Published by: Self-Published, recently acquired by TOR
Genre: Slice of Life Fantasy
Purchased Copy for my Kindle from Amazon
The blogosphere has been abuzz with talk of Travis Baldree’s debut, Legends & Lattes, and for good reason. Slice of life stories are character-driven to their core—no wonder, then, that Baldree’s novel is such a gripping read. The foremost of the ‘legends’ the title refers to is Viv, your typical high-level Orc adventurer, prone to bursts of violence with her big-ass sword, is tired of the lifestyle and has been for some time:
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.
Viv’s voice is compelling from the first paragraph; her dream of building something that will last after a lifetime of dismantling monsters is relatable and her hard work is as rewarding as the friends she makes along the way. And what friends those are! Cal, short for “Calamity”: a hob construction worker of few words and plenty of “Hm”s; Tandri, a succubus sick of being judged by her demonic blood alone, bursting with overlooked talents; Thimble, an absolute genius ratman baker whose recipes will make you run to the closes bakery without a moment’s hesitation; Hemington, a snotty student who isn’t all bad; a bard whose future promises rockstar fandom; a bit of a cockney git with a tophat; a friendly old neighbour; and a surprisingly nice elderly lady running a community-oriented business. There’s also an elf…but we don’t talk about the elf.
The world is the standard backdrop you’d expect of a D&D campaign; adventurers, tech that slides between the medieval and the Victorian with plenty of description of gnomish coffee-making machinery to boot. None of it is the focus; the focus is the building of something, the coming together of individuals as they create a community centre. It’s spectacular fun, I promise you this, and satisfying beyond what it has any right to be. Like any good D&D-adjacent world, it covers the ground necessary to create a sense of verisimilitude.
I love how committed Baldree is to the vision of an adventurer turning a new leaf—it would’ve been easy for Viv to pick up her great-sword and solve any number of annoying issues that pop up throughout Legends’ 300 pages but that moment never materializes. Not that it wouldn’t have been satisfying on at least one account…but it would’ve made for a different book, a book less involved in the fundamentally communitarian project Baldree delivers, and weaker for it. No matter how hard the times, Viv’s pledge to stay true to herself and the new life she is building is the kind of resolve to aspire to. So does the steadfast support she is shown by her closest friends, new and old; the partnership that develops between her and Tandri is the kind of healthy, positive friendship that revolves around support and tasting tasty treats like in the following paragraph, describing their first bite of chocolate:
Viv and Tandri each snapped off a small piece. Viv sniffed hers. The earthy smell was slightly sweet—almost coffee-like. She put the fragment on her tongue, and when she closed her lips, it melted, spreading throughout her mouth. She tasted dark bitterness, but with subtler flavors of vanilla, citrus, and in the far back, a hint of something that reminded her of wine. It was bold, both creamy and harsh, but alluring. Honestly, Viv doubted you could eat very much of it. That bitterness would overwhelm you. But the old spice-seller was right. The kid was a genius, and she couldn’t wait to see what he had planned.
You should read Legends & Lattes if:
- Cute slow-burn romances speaks to your soul;
- You’re looking for the comfiest comfort read ever;
- You’ve always thought the fantasy aesthetic could do with more of an aroma of freshly ground coffee beans and cinnamon buns;
- You’ve grown tired of blood and guts and despair and are looking for works that capture the sense of community in the most beautiful ways;
- You never saw orcs as warriors so much as baristas and café shop owners;
- And more, prob’ly!
I leave you with one last quote; you could easily take to heart and apply it to your own life in times when stagnation seems inevitable: “Things don’t have to stay as what they started out as.” Ain’t that the truth?