach town of Murk.

Legends & Lattes was a revelation for me, and having read some other reviews I wasn’t alone. Bookshops & Bonedust joins it on the shelf as another great treat from Travis Baldree.

Read the Secret File of technical information and quotes from Bookshops & Bonedust by Travis Baldree.