TRIBAL AFFAIRS is a sweet little romance, almost Disney-esque in places, but there is a sharper, older, darker edge to it that adds complexity and suspense to the story. Liana, the heroine, has had enough battles with her mother’s (presumed) madness and her own emotional struggles to keep her from being an absolute innocent. But when she is thrown into a whole different world and set of assumptions, her gentleness and compassion serve as anchors for her amidst the sometimes casual cruelty of the djinni, grounding her and giving her purpose and focus. Taffi, the Ifrit who serves as her guide, has a few of his own assumptions to challenge about both sides of Liana’s heritage as well. Their growth, individually and together, makes them an appealing couple, worth rooting for. It’s also nice to see not one but two supportive and encouraging father figures, neither of whom seriously try to overprotect or limit their daughter figure’s autonomy and agency, but encourage her to reach her full potential.
Author Matt Dallmann doesn’t shy away from the darker sides of fantasy, including slavery (both human and djinn), the matter-of-fact Ifrit assumption that humans are selfish and compassion-less beings who will automatically try to bind and use any genie they interact with, the damage done to Liana’s family by the jealous Stefan, the djinni hierarchy that leaves those on the low end of the scale abused and mistreated, and the mistrust, suspicion, and prejudice that threatens war between factions. Neither of Liana’s two worlds are perfect or idealized, and she has to learn to cope with the flaws of each.
The dialogue feels a bit stilted in places, and sometimes the emotions feel like they are over-explained rather than shown through action and reaction, but the descriptive language and the scene-setting are lovely, almost poetic. The story of Liana’s genie ancestress is woven through Liana’s own, reflecting it and balancing it until it comes full circle – one woman a genie who already found her true love but must now deal with the consequences, and the other a woman who, in the course of settling those consequences, finds love herself. It’s an intriguing take on a standard fantasy trope, particularly good for the softhearted and romantic reader who doesn’t mind a little darkness as long as there’s hope for light and love.
TRIBAL AFFAIRS is a poetically written romantic fairy tale that manages to be quite charming without losing its darker edge.
~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader