Today on the blog Rose Atkinson-Carter provides her thoughts on Travis Baldree's Legends & Lattes. Of all the books I've picked up after learning they are TikTok sensations, Baldree's is my favorite. Read on to discover why today's guest blogger enjoyed this cozy fantasy.
Until recently, I’d never before read, nor heard of, cozy fantasy. My previous run-ins with the fantasy genre tended toward traditional epics or the grimdark variety that’s been popular in the last decade. But after reading Legends & Lattes, I can confidently say that I’ll be back for more cozy slice-of-life stories set in fantastical universes.
Travis Baldree’s whimsical entry into the burgeoning subgenre of cozy fantasy centers on an orc who’s setting up a coffee shop. In the fifteen months since it hit the shelves, the book has received dozens of stellar reviews and a Hugo nomination for best novel. And it’s no wonder. In a landscape dominated by epics and grimdark stories, Legends & Lattes is a breath of fresh air.
The main character, Viv, is a typical fantasy novel protagonist: an adventurer with a big sword and a bloody past. When she hangs up her sword for a quieter life, she discovers that opening up the coffee shop of her dreams comes with its own unique challenges. As she struggles to set up shop and makes new friends, Viv offers us a hopeful vision that’s often absent in fantasy. In this world, you can find peace and leave the past behind.
Maybe the biggest theme of the story is the importance (and wonder) of found family. A cast of charming supporting characters populates the story, including Tandri, a down-on-her-luck succubus that just wants to be a barista, and Thimble, the world’s cutest anthropomorphic rat (and an inventive baker to boot). As these characters find themselves drawn into Viv’s orbit, they quickly realize that they can help each other achieve their dreams, whatever they might be. It’s a reminder that people really can be good and that the world isn’t always such a dark and hopeless place.
I should mention that Legends & Lattes isn’t just a procession of nice interactions devoid of conflict — it’s just that the ‘threat' isn't quite what we’re used to in fantasy. The world isn’t in danger of ending. Society isn’t on the verge of falling apart. However, Viv does have to contend with the difficulties and setbacks of being an entrepreneur and protect her business and her friends from a mob racket. The story is engaging and riveting without the usual “all is lost” moments of despair as the protagonist faces her challenges (and ultimately triumphs).
This is fantasy without the death-defying stakes, an escape into a magical world, but one that isn’t full of peril at every turn. In some ways, it’s like a warm hug and a return to the fairy tales of our childhood, just a little more dressed up. You can get lost in a new world and a fun story without worrying that your favorite character will die.
If you’re looking for an antidote to the darkness and solemnity of modern fantasy, I’d say Legends & Lattes take on cozy fantasy might be exactly what you’re looking for. It reminds you that the world can be good, that there’s nothing you can’t do with a little help from your friends, and that, sometimes, all you need in life is a hot cup of coffee and a flaky pastry.
About the Author
Rose Atkinson-Carter writes for the Reedsy blog and when not buried in the pages of a good book, or writing one herself, likes to talk all things publishing. Whether guiding authors through the audiobook process, recommending the perfect writing software for writers, or helping others bring their ideas to life, it’s all a part of the joy of publishing.