How did I not know about cozy fantasy books? Thanks to Tor Books for the gifted read.
High Fantasy with a double-shot of self-reinvention.
Worn out after decades of packing steel and raising hell, Viv the orc barbarian cashes out of the warrior’s life with one final score. A forgotten legend, a fabled artifact, and an unreasonable amount of hope lead her to the streets of Thune, where she plans to open the first coffee shop the city has ever seen.
However, her dreams of a fresh start pulling shots instead of swinging swords are hardly a sure bet. Old frenemies and Thune’s shady underbelly may just upset her plans. To finally build something that will last, Viv will need some new partners and a different kind of resolve.
A hot cup of fantasy slice-of-life with a dollop of romantic froth.
Wow, I wish I knew about cozy fantasy books sooner because I would be all over that genre. This is all the cozy you want from a book with fantasy elements to it, so if you’re either a fan of fantasy books or of cozy books, you’ll get a little bit of something here.
The emphasis on this book is more cozy than fantasy, so folks who are used to high fantasy elements, lots of backstory, and tons of world building may not get the kind of book that they want. I mean, those cozy mysteries are emphasis on cozy than mystery, so you can pretty much the same here. However, it definitely doesn’t lack in the fantasy elements. You have various different fantasy creatures and magical elements playing throughout the story. You get enough about the world to keep you going, but I will admit I wanted to know more about Viv and her background as a ruthless orc who killed for hire. But I didn’t mind learning about Viv’s lighter side especially as she journeyed to open her own cafe selling a drink no one has ever heard of in a town she just moved to.
The characters were really the driving force of the story. I loved Viv and her background. I loved hearing about Tandri and how she’d been discriminated because of who she is and how she found a safe space at the coffee shop. I absolutely loved the regulars and of course, I loved the cat. Every character really brought something to the world and made it feel so realistic. You had the regular who never orders anything, the person who sits in the corner contemplating a game of chess, the folks who walk in and out of the cafe everyday with the hopes of digging into a good cup of coffee and a warm pastry. It really brought a sense of comfort and I couldn’t help imagining myself at one of those cafe tables quietly reading my book and observing everyone going about their business.
I think what I loved the most about this story is Viv’s journey. You don’t know what kind of life she had, but you know it was hard and her decision to open her own cafe was self-care at its finest. I was just imagining her picking up her sword and fighting off villains, but I loved that she puts her sword up on the wall and focuses her time on making delicious cups of coffee.
The inclusion of coffee in a world where there’s no coffee was so clever. I loved watching Viv and Tandri try to sell something no one has ever tried or even heard of. The way that it’s included in the story breaks a bit of the fantasy of the world, but at the same time I found myself giving props to Travis Baldree for taking something so coveted in the real world and making it an anomaly in this fantasy world. It really made me happy to see everyone trying it out for the first time and the excitement it brings to the small town.
Of course, coffee can’t be served alone and when they introduce pastries to the shop, I was definitely in love. Similarly to the coffee, Baldree introduces these real-world elements to the story as if they’re new ideas and the excitement and reception they get from the characters really makes you believe that there may be some magic in a cinnamon roll. The descriptions of the food were incredible and really made me wish I had a chocolate croissant and warm latte next to me.
No story isn’t without its conflict and I really loved how this one plays out. It felt almost like a mafia story where the wise guys come to the cafe threatening to burn the place down if they didn’t pay for existing. I really loved how that intertwines with the business and made a lot of sense in the world. I also loved that there was a little bit of conflict with Viv’s past. You may not know everything that happened in her life prior to becoming a barista, but you know enough to know that the people coming to mess with her are from that dark past and Viv needs to do something about it.
Overall, this book left me with a giant smile on my face. I loved the characters and following along with them as they literally built a coffee shop in a world where coffee is the newest thing anyone could have tried. I think this might have opened up an entire genre of books for me to check out.