Legends and Lattes: An easy read for coffee lovers and retired adventurers
Emily Sara Rizzo reviews Travis Baldree’s debut novel, Legends and Lattes.
What if coffee was the latest novelty? What if sitting down for a morning brew and a pastry was not a habit but the newest trend? And what if the person serving this exotic delicacy was a retired orc barbarian looking for a change of lifestyle? Travis Baldree sets his story in just such a world, creating a ‘novel of high fantasy and low stakes’, as it is aptly subtitled.
Moving on from audiobook narration and game development, Baldree easily makes the jump from fan to author, writing a book that will satisfy fantasy readers without burdening them with the monotonous repetition of swash-buckling tropes and adventuring stereotypes.
In what feels like an epilogue, rather than a novel in itself, Viv the orc leaves her battling days behind in exchange for an understated coffee shop and the companionship of a handful of like-minded friends. The fantasy element breeds curiosity in this new world of creatures called rattkins and succubi, but is downplayed enough to make the setting seem familiar and cosy. Readers can easily get comfy with the straightforward storyline and the recognisable characters once they get into the thick of the book and settle down with their own warm beverage to enjoy some light reading. Although, that’s exactly what this novel amounts to: a bit of light reading.
Readers can easily get comfy with the straightforward storyline and the recognisable characters once they get into the thick of the book
Anyone looking for an intellectually challenging or profoundly dramatic storyline should take a pass on this particular novel. If this doesn’t put you off, the only thing left to challenge your enthusiasm is the first few pages of over-keen writing and unnecessarily flowery language. This stumble at the starting line is unfortunate, but once you’ve chewed your way through the wordy beginning, it’s plain sailing for the remaining two hundred or so pages. And yes, two hundred pages may seem a bit excessive for a plot whose twists and turns are as predictable as the moral teaching to appreciate the ‘friends you make along the way’, but this is all a part of its simplicity and charm.
It is indeed a story of making a fresh start and bringing together unlikely individuals in a found family, and the familiarity of this trope could comfort some readers, while lulling others into indifference. Whilst romance is certainly not lacking in this novel, the narrative of a lesbian couple of societal outcasts is so obscure that we are never quite sure what statement the author is trying to make. Regardless of this ambiguity, the feel-good story is a plain and simple tale stemming from the pop culture of fantasy novels, games, and films, and will inevitably appeal to this particular niche of fans.
The narrative of a lesbian couple of societal outcasts is so obscure that we are never quite sure what statement the author is trying to make.
Whether the on-the-nose stereotypes get you hooked or discourage you from reading the novel all together, I would recommend taking a crack at it, if not for a relaxing way of killing the time, then at least to try and recreate the pastries using the recipe in the back of the book. For a debut novel, Baldree has certainly displayed his world-building skills, but readers may be left wanting more by the end of the story.