After a lifetime as an archetypal fantasy hero—embarking on quests, slaying monsters, collecting loot, etc.—Viv the orc is ready to settle down. Inspired by a revolutionary gnome creation called coffee, all she wants is to open a cafe in the bustling city of Thune. Starting a brand-new business, however, is a lot harder than it looks, even for someone in possession of a legendary artifact and a sack full of silver. A mafia-esque group is looking for a “monthly involuntary donation” from every business on the block, figures from Viv’s past life as a warrior keep popping up and, worst of all, students are taking up the seating without even buying a cup of coffee. Ugh. Thankfully, Viv has buddies Cal, Tandri and Thimble to help her on her most arduous journey yet.
This cozy slice-of-life adventure (which was originally self-published and quickly went viral on BookTok) is Stardew Valley meets Dungeons & Dragons; it’s perfect for fantasy fans who don’t always want their stories grimdark and bloody. Legends & Lattes keeps a sedate pace as it follows the rise of Viv’s cafe, letting the reader spend quality time in its endearing world while Viv tries out various strategies to introduce a populace to a drink they’ve never heard of and get them to come back for more. In the process, Baldree casts a light on the lesser-seen elements of a fantasy world: its everyday citizens and more commonplace happenings that deserve attention just as much as high-born heroes and epic quests.
Some readers may find Viv’s adventures a little too low stakes and the plot predictable, but that’s part of Legends & Lattes’ atmospheric allure. It feels like a book to read by the fireplace (especially if that fireplace happens to be at an inn where heroes rest on their way toward the next stage of a quest). Those looking for a more peaceful story set in a world reminiscent of the fantasy landscapes they love will adore Legends & Lattes—and keep an eye out for Baldree’s next charming tale.