I tend to think prequels are unnecessary. I don’t know that Bookshops & Bonedust is necessary from a story telling perspective. From a soul perspective, yes, it is necessary. Legends & Lattes was about coffee, baked goods and friendships. Bookshops & Bonedust is about books, baked goods, and friendships. The book was read by the author, Travis Baldree, who is also a voice actor. I enjoyed his narration so much I may get his narration of the Legends & Lattes audiobook. (Who am I kidding, I’m definitely getting the audiobook).
I’m adding in an edit because I just read a tweet from Travis Baldree in which he says that he has just realized (August 10, 2023) that he wrote Bookshops & Bonedust to assert that prequels aren’t irrelevant. “Past relationships & unexpected detours are essential to us, even when abandoned. They help us understand what the destination is.” If that was his purpose, I think he fulfilled it.
We meet Viv as a young mercenary, newly joined up with Rackam’s Ravens. She’s a good fighter, but so eager to finish the fight that she runs ahead and gets herself almost dead. She is forced to recuperate in the sleepy seaside town of Murk. Rackam’s Ravens are in pursuit of a necromancer and they promise Viv they’ll be back to get her when they finish up. Viv has already gotten herself on the bad side of the local physician by trying to strangle him when she was wracked with fever. She realizes that to truly heal, she’s going to need to be slower and gentler with her body than she’s ever been. Instead of pushing herself (which is how she ended up stabbed in the leg), she needs to move carefully and let her body rest. Viv is not built for slow. She slowly explores the town and finds herself in a dark and dusty, over crowded bookshop. Overcrowded with books, not customers. She makes friends with Fern, the ratkin who owns the shop. Fern introduces Viv to books. She challenges Viv, who discovers books can open new worlds.
I won’t go further into the plot other than to say that this is where Viv meets Gallina, acquires her sword, Blackblood, and where she becomes a more thoughtful, well rounded person who has respect for people who are not fighters. She gets more adventure than she expected and forms bonds, even knowing that she will leave. Two of the dominant themes are a love of books and valuing relationships that won’t last forever. While I was listening to this, I learned that a friend I hadn’t talked with in several years had died. Our lives took us in different directions a very long time ago, but I value the place she had in my life then. It was lovely to hear characters validating the joy of friendships however long they last, the sweet and sour pain of loss, and the possibility of stories after the story.
If you loved or liked Legends & Lattes, you will love or like Bookshops & Bonedust. If you didn’t, you probably won’t like this one any better. My greatest sadness is that it is too hot to turn the oven on and make lassy buns and pastries. I hope that when the book comes out in November, I will be back to baking.
I received this as an advance reader copy from Macmillan Audio and Netgalley. My opinions are my own, freely and honestly given.