I have not had the best of luck when authors whose work I enjoy recommend other stuff; I was definitely uncertain about Seanan McGuire’s recent recommendation since some of her tastes (inclination towards horror specifically) do not match my own. However, Legends and Lattes went on $1 sale for Kindle, and I figured, why not at least try it, it sounds like it might be ok. It was not ok; it was perfect (almost).
Legends and Lattes takes a lot of very standard tropes but does not limit itself to fantasy. From fantasy we get a series of characters who fit into the basic D&D campaign, as in the barbarian (orc Viv), the rogue (Fennus), assassin, etc. Viv is the main character, and at the beginning of the novel, we see her finishing up what she hopes is her last mission. Viv dreams of getting out of that business, and she’s saved up for a long time and waited to get one more special item so that she can go off somewhere and start her own business as a purveyor of the gnomish delicacy ‘coffee’ or ‘bean water’ as the hob builder Cal calls it. From the cozy found family mystery, you eventually get the competent business girl new hire (a succubus named Tandri), caffeine addict genius baker (rattkin named Thimble), mascot (a dire-cat named Amity) and even the nosey neighbor (human Laney).
There’s also the typical café crowd from the mysterious old guy (if you know your fantasy tropes, this one might make more sense) and college student there to use the wi-fi (or ley lines in this case). The café even acquires a musician to play live music some nights, and maybe inspire some new business. If you’ve spent much time in coffee shops, you will totally recognize quite a few of the eventual clientele.
The story goes from seeing if Viv can pull off setting up a business with a product most everyone in Thune has ever heard of, to threats from without the café and within; there’s a local equivalent of a mob boss (the Madrigal) shaking Viv down, a former team-mate Viv never liked lurking around, and some tension (maybe the good kind?) with one of her staff. Obviously there are setbacks and triumphs, some explained directly, some not, although again, if you know your tropes you can guess what happens to the main trouble maker at the end, even if the story isn’t explicit. This actually is a good example of playing with expectations since that kind of encounter could really only end in two ways, and it’s up to your own head-canon which one you see. The only question I have that kind of bugs me is the ‘stone fey’; does that mean troll or something more like a fey with some connection to the natural element?
In the end, this is a total feel-good kind of story that doesn’t try to be too new, but works with its traditions in a way that I’d like to see more of, although I do rather understand why this isn’t a series, since that might take some of the imagination out of what could happen off-page.