Book Title: They Met in a Tavern by Elijah Menchaca
Category: Adult Fiction (18 +), 416 pages
Publisher: CamCat Books
Release date: September 2022 (paperback); August 2021 (hardcover)
Content Rating: PG-13. There are a lot of fighting scenes and some language, but nothing excessive or graphic.
They used to be heroes . . . and it was all downhill from there.
The Starbreakers were your classic teenage heroes. Using their combined powers and skills, they were the most successful group of glintchasers in Corsar. But that all changed the day the city of Relgen died. The group went their separate ways, placing the blame on each other.
Brass carried on as a solo act. Snow found work as a notorious assassin. Church became a town’s spiritual leader. Angel was the owner of a bar and inn. And after overcoming his own guilt, Phoenix started a new life as a family man.
Seven years after their falling out, a hefty bounty is placed on their heads. Phoenix tries to reunite the Starbreakers before everything they have left is taken from them. But a lot can change in seven years. And if mending old wounds was easy, they would have done it a long time ago.
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I received a copy of They Met in a Tavern for an honest review. What follows is my opinion and mine alone. There was no compensation for this review.
It’s not often that a book spurs memories for me and you wouldn’t think a fantasy book would make that happen, but They Met in a Tavern did just that. The title and blurb itself gave me heavy Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) vibes. If you are a TTRPG player, you know the common tropes where you have a five man band who often meet in a tavern. It is because of this that I requested to read and review it.
I’m glad I did.
Aside from a pretty cover, the book is fun. I fell in love with Brass right away and just kept falling in love with the others as they appeared. The action is strong, innovative, and changes depending on which character is fighting. For instance, Brass likes to make quips as he’s fighting whereas Phoenix is asking the hard questions or just focusing on finishing. You see the characters as their own in their dialogue and methods of action (a feat I find difficult to do as an author).
Elijah Menchaca successfully made a D&D campaign into a book. I can’t help wondering if he plays. Did he pull from his own gaming if so? What is his favorite class? Important questions deserve important answers.
I laughed. I got anxious. I was constantly putting down the book to tell someone what I just read. They Met in a Tavern is definitely an enjoyable read for fantasy readers. If you aren’t bothered with a possible nostalgia feel, this is a good book. I definitely recommend. Hell, I might reread this book. Can we have it be a show? I want that too.
GUEST POST FROM THE AUTHOR
“They Met in a Tavern’ Anti-Love Triangle”
Anyone who’s been in a book club with me will know I love romance in books. I love romantic subplots, I routinely spoil books for myself because I’m too impatient to get to the resolution of said plots, and I am constantly shipping characters I encounter regardless of authorial intent.
And yet despite that, I ended up choosing to take a very different approach to romance within They Met in a Tavern. Since the story was taking place years after the kind that would have a “standard” romantic subplot, I wanted to take the opportunity to explore some of the later stages of relationships we don’t normally see in fiction—and because I did it with only three characters, I ended up with something that resembled a love triangle without actually being a love triangle.
Phoenix and Elizabeth
With most fiction hyper-fixated on the “falling in love” stage of romance, I hear all the time that we don’t get to see characters just being in a committed, long term relationship. So I wanted to show that.
Phoenix and Elizabeth very firmly and obviously love each other, to the degree they can fight and disagree without it ever feeling like the relationship is in any real danger. They’ve hit that stage where they just understand and can straight up predict each other, and they support each other, and it’s just nice to watch them interact. Also their baby is adorable.
Phoenix and Snow
Opposite side of the coin, when they were younger, Phoenix and Snow were the couple in the fantasy series who had the “falling in love” romantic subplot. They flirted, they danced around it, they got together . . . and then they broke up.
The thing about exes in fiction is that two characters basically never get introduced as exes without them getting back together. And I didn’t want to do that. I wanted instead to just explore the dynamic of two people who know each other on a very deep and intimate level, and you can feel that lingering connection that never really goes away, but also with this degree of separation that muddies things. They know all each other’s secrets, they don’t hate each other anymore, but they’re not in that stage where you look back at the relationship and laugh yet either. They’re in this very unique liminal space, and I kind of love getting them to interact because of it.
Snow and Elizabeth
All that being said, this is unironically my favorite duo within the triangle, even if its existence probably gives Phoenix panic attacks. It was massively important to me that Snow and Elizabeth’s relationship was not defined by any kind of jealousy or resent over Phoenix. Snow doesn’t want him back, Elizabeth doesn’t feel threatened, none of that.
Instead, Phoenix is almost this shared experience that brings them into each other’s lives, and once they’re together, it turns out they could actually really respect each other and could very easily be friends. That’s the real escapist fantasy of They Met in a Tavern. Not the magic, not the life of adventure and excitement—drama-free interactions with your partner’s ex.
Elijah Menchaca is a Puerto Rican author born and raised in Bakersfield, California, and has been writing and telling stories since he was five. He moved across the country to chase a few dreams and learn how to put his own pants on. So far, he’s discovered a love for Dungeons & Dragons, graduated from the University of Louisville with a minor in creative writing, successfully tricked a brilliant scientist into marrying him, and in 2021 released his first novel in the Glintchasers series, They Met in a Tavern.
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