Once in a while, a book comes along that doesn’t burden itself with the lofty expectations that so often run rampant through the fantasy genre. These books don’t require vast, epic worlds or heartbreaking stories. Instead, they’re content to revel in the warmth of friendship and love and Travis Baldree’s Legends & Lattes is my latest cozy fantasy obsession.
Legends & Lattes stars Viv, an Orc barbarian who gives up a life of brutal battles to run a coffee shop. After removing a Scavlert’s Stone from a spindly Scalvert Queen’s skull, she heads to Thune to begin anew. Scalvert’s Stones are fabled to bring good fortune if placed near intersecting ley lines, so Viv hides hers beneath the foundational stone of her newly purchased cafe. The novel follows Viv as she builds her business, introduces coffee to the denizens of Thune, and befriends people throughout the process. She also deals with would-be wrongdoers who seek to interfere with her success for their own gain. As the tagline says, Legends & Lattes is a novel of high fantasy and low stakes, and it certainly lives up to this promise.
Legends & Lattes reads like a fresh cup of coffee. The novel radiates the same sort of rich warmth you feel in your belly after a sip of a freshly brewed latte. That feeling sticks throughout, making for a refreshing and cozy tale worth your time.
Baldree tells a simple story here, adorned with little flourishes that draw you in and make you want to bundle up in the friendly world he’s created. Viv contends with the challenges of opening a business and advertising an unfamiliar product (coffee is known to other cities, such as Azimuth, in his world). A run-in with a local strong-arm turns into an unexpected interaction, and the sudden return of former bounty hunters complicates Viv’s life. But the challenges all feel surmountable, owing to the low stakes advertised on the book’s cover. Legends & Lattes won’t ask you to grapple with moral quandaries. It doesn’t have to. This story exists to make you feel good, to whisk you away, and let you bask in the warm fuzzies contained within its pages.
If the book is a latte and the plot is the rich, welcoming aroma of the roast, the characters are the creamy flavor that balances the bitter with an extra something special. Viv recruits Cal, a hob carpenter; Tandri, a succubus who manages the day-to-day and artistic needs of the shop; Thimble, a softspoken rattkin baker; Pendry, a shy bard; and other charming Thunish residents to assist her in her entrepreneurial journey. I love the characters, and each has a distinct flair, though I do wish we learned more of them along the way. The 250-ish page count doesn’t leave a lot of room for tons of character depth, though, so this is a forgivable gripe. Truthfully, I hope Baldree sees fit to write a sequel, or at the very least some sort of follow-up. I’d love to return to Thune and the surrounding world, and I’d love to learn more of the glorious characters who populate the world.
The quality of the worldbuilding was a very pleasant surprise. Baldree doesn’t focus heavily on this—and rightfully so—but Legends & Lattes brims with promises of a large, diverse fantasy world. The novel is chock full of different races with their own cultures and backgrounds, and this installment showcases the acceptance and tolerance each culture has for the other. People appreciate one another in Baldree’s world, and differences are viewed as advantageous, not ill-founded reasons to hate. Yet another reason I hope we see more of Thune and the surrounding cities.
There’s a whole lot of love in Travis Baldree’s Legends & Lattes, and it’s best enjoyed accompanied by a cinnamon roll and a steaming cup of joe. I found it easy to sink into this world, enjoy the story within, and let the pages breeze by. I may have read it at home, but I felt like I had commandeered a corner table of Legends & Lattes (oh, that’s the name of the coffee shop in the book, too) and posted up for the day, content to read a few pages between conversations with the charming cast Baldree has crafted. If you’re into cozy fantasy, or you just want a break from the epic subgenre, Legends & Lattes is for you.
Rating: Legends & Lattes – 9.0/10
The author provided an ARC in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts on this book are my own.