Bookshops and Bonedust by Travis Baldree fantasy book reviewsBookshops and Bonedust by Travis Baldree fantasy book reviewsBookshops & Bonedust by Travis Baldree

2023’s Bookshops & Bonedust, by Travis Baldree, is not a sequel to last year’s Legends & Lattes, but a prequel, introducing us to a much younger version of the orc mercenary Viv. Pursing the necromancer Varine the Pale with her band of hired soldiers, Viv is seriously wounded. The gang leaves her to recuperate in the tiny coastal town of Murk. They promise to pick her up on their return home, but Viv chafes at the thought of them fighting without her. She finds two sources of comfort in town. One is the Sea-Song Bakery, where a dwarf baker named Maylee bakes scrumptious treats. The other is a decrepit bookshop, with a foul-mouthed rattkin proprietor named Fern.

Viv’s gift for making friends by treating people right is not infallible. She immediately runs afoul of the town’s Gatewarden, Iridia. Iridia is like a town sheriff, and a recuperating orc with a talent for fighting isn’t who she wants hanging about her town. Viv’s first meeting with a goblin, Gallina, doesn’t go swimmingly either. Pitt, however, a fellow orc who works as a carpenter, and Brand, the owner of the inn where she is staying, like her, and she settles in quickly.

Varine and the threat of necromancy is out on the horizon but of course the real challenge in the story is Fern’s bookshop, and how to bring it back from the precipice of failure. Of course, Viv, who has known only fighting her entire life, uses her intuition to help Fern institute all sorts of new ideas. It helps that Fern has a gift for matching the right book to the right person. In short order, the bookshop is offering “mystery/blind date books” (books wrapped in paper with only a few cryptic clues written on it); author events, and even book-club discussion groups. Viv persuades Maylee to sell some tasty treats in Fern’s shop. More heroically, she persuades Fern to clean, pain and reorganize the shop so it is more inviting.

There has to be some danger in the book, though, and it shows up in the form of a male necromancer. Before Viv can get Iridia to take action about the man, he is found dead. Gallina and Viv steal his satchel, which introduces yet another character into the mix; and brings Varine down upon their trail in no uncertain terms.

Bookshops & Bonedust is good, if predictable, fun. Much of the bookshop-related prose gleams with in-jokes. One of the best parts of the book are the excerpts Baldree writes from the various books Viv reads. There is nothing new here, but Viv and her circle are entertaining, and we root for them. The necromancy is scary and Varine is a believable villain.

Filled with fun and whimsy, this is a great book for the holidays. It might even make a nice stocking-stuffer for the person who loved Legends & Lattes.

Published in November 2023. 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.


  • Marion Deeds

    Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town.