• The Good: Cute, cozy, and wholesome
  • The Bad: Lacking tension, action, and plot
  • The Literary: Nominated for a Nebula award, this is what readers want right now

Vis is tired of her life of bounties and fighting, so she decides to hang up her sword and start fresh. Nearly everyone in the center of Thune is surprised to see an orc open a coffee shop, because orcs are orcs, and, also, no one knows what coffee is. Tea, sure. But bean juice?

This is one of the sweetest little stories I’ve read in a long time. Viv is trying to do something new with her life, more than what’s expected of her, going out on a limb, and not sure what she’s doing will be successful. She’s used to working alone, but in her new life, she learns to depend on and ultimately care for the people in her life. The true reward is friendship, and maybe a little cross-species f/f romance too.

This cozy and wholesome tale is set against a backdrop of steaming cups of coffee and flaky pastry, amongst the din of clinking cups and quiet conversation. There’s also a lodestone and some shady characters who threaten her plans, but they don’t add much tension. The small plotlines are fine, but they only exist to show that the real magic lies in community, believing in the kindness of strangers, and cherishing the small everyday moments of a quiet life.

Unfortunately, the sweetness isn’t tempered by another flavor. This story is a one-trick pony, lacking tension and plot and worldbuilding. I am looking for more in a Nebula-nominated work, hence the lower star rating.

Recommended if you are in need of a slice-of-life feel-good short fantasy and you love the ambience of coffee shops.