Legends & Lattes: what is cosy fantasy? Or, how to make yourself hungry by reading descriptions of cake

This week:

  • I try to nail down what cosy fantasy is
  • Travis Baldree becomes a one-click author for me
  • The mouth-watering descriptions of pastries made me hungry
Legends & Lattes front cover

Legends and Lattes (2022) by Travis Baldree

If you’ve been anywhere near the internet recently, you’ve seen this book popping up all over the place.

In just over three months, it has got over 7,000 reviews on Goodreads.  And most of them are five stars.

Travis Baldree is that rare inspirational tale of an author who self-published a book, which became a massive hit (and rightly so) and was so successful that a traditional publisher came knocking.  What that means for us fans is that it’s gone on sale in bricks-and-mortar book shops and we can get our hands on a physical copy, rather than just an e-book version from Amazon.

I love that this Cosy Fantasy story has taken off in such a big way.  I am also hoping that it will lead to a spree of other Cosy Fantasy novels because they just became my favourite thing ever.

The premise of Legends & Lattes

Viv is an orc barbarian who has spent decades adventuring.  That means fighting and killing monsters.  It has taken its toll on her body and her spirit.

At the start of the novel, Viv gives up her life of adventuring, retiring her blade, Blackblood, and committing to a civilian life in the city of Thune.  She finds the perfect place for her new coffee shop, buys the property and begins renovating it, with a little help from a carefully-chosen carpenter.

Gradually, Viv hires new people and draws in more customers.  She has to contend with new-business-owner problems such as purchasing stock, hiring, pricing, and coming to a non-fatal arrangement with the local gangsters.

Cosy fantasy

The tag line is: a novel of high fantasy and low stakes.

This totally sets up what to expect from this book.  In fact, it was far more action-packed and high-stakes than I expected.  There were scheming gangsters, rogue adventurers, arson, assassination attempts…

If you don’t quite know what cosy fantasy is (and defining a genre is always tricky and everyone disagrees anyway) then think of it as playing D&D but instead of fighting monsters, your adventurers are taking some time off, sitting round in the tavern, making a few coins with some odd manual labour jobs, chatting and gossiping about the town they’re in and thinking they must get round to polishing their armour at some point.

Legends and Lattes has high stakes for the protagonists – their livelihoods and even their lives – but there is little to no consequence for anyone else.

They are just a handful of people who are trying to make a living plying an honest trade.  They are not important people and their victory won’t change the world.  The whole story is personal and, though there is danger to them, it doesn’t feel like the Final Battle or anything.  It’s just another day.

Audio book

I listened to the audible version of this, narrated by Travis Baldree (the author) and it was six hours of perfect bliss.

It’s always interesting to me when authors narrate their own books.  In the case of Travis Baldree – who is a professional audiobook narrator – I knew I was in safe hands.

I always wonder whether it’s better for the author to narrate, if they can.  They know the book so well.  They created the characters.  They know the pitch and the tone they imagined when they wrote it.

Needless to say, I enjoyed it very much.  It was a soft, smooth narrative.  More than anything, it reminded me of the children’s books I used to listen to on cassette tape (showing my age here!) at bedtime when I was a kid.  It was a very safe space.  I loved it.

All the cake

Delicious descriptions of everyday things like building, chatting, making drinks and eating and drinking with friends.

It reminds me of the Redwall series, in the calm parts between the action and adventure, when the good creatures of Redwall Abbey would gather round and feast.  If you’re looking for something with that cosy feel to it, then Legends & Lattes is a great choice.

It also has the lovingly detailed descriptions of pastries and drinks, in the same way that the Redwall feasts are described.  Yes, both made me very hungry.

I took a friend to a local café after reading this because I just wanted cake so much.

The descriptions of Danish pastries and pain au chocolat were so lovingly detailed.  And I could feel the characters trying them for the first time.

Romance

Viv herself is a bit oblivious to the romantic undertones in her relationship with Tandri.  It’s endearing, actually.

In terms of how much space it takes up in the story, the romance is very small.  The book is described in the blurb as ‘a hot cup of fantasy slice-of-life with a dollop of romantic froth’ and that fits it perfectly.  Also, kudos for the latte metaphor.

Even though it’s a definite sub-plot, some of the most beautiful moments are when these two characters stick up for each other or challenge each other.

Characters

The first-person narrative means we get Viv’s perspective on everything.  I don’t tend to be one of these readers who thinks it would have been better to get a POV from another character if the author has chosen not to do that.  I assume they chose it for a reason.

However, some of the characters feel very surface-level and I would have liked some more information about them, their ambitions or their past.  Many of them flit into the café, have a chat, do their thing, and then leave.  In some ways, that is great because it’s exactly like real life.  And the blurb warned me that it was a slice-of-life story, which tends to be… not unfinished, exactly, but leaving things open for more to come as life simply goes on.

Having said that, the characters are well-drawn and distinct.  I was never confused about which customer was which because they were so individual.

I wanted to know more about Thimble/adopt him as my very own son.  I think the Thimble fanbase out there will agree.

Conclusion

Legends and Lattes is a solid book to read or listen to if you’re in the mood for something affirming and fun.

I have always loved cosy fantasy, only I could never name it.

Now I have a name for it, I know what to search for.

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