BOOKSHOPS AND BONEDUST by Travis Baldree – READ ALONG Chapters 13-28
Nils and I are excited to be taking part in Black Crow’s Read along for the upcoming BOOKSHOPS AND BONEDUST, the much-awaited sequel/prequel to Travis Baldree’s Legends and Lattes.
A standalone cosy fantasy about the power of good bookshops, great friends and the unexpected choices along the way from the bestselling author of BookTok sensation Legends & Lattes.
First loves. Second-hand books. Epic adventures.
Viv’s career with the renowned 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 struggling bookshop in the company of its foul-mouthed proprietor is the last thing Viv would have predicted. Even though it may be exactly what she needs. Still, adventure isn’t far away. A suspicious traveller in grey, 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.
Sometimes, right things happen at the wrong time. Sometimes, what we need isn’t what we seek. And sometimes, we find ourselves in the stories we experience together . . .
We did have a a schedule planned out for when we’d post these discussions, but that went out the window somewhat when I fell ill. But I’m back on my feet again, and Nils and I had a lot to say about this section – it’s super SPOILERY! Settle in, it’s a long one…
Beth: In chapters thirteen to twenty-eight, there seems to have been three main focuses; the main focus has been everything that’s happened with the Pale Man, it’s all escalated during this section of the book. Then we’ve had Viv’s relationship with Maylee taking a step up as a sort of secondary focus, and then towards the end of this section we’ve had a renewed focus on Fern and the bookshop.
So let’s start with the Pale Man Nils! We finished last time with Viv, Gallina and the Pale Man all getting locked up in prison and after acting quite weirdly in his cell, Viv and Gallina wake up to discover he’s escaped. My instant suspicion here was that he must have an accomplice working with him for him to have been able to manage this! What did you think Nils?
Nils: Well at first I thought the Pale Man might have just waited for Viv and Gallina to fall asleep and then used some sort of magic. I guess we were both right in a way because there was definitely magic involved and there was an accomplice!
Beth: To be fair that’s still not something I don’t entirely understand in this world – how magic works?
Nils: Yeah I’m not sure how either, I thought maybe he’d need the mage stone to work magic but he didn’t have it in the cell, did he?
Beth: No, they took it off him… it was all very mysterious! I was also still suspicious at this point as to why he was in Fern’s bookshop in the first place, and thought maybe he was looking for something there? Viv seemed to share these suspicions and seemed to be waiting for him to return?
Nils: Yes, you suspected he was after a book didn’t you? But he was actually hiding one, one he stole from the necromancer so maybe even he was afraid of Varine’s power? Or he didn’t want her to find the book because he knows there is something very bad in there.
Beth: Yes the book! We’ll come back to that, because there were a couple of other surprises, weren’t there? I was a little surprised when Gallina discovered the Pale Man dead! He’s hidden his satchel, and he has the mark of Varine the Necromancer on his chest. It wasn’t clear to me if the mark meant he was a servant of hers or if she had killed him? So at this point I’m not sure who has killed him? Whether he’s possibly fallen out with her? But most importantly Nils, nyeh nyeh I was right again, he had connection a to her 😛
Nils: LOL Nyeh, nyeh. You crack me up! Yes ok, I’ll let you gloat, you were right! And the mark meant he was a servant of Varine’s. I think our friend inside the satchel explains this! But we’ll come back to him later.
Beth: Ah ok! I quite enjoyed this particular chapter when they discovered him; the gatewardens of course turn up, and what would usually happen in this scenario is Viv and Gallina would get locked up again as being suspicious figures around a dead body.
But Iridia completely bucks these stereotypes and earned a whole new level of respect from me.
Nils: I knew this would happen. I was waiting for Iridia to, I wouldn’t say warm to nor completely trust, but I knew she’d see Viv differently and know she wasn’t there to cause any intentional trouble. I’m glad Baldree didn’t drag Iridia’s dislike of Viv out for long.
Beth: Agreed, I’m really not a fan of those “jobs-worth” type law-enforcement characters who get suspicious of the main characters for no reason and are then just petty towards them. She points out that obviously, if they’d killed him, they wouldn’t be just stood there. Logic! Finally!
