Boneshops & Bonedust
By Travis Baldree
- Boneshops & Bonedust
Author: Travis Baldree
Publisher: Tor Books
- ISBN: 9781035007356
- Published: November 2023
- Pages: 332
- Format reviewed: Hardback
- Review date: 20/11/2023
- Language: English
I have read a lot of Fantasy fiction over the years and have picked up trends as time passes from the classic High Fantasy epics of the 80s to the gritty Low Fantasy of more recent times. A new trend is in town, and I see Travis Baldree at the vanguard of Cosy Fantasy. Legends & Lattes was a sfbook.com book of the year, so the follow up prequel Bookshops & Bonedust has a lot to live up to, but what way to get a lover of books to your side than a book about books?
Before opening their coffee shop, Viv was a soldier of fortune, but this is a dangerous business as Viv finds out when a sword is stuck through her leg. After waking up, Viv finds herself sidelined in a sleepy seaside town with not much to do but avoid getting in the way of the local magistrate. The only comfort is the smell of fresh baking, the friendly baker, and a rundown bookshop. With not much to occupy the time, Viv decides to help around the place.
Labelling any book as one thing or another is always lazy and calling Bookshops simply Cosy Fantasy is doing the book a disservice. What is this subgenre? It is certainly not new. The cosiness of Fantasy has been apparent in many books for decades, from the comradery of a fellowship to the colourful characters of Ankh-Morpork. The best highs of Fantasy have only ever worked because you enjoy the quieter lows too. The meals, the jokes, the relationships. All Bookshops is achieving is distilling some of these elements of the genre and doing it so well.
Writing a sequel/prequel for such a well-liked character like Viv could have been tricky, but already Baldree has proven themselves an accomplished writer. I would go as far to say this is the stronger novel, capturing the warm feel of the first book, but adding just a little more tension in the form of a Necromancer and mysterious book. The book remains cosy, but there is a buzz of the unknown in the background.
Setting the story around a bookshop is genius. I have always seen Fantasy as a booklover's genre. Most Fantasy readers I know love the genre, but also reading itself, the pleasure in starting a new story or recommending a tale to a friend. Baldree fills Bookshops with likable characters that also love books from a book owner recommending books, to new readers finding themselves lost in new worlds. Reading about other’s loving to read is a big circle of joy between the reader and the characters.
The story is gentle, but not meandering. This is a glimpse into Viv’s life and informs how we see the character in the later book, there is even a nice epilogue that reflects this. It feels like a book of reading and summer romances, but with more orcs and raising of the undead. It will appeal to any Fantasy fans looking for a book that captures those moments in the genre between the epic battles; scenes of characters sitting around a campfire, sharing vittles - reading books. A book that evokes memories of Tolkien, Pratchett, or Jacques, but with its own modern voice.
Written on 20th November 2023 by Sam Tyler .