Book Review: Legends and Lattes and Bookshops and Bonedust by Travis Baldree

Book Review by Kamryn Kronschnabel, Patrons

To say I get “flack” for reading fantasy isn’t exactly accurate, but I get the sense that most of our library patrons don’t quite know holegends.pngw to react when I tell them fantasy is my favorite genre. This isn’t the case with everyone, of course, but I imagine most people who don’t read fantasy picture that I’m talking about books that involve high stakes and convoluted worldbuilding (Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is a classic example). Certainly, fantasy books like that exist, but I’m here to pitch two of our newer fantasy books that don’t fit that particular archetype - Legends & Lattes and Bookshops & Bonedust, a duology by Travis Baldree. 


Legends & Lattes is the first of the two  and is, in a sense, the adventure after the adventure. The fantasy setting Baldree places us in certainly involves magic and different creatures you wouldn’t find in our world, but our main character is an adventurer who’s tired of swinging her sword to make a living and is ready for a second career. Specifically, she wants to open up a coffee shop… in a city that, we find out quickly, has no idea what coffee is (the lore mentions it as a gnomish invention, which makes me laugh every time). This character, Viv, has a relatively low-key adventure in creating and running her cafe. She has to befriend a carpenter to help her fix up a building; she has to hire help to run the place; she has to figure out how to entice the locals to give coffee a try; she has to deal with the local mafia that “protects the neighborhood” (yes, really); but most importantly, she has to figure out how to do it all diplomatically, rather than resorting to intimidation or violence the way an ex-adventurer would be expected to. It’s a book that, if I can admit as much, didn’t initially sound that interesting but really surprised me with its character portrayals and their growth along the way. 


If that sounds interesting but perhaps a little too low-key, its prequel, Bookshops & Bonedust, is more than acceptable as a stand-alone or as a place to start the story. It follows the same main character, Viv, but it takes place when she’s significantly younger and makes some stupid mistakes as a new adventurer. An injury on her first paid adventuring job means she gets laid up in a small, quiet seaside town away from the action she longs to be involved in, and she strikes up friendships with a few locals, including the owner of a failing bookshop. While it has several of the same themes as Legends & Lattes, it has more action in it - it becomes apparent that Viv might not be as far away from the adventure as she thought, starting with a mysterious bookshop browser who gives everyone the creeps. This book technically comes second because of an epilogue that (minorly) spoils Viv’s adventure opening a coffee shop, but I’d be remiss to judge anyone who reads them in the “wrong” order. 


This duology is especially good for someone wanting to try a high fantasy, meaning set in a fantasy world that bears only some resemblance to our own. There may be different races of creatures that all work together, but Baldree describes them all succinctly and never in an overwhelming way - Viv herself is an orc with a large stature and tusks, while other characters are humans, elves, dwarves, and beyond. Similarly, while magic exists, it helps substantially that Viv herself doesn’t use any, meaning that magic only pops up occasionally and comes with a brief explanation when relevant. Folks who dislike Tolkien-style lore will also appreciate how Baldree mentions history and politics rarely, and when brought up it’s only on a need-to-know basis. It’s no surprise to me that one of Legends & Lattes’ taglines was, at one point, “A novel of high fantasy and low stakes.” It’s an absolute delight of a duology, and I hope other readers come to the library to check them out. 

Legends & Lattes and Bookshops & Bonedust are both currently owned by Charles City Public Library as physical copies, and both can be found on BRIDGES and Libby as ebooks and audiobooks. Check them out in an electronic format by logging on to Libby, or come in or call to check out our print copies!