Nils: We love when authors give their characters logic, don’t we? Lol
Beth: It shows an author actually respecting their characters enough? Giving them common sense. You can enjoy your time with them because you’re not wondering things like “how the fuck did they get this job?” So I totally rescind my previous frustrations at her being the token Thorn in the Protagonist’s Side for no Reason. It probably wouldn’t be a very “cosy” fantasy, but following Iridia’s chat with Viv in The Perch, I would absolutely read a series of fantasy crime novels with Iridia as the detective protagonist.
Nils: That would be cool! She’d need a cool sidekick too.
Beth: She needs something adorable she goes home to and it’s the only thing in the world she’s nice to and trusts. Like a horrible scabby old cat that murders anything squeaky within a mile.
Gallina confirms to Fern at one point that the Pale Man “Couldn’t be deader” and my immediate reaction was welp, he’s definitely coming back at some point then xD
Nils: I love the way you never trust what characters say!
Beth: I am always on the lookout for foreshadowing! And I’m highly distrustful lol!
The plot thickens when Gallina retrieves the Pale Man’s bag (that she and Viv had discovered near his corpse and failed to tell the gatewardens about), and fair play, I wasn’t expecting it to contain a magically animated skeleton, were you Nils? What did you make of Satchel?
Nils: Yeah, Satchel took me by complete surprise too. But I love him. I love how he wants to be useful and help Fern because he’s designed to serve but I think he also likes having a purpose so he’s not put to sleep which is how Balthus (the Pale Man) left him.
Beth: Or he’s feeling guilty about something…
Nils: I know you don’t trust him Beth, which makes me wary because you’re usually bloody right when it comes to these things! I do think his restrictions on what he can and cannot say about Varine are a bit wishy-washy though and it does feel like he’s holding something back that he could work out a way to reveal if he tried.
Beth: Ha! Sorry Nils but I really don’t trust him for some reason. At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of him?
Initially, I thought he was quite sweet, and I found myself siding with Fern in seeing him as this trapped indentured creature forced to carry out things against his will.
And I do think there’s a lot of truth in his situation in that, but I’m also extremely suspicious of him and like you said I didn’t think he was being at all honest with the team. He definitely seemed to be searching for something in the bookshop; so again I felt quite vindicated when Fern finds a book that isn’t hers! How creepy is that grimoire Nils?
Nils: I actually think it’s a cool kind of treasure trove! When Viv reaches inside the pages her hand touches an object, and the first one she can’t retrieve but the second one, which happened to be a sword, she could. I kind of wanted to see it explored more. I mean does each portal on each page lead to a different world? Can Viv enter that world if she went further into the page?
Beth: Doesn’t Satchel say something about how things can’t stay alive there for long? So I’m not sure if they’re portals to other worlds, or if it’s something like a bag of holding – or like Mary Poppin’s carpet bag? But the descriptions of how cold and dark it is sounded so creepy and ominous to me! Like the sword Viv steals – I really don’t like the hold it has over her, but I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the sword from the first book and whether it’s the same one? But I’m worried that’s not going to end well!
Nils: It was called Blackblood, so I wonder what an ominous name like that means if it’s the same sword?! It does seem to have a pull on her, even in Legends and Lattes.
Beth: We’ve ended up having plenty to say about the Pale Man and Satchel the homunculus, and we haven’t even discussed Maylee and Fern yet Nils! You loved the date Maylee and Viv went on, didn’t you?
Nils: I so did! It started out a bit awkward and then it was cute and what I’d expect from a cosy fantasy. There was a quote I absolutely loved here:
“I love what I do, love it every day, but none of us sees more than a tiny piece of all the world, like we’re lookin’ out a little-bitty window. And I saw you through mine, and somethin’ inside me said, That’s somebody you oughta know. Simple as that.”
This is such a beautiful thing to say in such simple words. It really expresses when you just meet someone you’re instantly drawn to.
Beth: I thought Maylee’s description of seeing Viv through a small window and wanting to know her better was so beautiful too! The simplicity of it was so poignant, it sounded like Maylee had actually been quite lonely until she glimpsed Viv. What I loved most about their date was how much we learned about Maylee here, I loved discovering her depths at last!
Up to this point, I’d been confused about who Viv’s romantic interest was going to be (it’s in the tagline for the book, so I was expecting one!). I had thought Fern was flirting with her through books, so I thought it SO adorable when we discovered that actually, Fern was on like a reconnaissance mission from Maylee and I loved it.
Nils: I was hoping it would be Maylee and not Fern. I really love exploring friendships in books and I liked that Fern and Viv got on so well, I mean they’re both characters who subvert people’s expectations with Fern being a sweary bookseller and Viv being an Orc who likes to read “moist” books!!!
