Audiobook Review: Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Macmillan Audio (June 14, 2022)
Length: 6 hrs and 22 mins
Travis Baldree is a name I recognize back from playing Torchlight, and it seems in the years since his days at Runic Games he’s been keeping busy, narrating audiobooks and now authoring Legends & Lattes, a novel he describes as a low-stakes cozy fantasy.
I know it’s supremely rare to come across anything that live up to their advertised appeal, but that’s exactly what this book is—a heartwarming story that is entirely comfortable in its own skin, simply content to deliver this quiet little tale about an Orc barbarian who retires from a warrior life to open her own coffee shop.
Not much more to that, really. Readers follow Viv as she arrives in Thune, a city remarkable for its classic Dungeons & Dragons vibes and the fact that no one has ever heard of coffee. Our entrepreneurial protagonist quickly sees an opportunity to remedy that by establishing the town’s first café, but with most of her experience being in waging war and bloody battles, she has not a clue on how to build or run a business. Enter her new friends who all pitch in to lend a hand. Among them are Tandri, a succubus who brings her artistic talents and managerial assistance, and Cal, a hob carpenter who helps Viv create a sign for the shop and bestows upon it a name—Legends & Lattes.
This “slice of life” style of storytelling depicting the everyday experience of our characters suits the tone of the novel well, namely because it is completely without pretension and doesn’t claim to break new ground. Even the world, filled with its many races of humanoids and different magical creatures, would be familiar to fans of Tolkien, D&D, or World of Warcraft and the like. Plot development is on the lighter side, and any real conflict is close to non-existent.
It’s easy to see how a book like this would find an audience in today’s climate of uncertainty, when everyone is looking for escapism in comfort, some calm in the storm. Legends & Lattes might not offer much in the way of action or thrills or twists, but it’s like a warm hug in literary form. It also features interesting, authentic feeling characters who embody the true meaning of friendship, togetherness, and support. It’s cozy, it’s adorable, and it’s sweet.
If that is what you’re looking for, then I think you’ll enjoy Legends & Lattes very much. It’s definitely a mood read of a sort—like you have to be in a certain frame of mind to really get into it. For many fantasy fans, the fact that it feels so different from a lot of what’s coming out of the genre lately, that by itself is probably going to be a huge selling point, despite there being virtually no surprises, no chance of heartbreak, and no danger at all to the characters.
Refreshing as that may be, I’m going to be completely honest here—just as being a mood read can play to the book’s advantage, it can be a drawback as well. Once I got into the rhythm of the first half, realizing we were never moving much further beyond that, I found it more difficult to stay focused. I think I needed more…something. Maybe a little more excitement? Warm fuzzy feelings can only get me so far, after all.
At the end of the day, a simple story can be awesome, but still be a shallow experience. That’s not to knock Legends & Lattes too much though, because ultimately I did enjoy it a lot. It was a nice break from the hustle and bustle of most epic fantasy novels, and quite truthfully, it probably scratched an itch I didn’t even know I had. If you’re in the mood for a more stimulating read, I would suggest you look elsewhere, but if you go into this knowing what it’s all about and that it’s what you want, you will not be disappointed.
Kudos also to Travis Baldree, who not so surprisingly also narrated his own book. It’s always a treat to have author-narrated books, provided they are talented and experienced voice actors like in this case, because you know they will give you the exact audio experience they want you to have. This was a totally chill listen, perfectly wonderful and relaxing.