High fantasy doesn’t get much sweeter than this cosy tale of an orc who gives up the adventuring life for her dream of running a coffee-shop…
Book: Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree
Publication date: 22nd February 2022
Ownership: E-ARC sent free of charge by author. All opinions my own.
Content warnings: minor fantasy violence; arson/house fire.
Worn out after decades of packing steel and raising hell, Viv the orc barbarian cashes out of the warrior’s life with one final score. A forgotten legend, a fabled artifact, and an unreasonable amount of hope lead her to the streets of Thune, where she plans to open the first coffee shop the city has ever seen.
However, her dreams of a fresh start pulling shots instead of swinging swords are hardly a sure bet. Old frenemies and Thune’s shady underbelly may just upset her plans. To finally build something that will last, Viv will need some new partners and a different kind of resolve.
A hot cup of fantasy slice-of-life with a dollop of romantic froth.
I think by this point in the review (yes, the very start of me actually writing) you’ll already have a good idea of whether this book sounds like it’s going to be exactly your thing or not. For me, it was an instant YES – I’m always on the lookout for fantasy that has all the classic vibes but extremely low stakes, because I love a quiet, personal story. Let me tell you, I was not disappointed in this one bit. It’s exactly what it promises: a slice-of-life book that’s as cosy and comforting as a cinnamon bun and a hot cup of tea (I would say coffee, to stay on theme, but I can’t stand the stuff myself!).
This is a character-focused story, of course, and the characters are what really make it work so well. Viv, the ex-adventurer orc, is a really likeable protagonist; it’s easy to connect with her mix of straightforward practicality and secret dreams. There’s a sort of ripple of quiet humour in Viv’s point of view that keeps the book just shy of being ‘comic’, exactly, but makes it feel very warm and friendly – I could absolutely see myself visiting the shop and being welcomed by her. I also really liked that she does bear the marks of her previous life, both physically and mentally, and part of her journey is just learning how to be herself again after stuffing herself in a box for so long. It’s a theme that is repeated in most of the characters we meet, the idea that people can be something more than they first appear, that sometimes you have to step outside your comfort zone to find something that’s actually a lot more comfortable when you get there. I don’t usually make notes on books as I read, but early on in the book there’s a line that seemed to put the mission statement of this book so simply that I made sure to write it down: “Things don’t have to stay as what they started out as”. Succubus Tandri, nervous bard Pendry, gruff workman Cal, and even tiny baker rattkin Thimble all need to accept a little bit of change in order to grow.
It’s a beautiful theme that manages to avoid being cheesy at any point in the book, which is an incredible feat for a story so centred around finding yourself, making friends, and realising what’s truly important to yourself – it could so easily have veered into unbelievable sweetness, but it never does, sticking very close to a realistically-paced progression. It’s full of kindness and respect and people working hard to be decent. This means that all the warmth and emotional payoff feels realistically won, so whenever Viv or one of the other characters has something good happen, it’s easy to feel like they deserve it, because we’ve seen the work. The group grow together into a wonderful found family; there’s a smidgen of romance, which I loved, but it’s very light, and the focus is almost fully on community and friendship. There are darker elements to it, but nothing that breaks the general feel-good attitude – just enough to season it all into feeling believable and adding some mild peril.
It’s also just sheer fun! Seeing Viv build her coffee shop from the ground up is as satisfying as any home renovation reality programme, and you really get a sense of the town and the world around the shop even though the actual worldbuilding is done lightly. I was amused by the exoticness of coffee and the reactions of the townsfolk to this new weird ‘bean water’, plus the invention of various baked goods, which is all described with that perfect little twist of humour. It actually kind of feels like a rest episode in a tabletop game run by that one friend who always makes you laugh. It’s just a good time, honestly. I read the whole thing in a day because it was just too much fun to stop.
By this point in the review (yes, the very end) you should absolutely be ready to go and buy yourself a copy of this. It was exactly what I needed to read and I suspect that will be true for a lot of people! Gorgeous, fun stuff – adult fantasy with a middle grade loveliness, perfect for fans of Stephanie Burgis and the lighter side of T Kingfisher. Five out of five cats, obviously!