Honestly the way these two tease each other is brilliant and I wouldn’t want to see romance spoil that friendship.
Beth: Ha, that’s such a great point Nils, I absolutely love Fern’s sarcastic sweary nature!
“I’m doing a little better financially, but if I can’t get things to pick up…”
“It’d be best if you could sell the old ones though, wouldn’t it?”
Fern stopped with her scone halfway to her mouth. “My, what a brilliant fucking idea. Whyever didn’t I consider that? Thanks.”
Nils: Yeah, Fern is my kind of sarcastic bookseller!
Whereas with Maylee it’s a bit more like instant attraction from Maylee’s part. They don’t really get to know each other until that first date so I could see the romance blossoming more then. And Fern sees Maylee’s interest before Viv does and decides to meddle!
Beth: Love a bit of meddling! The blossoming romance is sweet, but at the same time they both seem mature and realistic about their expectations here – I still think they’re setting each other up for a big fall though. Baldree kind of addresses these concerns through Gallina, doesn’t he, when she tries to have a Concerned Friend heart to heart with Viv, like he was expecting his readers to question this.
Nils: Yeah, I can’t see Viv’s eventual departure, which we know she does because of Legends and Lattes, happening easily.
Beth: In all honesty Gallina isn’t my favourite. Like I get why she’s in this story, as a bridge between this one and Legends and Lattes, so there’s more tying in what we already know of Viv’s past. But she’s annoying!
Nils: I kind of wish we had a bit less Gallina, I mean I am warming to her somewhat, but I much prefer seeing Viv with Fern and Maylee. I think it’s meant to symbolise Viv’s growing struggle between her warrior life, which Gallina wants a chance to get started in and Viv wanting more than that life or having other uses like helping Fern and allowing herself to have a personal relationship with Maylee. I’m team Fern and Maylee!
Beth: My favourite is definitely Fern. So sweet that fern went to the prison to give Viv books and food. In l&l, Viv thought the stone had drawn people to her, but obviously it’s a knack she’s had all along and doesn’t seem aware of it.
Nils: Yes! There is a charm about Viv that draws the villagers to her once they look past the fact that she’s a huge orc.
Beth we have to talk about the book sale!
Beth: We do! We got so invested in it, didn’t we, we were desperate for it to do well. But I also loved seeing Fern have a spark of an idea after having gone so long without any inspiration. Seeing her excitement for trying something new was lovely, and then such a dopamine hit when it paid off! I love her rediscovering her love for what she does:
“Having you here is connecting me to why I do this. To why I used to love it. I don’t know if I can explain it, but watching you read what I give you, putting a book in your hands and seeing what happens to you once you put it back down… I can’t make you understand how that gives me something I didn’t know I had to have,”
When she fell into silence, Viv was wide enough not to fill it.
“You help me remember why I bother,” concluded Fern, almost in a whisper.
Nils: Is that how you feel as a bookseller? I wanted to ask you that when I read that chapter because that quote is fab. I think that’s the kind of reason I’d go into book selling too.
Beth: Oh god hundred per cent. And I think it’s similar for us as book reviewers too, I get the same hit when someone comments on our post “I’ve just picked up this book because it sounds great” or “I read this book because of this review and I loved it!” One of my best moments as a bookseller was when a man came up to me in a carpark and told me he loved the book I’d recommended to him and he was going to come back to pick my brains for another. I hadn’t recognised him, I often don’t recognise customers outside of context lol, it was so surprising.
Nils: It makes you feel like you’re really helping others, doesn’t it? Like we know the joy of a good book, one where you get so entranced you forget the time as you read away and escape the real world for a moment and then ponder on what you’ve read.
To know you’ve recommended a book and someone else got that same enjoyment out of it too just makes writing reviews or for you selling books worth it.
Beth: But it’s sharing what you love, everyone enjoys sharing their love for something. Baldree has really captured that spark in Fern. She’s been a dusty houseplant starved of light and water and now Viv has brought her back into the sun and given her new life. Again, it’s this sense that Viv has a magic all of her own, and I find it quite sad knowing what we do now, that it’ll take her absolutely ages, years, to learn this about herself.
Nils: I’m glad to see these experiences though that lead her to understanding herself better though.
Bookshops and Bonedust is out now! You can pick up your copy on Bookshop.org