LEGENDS AND LATTES by Travis Baldree (BOOK REVIEW)
Travis Baldree turns from the man behind audiobook narrations for Forthright books, to writing his very own debut novel, and I’m so glad he did. Legends and Lattes isn’t just a cosy, slice-of-life fantasy, it is a hug after a long day, it’s that first bite of chocolate you’ve been desperately craving or that first sip of coffee, it’s pyjamas and blankets and everything else which brings comfort and warmth. This is a tale so simple yet so wholesome and adorable, it has made me see just how versatile the fantasy genre can be.
Originally self published, Legends and Lattes caused quite a stir upon its initial release. The hype surrounding this book was immense, bloggers were an absolute powerhouse for promoting this book, and in all honesty this intimidated me. What if it didn’t live up to my expectations? What if I found the pacing too slow and wanted more action scenes, as I am known to do? I’ll admit, whilst I’ve watched tv shows, I’ve never actually read a slice-of-life fantasy before and therefore didn’t know what to expect, yet I was curious. So when UK Tor acquired Baldree’s book for publication and offered a review copy, I jumped at the chance with some nervousness but also excitement at trying something new. Believe the hype. The blogging community was completely right for putting this book on everyone’s radar, and credit goes to them for doing so. Now I shall join their choir, as this book deserves all the praise.
“Blackblood hung ominously on the wall, and she found herself wanting to take it down to sharpen it and to lose herself in the repetitive, familiar action of it, but she forced her gaze away.”
Meet Viv, an orc barbarian known for chopping off heads and relentlessly chasing down her bounty with her crew in tow. In secret though, Viv longs for another life, to be someone far different from what her reputation perceives her to be, to put down her trusted sword, Blackblood, and start anew. On her final quest, Viv comes into possession of a fabled artifact, one that will aid her in swapping a life of violence for a journey to the streets of Thune, where she plans to open their first ever coffee shop. A dream, the will, and a ton of good fortune is all Viv believes she will need. Yet when she faces a mob boss, an old frenemy and the people of Thune’s scepticism (they’ve never even heard of coffee before!) she realises her problems can no longer be solved with swords, not if she wishes to leave that life behind. She now needs an entirely new crew: one that can build, brew and bake.
We then traverse through a slow and heartwarming story where, through Viv’s point of view, we watch the building of the coffee shop blossom, and right along with her we experience her hopes and fears. Viv is gentle, kind and vulnerable in many ways, often not seeing her true worth or allowing herself comforts, or a place to call home. Despite being an orc, often depicted as savage, foul, cruel creatures, Viv is portrayed in a very human light. This is where Baldree superbly excels, almost all of the entire supporting cast of Legends and Lattes are also made up of non-human characters and they are truly endearing in a variety of ways. Calamity, a hob who she meets repairing boats by the docks, is the first friend Viv makes when she chances upon him to transform the old livery into the shop of her dreams. Cal shows himself to be a hardworking, trustworthy worker and it’s easy to immediately warm to him. Just as it is to the rest of the characters. Thimble, Madrigal, Laney, Amity the adorable giant dire-cat and of course Tandri, our succubus, were all charming; each of them touched upon Viv’s life and shaped her character. Together they are the heart and soul which drive this novel through an enchanting, calm tale of friendship and belonging.
“I think I’d been looking for a way out for years. Adventuring, fighting, hunting bounties—you’re either bleeding yourself slow from a hundred wounds or waiting on one deathblow. But you get numb to the possibility of anything different. This was the first time something else made me feel a way I wanted to keep feeling.”
During the day to day life of running a coffee shop Viv and her friends unwittingly build a safe place for all, they create their own little community. Prejudices, insecurities and worries are put aside for everyone to simply enjoy a moment of pleasure filled with aromatic coffee, lively music and the mouth-watering taste of sweet treats. A little warning, this book really does make you hungry! On the surface, this novel is the perfect escapist read, yet as the novel heads towards its climax, Baldree dives a touch deeper and reflects upon the theme of reinventing yourself, of rebuilding your life when it knocks you down, of striving to be better. The message of learning to love and accept yourself is prominent throughout, not just in Viv, but the other characters too. It is what makes Legends and Lattes one of the most heartfelt, adorable books I’ve ever read.
Quite frankly, Baldree delivers a tale to soothe the soul, a tale which had me smiling and crying with happiness from beginning to end.
“Viv leaned on the counter, studying their faces, and saw, at last, what she’d been too nervous to hope for. She found it in half-lidded eyes and a slow, deliberate swallow. In cupped hands around the warmth of a mug and the lingering enjoyment of the last taste. It was the echo of her own experience, and a pleasant flush of recognition washed over her.”
ARC provided by Jamie and Stephen at BlackCrow_Pr and UK Tor in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for the copy!
Legends and Lattes is out now!