Book Review: Bookshops & Bonedust

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Bookshops & BonedustBookshops & Bonedust (Legends & Lattes, #0) by Travis Baldree
Published by Macmillan Audio on November 7th 2023
Genres: Fantasy, LGBTQ
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Source: NetGalley

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.
In Bookshops & Bonedust, a prequel to Legends & Lattes, New York Times bestselling author Travis Baldree takes us on a journey of high fantasy, first loves, and second-hand 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.
“Take a break from epic battles and saving the world. This is a low-stakes fantasy that delivers exactly what's advertised: a wholesome, cozy novel that feels like a warm hug. This is my new comfort read.”—Genevieve Gornichec, author of The Witch's Heart, on Legends & Lattes

Bookshops & Bonedust is the first audiobook I’ve ever experienced. Since I’ve been curious for a long time about audiobooks and because I adored Legends & Lattes, I decided there was no better time to try an audiobook than Bookshops & Bonedust. Knowing that the person doing all of the different voices for the characters was also the author, Travis Baldree, and that he was portraying his characters exactly how he envisioned them sounding added an entire layer of fun to the already amazing experience of Bookshops & Bonedust.


“Every book is a little mirror, and sometimes you look into it, and see someone else looking back.”*


The incredibly different (and charming), voices made it even easier to picture the characters and to get invested in their character arcs, and to also become fully immersed in the world. Listening to Bookshops & Bonedust was truly a slice of heaven, providing a much needed reprieve from the stressors of everyday life. I found myself listening to it whenever I could, before bed, in the car, while doing household chores, and more. I absolutely loved seeing these glimpses of Viv’s origin story, before she hung up her sword and opened her coffee shop in Legends & Lattes. Though I knew her stay in the town of Murk was temporary, as it was a prequel, I was still invested in her journey from careless, headstrong warrior to the quieter, more thoughtful shop owner she was in Legends & Lattes.


For me, the standout of Bookshops & Bonedust was unmistakably anything centering on the Bookshops part of the title. This novel is, without a doubt, a love letter to the magic of books at large and is perfect for those who have ever desperately needed a friend and found one in a book. I also absolutely adored new characters Fern, the owner of the eponymous bookshop, and her trusty friend Pot Roast, the gryphet. As a reviewer (and reader), reading about Fern’s skill as a bookseller—knowing her books, learning about her customers, and then recommending her friends and customers the perfect read—was a pure delight. There’s nothing more satisfying than finding the right read for a friend or having a friend know you well enough to do the same for you. And then even better, sharing thoughts about the same book with each other.


“It felt like giving in to even consider reading it. Tacit admission that she was now a different sort of person. Weak. Soft. Sleepy. Someone who idled and studied rather than fought and won.”


It was wonderful to watch Viv come to appreciate how much books could mean to not only other people, but also to her. Formerly all about the art of the warrior and prejudiced about reading, Viv comes to have quite a stake in Fern’s little bookshop in Murk herself. It’s easy to see that this is where the seeds of Viv’s future coffee shop ownership were originally planted. 


Though I loved Bookshops & Bonedust, I have to admit I was less thrilled with the parts of the novel pertaining to the titular Bonedust.  I loved everything revolving around the bookshop, but I really could have done without the necromancy angle, which made the book less of a comfort read than Legends & Lattes. I know there has to be some conflict and fantasy elements, but I felt Viv’s conflict to find herself and what she truly wanted, along with the struggle to keep Fern’s bookshop in business, were all strong enough without the outside threats of an undead horde and an all powerful necromancer witch. I had more trouble focusing when these parts of the book came into play, and also found them a bit more stressful than what I would have ideally liked in this cozy novel.


“‘If there’s someone in this room who should be dealing with unholy necromancer nonsense, it’s me. May I?’

Fern narrowed her eyes, ‘didn’t you get stabbed and dumped in this town because of unholy necromancer nonsense?’

‘Yeah, but I survived, didn’t I?'” 


I also struggled with Viv’s romance in this novel. As I knew from reading Legends & Lattes, Viv does not end up with her love interest from this novel, Maylee. So their entire situationship felt utterly doomed and like an exercise in futility from the beginning. Therefore, it filled me with dread rather than butterflies. Plus, the romance in Legends & Latte was so superb, that I also just found it hard to picture Viv with anyone other than Tandri. Personally, I could have done completely without the romance between Viv and Maylee because I think the platonic relationship between Fern and Viv was much deeper, showing off a found family type of friendship. And platonic love is just as important, if not more so than romantic love. 


The only other thing that threw me off in Bookshops & Bonedust were the metaphors. Quite a ffew of them are fairly off-putting, with atypical words being used to describe things. For instance, a hunk of yellow cheese was described as smelling of “cream, salt, and summer grass.” I am confused as to how cheese ends up smelling of summer grass or why it has to be summer grass in particular and not just grass in general. Though these artistic choices are frequent and eccentric, they don’t really detract anything from the novel, other than one’s momentary attention. 


“Sometimes, it’ll never be the right time…. And sometimes we aren’t the right people yet.”


I was really sad when Bookshops & Bonedust came to an end; I couldn’t have asked for a better experience for my first audiobook, and I will definitely be on the look out for other audiobooks in which Travis Baldree is the narrator. I grew emotional during the epilogue, which takes place in the future, after the events of Legends & Lattes. I am really excited by what this ending means for a future installment, which I certainly will be picking up as soon as humanely possible.


After all, what goes better with lattes than books? 


*All quotes taken from an ARC and subject to change at time of publication.


Book Review: Bookshops & Bonedust - Blogging with Dragons

Posted August 14, 2023 in ARCS, audiobooks, Book Reviews, Fantasy

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2 responses to “Book Review: Bookshops & Bonedust

  1. Great review, Kate! I could really tell how much you loved this book by how you wrote your review. Though I haven’t read this book, I do like how it centers on being a bookseller. As you said, and I agree with, it sounds like a delight to read about that given how we ourselves love to read. I have Legends & Lattes on my shelf (for at least a year) and I really should get around to reading it.

    • Thank you, Celeste! I hope if you get around to reading Legends & Lattes (and Bookshops & Bonedust), you find it as much of a treat as I do!!

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