Have you ever wondered what happens to an adventuring party after they decide to stop adventuring?
Well, look no further than Legends and Lattes, a feel-good fantasy that’s warm and comforting as a hot mug of coffee.
As a long time DnD player, and a big big fan of the ‘coffee shop AU’ fanfiction trope (yes, I know), when I came across this book via TikTok, I knew I had to read it. The author, Travis Baldree, writes in such a way that is both utterly charming and heart-warming, bringing the characters and setting to life in a way such that you swear you can *smell* the tasty treats and drinks wafting from the page.
The story follows Viv, an Orc mercenary, who one-day decides to pack the life of adventuring in and go and set up a coffee shop in the town of Thune. The town itself is a large, bustling dynamic fantasy world, a vibrant backdrop to the book and melting pot of different species. I hope we get to see more of it.
“An orc’s life was strength and violence and a sudden, sharp end—but she’d be damned if she’d let hers finish that way. It was time for something new.”
What’s more, nestled among the trials and tribulations of setting up a shop in a town that’s never heard of coffee (a gnomish delicacy in this world), there’s a dash of intrigue and danger to keep things ticking along. Viv is hiding a secret – a Scalvert’s Stone taken from her last adventure. Rumoured to bring the holder good fortune, unbeknownst to her, it eventually stirs up a lot more drama for her little shop than she bargained for as her past comes back to bite her.
As a note, I really liked how Baldree depicted the interplay between Viv’s old adventuring team (even the unsavory ones) and her new friends, the dynamic between the two being a side you experience little in epic fantasy books.
Whilst Viv as the main character has a strong enough personality to carry the book, it’s her ragtag bunch of hired hands and customers that really round out the story.
After all, coffee shops are nothing without the staff that help to run it and the recognisable regulars. There’s Cal, a hob carpenter, Thimble, a wunderkind Rattikin baker, Tandri, a succubus who manages the front of house, and Pendry, a shy bard with alternative music tastes.
“The combined aromas of hot cinnamon, ground coffee, and sweet cardamom intoxicated her, and as she brewed and smiled and served and chatted, a deep contentment welled up. It was a glowing warmth she’d never experienced before, and she liked it. She liked it a great deal.”
There’s also a subtle romance that develops between Viv and Tandri that’s a wonderful, gentle slowburn sort of relationship. Perfect for this sort of book.
Whilst the novel doesn’t focus massively on the wider world building and has the coffee shop as the novel’s cozy microcosm, that’s more than enough. The customers bring the outside world in, setting up a snug nook away from the world, filled with gossip, intrigue and drama.
A cozy slice-of-life fantasy, Legends and Lattes is a novel that you can easily pick up to distract you from the cares of the world. It puts a slower, softer lens on the epic fantasy genre, with a found family trope, drama, and cute romance nestled within its pages.