Like much of the fantasy book world, I was surprised to find out that audiobook narrator extraordinaire Travis Baldree would be releasing a fantasy novel he wrote himself. I’d loved his performance of Will Wight’s Cradle, Tao Wong’s Thousand Li, and several others, but I wasn’t sure what to expect from him as a storyteller.

I knew I’d eventually get to Legends and Lattes, but after seeing rave reviews just about everywhere, and then hearing news that TOR had acquired it, this sapphic cozy high fantasy moved to the summit of Mount TBR (or TBL, as the case may be).

And wow.

I’ve read many a book from a new self-published author where the story was so good, it didn’t matter if the prose was filled with passive voice, unnecessary adverbs, repetitive sentence structures, jolting saidisms, and other marks of questionable writing craft.

This was not the case with Legends & Lattes.

Whether it’s because Travis has studied craft, or just narrates so many books that he absorbed writing craft through osmosis, it’s a stunningly-well done story at every level.

Not only is the prose easy to get immersed in, but Legends & Lattes’ expansive cast of characters are easy to fall in love with, and the worldbuilding is clever. The latter embraces Dungeons and Dragons tropes with a twist. From classic fantasy races to classic fantasy professions, it feels like a D&D romp—or at least, what happens to a compelling orc protagonist after she decide to hang her sword up and open a coffee shop with a gnomish bean grinder.

That, alone, should be enough to get you to pick up this book.

But if it’s not enough, how about a succubus academic, a bard experimenting with heavy metal, or a wererat baker? They’re all part of a feel-good found family story, mixed in with a little bit of video game where you build a world or country or business from the ground up.

There’s no quest to save the world from demon invasion, or conquests in empire building, or reuniting fractured kingdoms; but you will become so attached to the characters that even the low stakes will keep you flipping the pages—or at least, continuing to listen.

Because really, that’s where the story shines.

While Travis does an amazing job at narrating other people’s books, there’s something to be said when an author performs their own book; yet it requires a completely different skill set. While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Virginia McClain narrating her own SPFBO finalist, Blade’s Edge, Jean Lowe Carlson reading Blackmark, and Barry Eisler performing Night Trade, even these audiobooks don’t compare to a full-time, award-winning narrator reading in a professional studio in the voice he hears in his own head.

I rate Legends & Lattes an arbitrary 9 out of 10 stars.

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By JC Kang

JC Kang’s unhealthy obsession with fantasy and sci-fi began at an early age when his brother introduced him to The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, Star Trek and Star Wars. As an adult, he combines his geek roots with his professional experiences as a Chinese Medicine doctor, martial arts instructor, and technical writer to pen epic fantasy stories. He’s recently gotten into audiobooks to listen to while burning off his middle-aged mid-section. JC now runs the TikTok-famous sword store RVA Katana, which has cut deeply into his writing endeavors. You can follow him on Twitter @JCKang804 and TikTok @authorjckang.

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