3 out of 4 stars
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When I read in the blurb that A Tribal Rumble – A Safari Campfire Tale by Peter Riva had not only Africa, elephants, and conservation, but also a style similar to Alexander McCall Smith, there was no way that I was turning this book down. Luckily, what unfolded was a wonderful story, full of hope and bravery, set amongst the beautiful backdrop of East Africa.
Mbunu is a revered tracker in the safari circuit, having hired his services out to tourists over the years in order to financially support his village. Situated outside a National Park, his tribe, the Liangulu, has firm traditions intertwining with the local wildlife, especially the elephants. Mbunu has an incredible bond with them and he uses this, with the help of Carol and Tom, a couple from a rescue center, to save a herd. When Carol sees Mbunu´s way with the elephants, she´s enthralled, and Mbunu finds a trusted and loyal friend.
However, not all is peaceful for the isolated Liangulu. When poachers and corruption threaten not only the local elephant herds but the tribe´s village as well, Mbunu faces a heartbreaking decision. He is the only one who can save his people, but at what cost?
Written in third person, the style is such that it wraps around the reader, bringing them into the very heart of the story to become part of Africa itself. Set in Kenya, there are some serious topics broached here, not only of the devastating effects of illegal poaching on the animals themselves but on those people who depend on them. It also touches on the all-encompassing issue of corruption within governments, officials, and politicians, where people are only after money and power with disregard to those who suffer because of it.
The characters are wonderfully written and the author has made them so realistic that you almost expect them to walk off the page. Mbunu, as the main character, walks a fine line between tribal traditions and modern day life. Good hearted and loyal, he has an incredible relationship with the elephants which comes across as almost magical. Carol and Tom are, to some extent, portrayed as a typical white, ex-pat couple who´ve made East Africa their home, but they are so much more. While Carol is all heart and puts her love towards rescued elephant calves, Tom initially comes across as brash and overbearing, especially when compared to Mbunu. Tom´s acceptance of a new viewpoint and his relationship with Carol shows a nice character development.
The story starts and ends around a campfire, giving a lovely touch to the book. It gives it a feeling of a verbally told story, such is the way of the Liangulu. It also provides a nice feeling of closure and the accompanying wistfulness and hope that the story was actually true.
Sadly, there were numerous errors throughout the book which would easily be picked up by another edit. While it definitely didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book in the slightest, I reluctantly can only give 3 out of 4 stars. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the magical way the author is able to write made me reluctant to finish it. This is definitely for any fan of Alexander McCall Smith, and those who love elephants will find their heartstrings pulled while reading it. I wish that there were more books out there like this and I look forward to more from this author.
A Tribal Rumble
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