Pan Macmillan, 9 November 2023
Available as: HB, 368pp, audio, e
Source: Advance copy
I'm grateful to the publisher for providing me an advance e-copy of Bookshops and Bonedust to consider for review.
Bookshops and Bonedust is set in the same universe as Legends and Lattes, but takes place earlier, documenting a period in Viv's life at the start of her adventuring career. While it will I think me a must-read for lovers of the previous book, it can also therefore be read on its own - as I did, having inexcusably not read L&L last year when it made a huge stir.
The story takes place after Viv is injured in one her first battles as one of Rackam's Ravens. Impetuous and hot-heated, she heads for the thick of the fight, is injured, and and invalided out to recuperate in the little seaside town of Murk and, bored silly by the quiet, wanders in to a cluttered little bookshop for some distraction...
Thus we are introduced to the world of fantasy bookselling. I mean, of bookselling in a fantasy world - where a ratkin, Fern and her pet bird-animal, Potroast, are struggling to stay in business at Thistleburr Booksellers - which, by and large, doesn't traffic in ancient evil tomes (though one will turn up eventually). Rather its mainstay is nautical charts and popular fiction (Baldree gives us little glimpses of this). As Viv becomes friends with Fern and Potroast, we see just what a bookseller with a mission can do for an innocent customer - Viv is introduced not only to the delights of sword-swinging pirates, but also to the charms of smut.
It's really fun to see a friendship springing up and as the book proceeds, Viv makes others too. There may be danger, magic and adventure going on in the background - a sinister stranger turns up, there are rumours of a necromantic army and city gate warden Iridia is on high alert and Has Her Eye On Viv - but there are also baked goods to be eaten, books to be read and discussed and flirting to be done. Viv is clearly chaffing to get back to the fight, but also honest enough to admit that she may have found something - or rather someone - pretty good in Murk.
Adventure and danger do, it's true, come to the town in the end and Viv plays her part in defeating it, but I was pleased to see that Viv's success was due as much or more to the friendships she's made as to her fighting prowess (in contrast to the episode at the start where she fails just because she tries to do it all herself).
All in all, a cracking story and I can now understand the excitement around Legends and Lattes. I clearly have some catching up to do...
For more information about Bookshops and Bonedust, see the publisher's website here - and of course the other stops on the blogtour which you can see listed on the poster below.