Legends & Lattes (Legends & Lattes, #1), by Travis Baldree

Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

»After twenty-two years of adventuring, Viv had reached her limit of blood and mud and bullshit. 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.

Thus begins the story of Viv, a former orc swordswoman who retires from adventuring and opens a coffee shop, the eponymous “Legends & Lattes”, in the town of Thune. She makes friends with various fantasy creatures and faces challenges from a local crime boss and a former colleague who wants to steal her magical treasure. Rarely was a moniker, “High fantasy, low stakes” in this case, more apt because we’re not off on a conventional fantasy adventure.

Much more important in this entertaining and heartwarming novel are the relationships Viv and her friends build: In Thune, Viv is part of a small minority and doesn’t care about outward appearances and societal expectations. She follows her passion and doesn’t care about what others think of her. She also respects and appreciates the skills and talents of her friends and employees, such as Cal(amity) the Hob carpenter, Thimble the Rattkin baker, and Pendry the stonemason-gone-bard. Viv is a great example of a strong and independent person who can also be kind and compassionate.

Not only Viv shines brightly, but every major character is unique, well fleshed-out in a vivid and colourful world that beckons to anyone who has ever played (A)D&D or similar – you’ll feel right at home. Those characters are also immensely relatable…

»The rattkin shifted from foot to foot and stared longingly at the coffee machine.
“Coffee first?” he pleaded.

Most importantly, though, is the slow, sensible way Viv, the orc, and Tandri, the succubus, grow together: They have a very sweet and natural relationship that develops gradually and organically. They start as friends and co-workers who support each other and share their dreams and fears. They also have a lot of chemistry and compatibility, as they both love coffee, art, and adventure. They are not afraid to show their feelings and affection, but they also respect each other’s boundaries and pace. I only would have wished to read a bit more about them.

»It was easy to see how one might mistake her nature for something purely sensual, how one might glean only what they most desired from that densely-twined rush of feeling.
Hers was a potent dialect of emotion, rich with meaning, comprehensible only to those intimately aware of its subtleties.

In addition, this is a charming and uplifting read: The novel has a light-hearted but not shallow tone and a humorous style that makes it enjoyable and fun to read. While there is little action, there are many peaceful and relaxing moments…

»She leaned on the counter over a fresh chapbook, sipped her coffee, gazed at the blurs passing in the street, and gloried in a suspended moment of contentment.«

It may sound like the beginning of a lame joke (“An orc, a succubus, a hob, and a rattkin go into a cafe…”), this novel is much more than that and, to me, highly enjoyable and I certainly hope to return to this world.

Five out of five stars.

Ceterum censeo Putin esse delendam

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