I think I’ve found my favorite book of the year so far!
Title: Legends & Lattes: A Novel of High Fantasy and Low Stakes
Author: Travis Baldree
Length: ~318 Pages
Genre/s: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Romance, LGBT
Rating: 5 Golden Eggs
Disclaimer: An eBook copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. This did not affect my review, and all opinions are mine.
High Fantasy with a double-shot of self-reinvention
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’d been searching long and hard (minus the hard, but definitely the long) for a similar book.
Ever since I played Coffee Talk by Toge Productions, I’ve been searching and scouring the web for the book version of it, something that focuses on the warmth of a coffee shop. So, when the opportunity was present, I snatched right at it! I still had books to finish but was constantly eager to start on this and when I was done, I almost cried. It was over before I know it, a smooth and solid read that’s not hard to drink in and digest like some of the more poetic fantasy books I’ve gone through in the past. “A Novel of High Fantasy and Low Stakes” indeed.
I wanted something coffee shop related. I wanted there to be some form of budding relationship, either of romance or friendships. I wanted there to be a world where different races could co-exist, DnD style but without the dungeon part (low stakes, ya know?). I wanted to show the hardships behind a small business, especially one that’s being built from ground up. Legends and Lattes brought all of that to the table, and then more, surprising me with small details that were truly appreciated. I’ve never felt so much warmth in a book and Legends and Lattes really stuck with me. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted!
Who she was before, is not who she is now.
Viv is an Orc adventurer who shall swing her sword no more. She’s done with the bruises and cuts. Done with a paycheck per job to another. She’s done with adventures and wants to finally settle down somewhere; start a new life, one where she doesn’t need brute force to answer problems with. She’d been saving for a while now, little bits here and there through years of adventuring and jobs and the result presents itself in the shape of a livery turned coffee shop in a city where nobody knows what coffee is.
When she arrives in Thune, her new home for, hopefully, a long long time to come, she finds herself befriending many people on her way to making the café a success. There’s Tandri, a young succubus, stern and severe at first, who warms up quickly to Viv and becomes a partner to the shop. She helps tend to the registers and patrons, helps with ideas on luring in new customers, helps with the behind the scene duties like the dishes or using her artistic skills in drawing up the menu. There’s Calamity (Cal throughout the book) who was the guy that Viv hired to turn the stable into a working establishment. The hobgoblin was there to help her through the entire construction, the primary man on the job, and there to help with any other needs like expansions or, through the usage of gnomish technology, to install things like an air-circulator.
Built on blood, sweat, tears, and bonds.
One of the key aspects that I love about this book is the realism, the characters, interactions, and the frustrations behind opening up a business. It’s hard being a coffee shop owner and harder to try and attract people to a shop that’s already previously known to be the location of an old and sticky stable. Viv often gets frustrated and while she’s adamant that she will never try to use force and bloody fists (and steel) to solve problems again, there are times when she occasionally considers it, only to push it away. Tandri is always there to help her out and bring the conversation and situation back to earth, and the pair grows along with the shop together. I adored their journey from the “was an old livery” to success; from assistant to partners. Tandri was there to bring Viv back up when things go awry (from the start to the end) and in turn, Viv made sure to be there for Tandri as well.
One of the most important part of a coffee shop related story/plot (and in real life businesses as well) are the patrons and customers. The thing I looked forward to, the most, were how the staff and patrons interacted, especially given that most of said patrons, have never touched lips to this “exotic beverage” of beans and water. There would be plenty of repeating customers through the story, and I loved them all. In such a short time, I already grew quite fond of many of the characters.
Given how much was provided, I adored the worldbuilding
There’s a lot of world building and charm to this book in the short time we get to know the city of Thune. One of the things that I’d been seeking for so long, in a “Coffee Talk-like book”, was the diverse mix of race and species that the game had presented; humans mingling with werewolves, elves, succubi, orcs, merfolk with octopus legs, vampires (and vegan vampires!) and so on, just working and living together. Legends and Lattes presents the same thing with the streets roaming with its own mix of elves, rattkin, gnomes, hobgoblins, orcs, and succubi. And, in each, there are moments where certain characters voice their feelings over being stereotyped and judged on.
And then the technology. There are ways to bring coffee from [our] world to the world of fantasy and DnD with gnomish technology being the way that “coffee machines” and “air-circulator” can exist. There are magic schools in here, one of the repeat patrons being a student from there. Besides the walking and talking races I’d mentioned, there were also giant dire-cats that are essentially the same as our favorite ol’ house cats just…bigger and scarier. There is a local gang that threatens Viv if she does not pay her monthly dues to their boss, the Madrigal, and Viv must either pay or try to find a way to open up the discussion and make a deal with them. And the streets roam with people (practically most of the city since coffee is a gnomish beverage) that have never heard of the hot drink and time and time again, Viv has to try and lure new patrons to at least give her coffee shop and it’s drink a try. The menu literally started with two items, coffee and lattes, both with their own short description, and it grows from there.
So in all this, in 318 pages, we get to experience all sorts of pieces from this world that Travis Baldree has presented to us. It’s vast, it’s colorful, and oh so rich. It’s definitely not the main focus here, but with just passing descriptions of the day-to-day activities that Viv and Tandri experience, it’s already good enough for me to imagine what living in this world would be like.
So cozy and should be enjoyed with a nice warm mug of your own brew of coffee.
It was warm, even through the conflict of the story, and through all the troubles of being an orc and now new business owner. I adored the relationships presented. I got to experience what it feels like to chatter with your favorite patrons every time they stop in. If you enjoy getting to discover a world of diversity, and enjoy the charm of coffee shops, I would say to definitely give Legends and Lattes a try. When the world of adventures and brutal fights grows tiring to the soul, the book offers the best sanction to a weary traveler, to just settle down in a booth corner, and enjoy life with one sip and bite of a cinnamon roll at a time.
5 Shiny Shiny Eggs!