Escape Velocity

A curated Collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction Media

Prequel to Legends & Lattes - when orc barbarian Viv gets wounded in the search for a dangerous necromancer, she is sent to a local seaside town to rest and recover while the mercenary company continues the hunt without her. In the town, Viv befriends the local bookseller, who runs a dilapidated shop on the verge of bankruptcy. When Viv discovers the joy of reading, however, she makes it her mission to help the bookshop back on its feet.

Listened to the audiobook with Travis Baldree himself – Like Legends & Lattes, well read.

Eh, shit.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have listened to Bookshops & Bonedust so quickly after I finished Legends & Lattes. Perhaps I should have known when I shut off the short story of Viv and her adventuring party actually in action that was an appendix to Legends & Lattes, and which was… eh.

In Bookshops & Bonedust, Baldree tries to repeat the trick he played with Legends & Lattes: we take our barbarian orc, place her in a contrasting setting, have her build up a small enterprise… we even have a ratfolk supporting character, and detailed descriptions of baked goods. What could go wrong?

Well. What goes wrong is that it just doesn’t work half as well the second time as it does the first. And what goes wrong is that if you add a lot of actual stakes to your book with a ‘high fantasy, low stakes’-tagline, it loses balance and stops working. What goes wrong is that we know Viv has a life of adventuring still ahead of her, and her in-and-out of her role as big brawny sword-swinging maniac just isn’t as convincing.

In fact, I feel Bookshops & Bonedust partly undermines Legends & Lattes in that Viv never refers back to her time at the bookshop in that, never acknowledges the inspiration she got from helping a small business on the verge of bankruptcy to relevance before. In fact, it undermines the very idea in Legends & Lattes that Viv is even trying something completely new, and her trepidations at the thought of gaining customers. And why would she be doing it without the people she met in Bookshops & Bonedust?

The bookshop-story itself is fun and scratches the right itches, though it is admittedly rather similar in set-up to Legends & Lattes. It still works though, and you really end up rooting for Fern, the bookseller.

But the throughline of the necromancer is annoyingly predictable and even somewhat dull. This is not the type of book where any of the characters you care about are in any danger, and you know it. It is not what I read this book for and it is not what this book is good at. It makes you rather feel like it could have been left out entirely. I wonder if I’ve ever read a book before where the climax was perhaps the least interesting bit.

Bookshops & Bonedust tries to expand beyond what Legends & Lattes offered, but I think in doing so, it loses a lot of what made Legends & Lattes worth recommending.

If you liked Legends & Lattes and you want more cozy fantasy, sure, give it a shot. Perhaps I’m overthinking it. Perhaps I’m being unnecessarily cynical. I don’t know. But Bookshops just feels like a cheap knock-off of Legends & Lattes, and I’m pretty disappointed. It is still fine, but nothing more than that.

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