I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.
After finishing The Sixth Discipline, I wanted to try something else by Buxton but didn't feel ready to read the book's sequel, No Safe Haven. I spent some time looking through descriptions, and Tribes sounded like it had one of the biggest things that appealed to me about The Sixth Discipline: an exploration of a fascinating sci-fi/fantasy culture. I was also intrigued by the bit about Jahnsi being from a fighting tribe.
The cultural stuff did turn out to be really interesting. I liked finding out how everything worked, from the planet's justice system, to tribal badges, to the service every tribe member was required to do. While I found the world interesting as a whole, I particularly enjoyed the little details that showed how the tribal system affected the way native Mariposans thought and behaved. For example, Jahnsi thought of LuAnne as “the Mingo” because, to Jahnsi, a person's surname is their tribe. Also, their tribal name automatically tells others what their gender is. It wasn't necessary to specify that someone was female if you said they were a Han-Lin, so the idea that a Mingo could be male or female seemed odd to Jahnsi.
Speaking of Jahnsi, I liked her. As a Han-Lin, she knew how to fight, but she wasn't a dark, gritty warrior heroine. I think that, to her, fighting was often just a job. She was very practical about it. There was always a risk of getting hurt, but she was experienced enough that she had a fairly realistic idea of what her risks were. There was one part where she decided to take on a job involving a dispute over an order of uniforms that weren't the right color. She viewed the job as a good, fairly low-risk way to earn money, because it was only going to involve hand-to-hand combat. Hob, on the other hand, was much more worried about the possibility she might get hurt.
While I wouldn't call this book a sci-fi romance, it did have some romance it in. I thought Jahnsi and Hob's relationship moved at tad fast. Hob had spent his entire life as a slave, and a good chunk of that time as a sex slave. Because the drugs the other slaves were given didn't work on him, he was fully aware of everything he was made to do. Granted, Jahnsi was different – she forced nothing on him. I still thought things went a little more quickly and smoothly between them than they should have. They were a couple after maybe eleven days (or less?). LuAnne and Forest's relationship also started fairly quickly, but it was more believable to me because neither one of them had gone through the lifetime of abuse that Hob had gone through.
I spent much of the book very curious about what would happen once LuAnne found Hob. Would he be willing to go to his aunt? Would he be forced to go if he wasn't? What was going to happen between him and Jahnsi? I absolutely did not expect what did happen, not even with the hints (like Hob's brain implant) that there was a little more to the situation than just an aunt looking for her long-lost nephew. I wasn't really happy with the way things developed. I'm trying to avoid spoilers, but...well, it felt a little Borg-like and creepy. And the romance-loving part of me was disappointed by the ending. I suppose some people might feel that things end on a positive note for Jahnsi and Hob, but I had serious doubts that their relationship was going to last long, since there was already strong evidence that Hob felt the duties of his new life took precedence over his own wishes. I could easily imagine his aunt forcing him into an arranged marriage, and I seriously doubt Jahnsi would be willing to stand by and be his mistress. LuAnne and Forest's relationship was actually more satisfying to me than Jahnsi and Hob's – an unusual feeling for me, since I tend to identify more with younger couples in books than older ones.
Hmm, what else? This is a bit spoiler-y, but I loved that Andre Ortega got what was coming to him. He was horrible. Also, I was not a fan of the number of times (two, I think?) that Hob had his ability to make choices for himself taken away from him by people he should have been able to trust. Especially considering his history as a slave, he didn't hold this against those people for nearly as long as I thought he should have. And, ugh, Jahnsi's reaction after she found out the shocker that was the identity of one of Hob's former customers. Hob didn't deserve that, although at least she realized pretty quickly she was out of line.
All in all, Buxton's turning out to be a good author for me when I need a "interesting sci-fi culture" fix. Her characters sometimes act in ways that make me rage at them, but I still get a decent-to-good read overall.
(Original review, with read-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)