In these bestsellers, hardened warriors find life beyond mayhem

In these bestsellers, hardened warriors find life beyond mayhem

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Genre fiction is full of killing machines and supernatural warriors, characters whose very bodies are weapons and whose whole existence is mayhem. In many stories, these fighters may find themselves rubbing elbows with civilian noncombatants, who offer logistical support — or need protection. But what happens when a hardened warrior lives in the midst of a peace-loving community of artists or scientists?

Three extremely popular authors of science fiction and fantasy have new books out that all explore the question that inevitably results from this idea: What happens when an elite warrior becomes the boon companion to a group of peaceful oddballs and begins to develop skills that have nothing to do with combat? Along the way to finding an answer, the hardened warriors in these stories find purpose, connection, and even love.

‘Bookshops & Bonedust,’ by Travis Baldree

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Baldree’s debut “Legends & Lattes” made a huge splash with its story of Viv, who decides to leave her successful mercenary career and open a coffee shop despite being a hulking, Tolkeinesque orc. In this prequel novel, a younger Viv is just starting out as a sword for hire when an injury forces her to rest up in a small town, where she befriends a local bookseller whose store is struggling to survive.

Like the first book, “Bookshops & Bonedust” also puts a low-stakes, cozy story about a small business into the type of fantasy setting that usually features epic battles. This time around, Viv isn’t trying to set down roots — as soon as she’s healed up, she intends to rejoin her crew. That dynamic lends a bittersweet cast to the friendships she forms in the small town of Murk, as everyone gets attached despite themselves. This tone is accentuated by Viv’s relationship with Maylee, a baker who turns out to be an ex-mercenary herself.

Prequels sometimes feel unnecessary, and can even cheapen the original stories. But Baldree manages to add to Viv’s story in a way that feels both organic and vital, and this second book is even better than the first.

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