Rahz has never forgotten that he is a mixling; his human mother works hard for other people in Luminia, while his fae father skipped town as soon as he discovered he was going to be a dad. On top of that, Rahz looks every inch the mixling, with his human-looking skin, eyes, and bulk. He doesn’t even get vestigial wings like most other mixlings. Most of the time, Rahz makes the best of it. After all, there are some perks. For one thing, he has extraordinarily powerful magic that he can use to help everyone in his tiny village. For another, Jindal seems to really enjoy the physical differences between them. Rahz would do anything to make Jindal happy—even overlook how blind he can be when it comes to how mixlings are treated in Luminia, never mind humans. Still, sometimes it hurts that Jindal almost always has a ready explanation for why humans and mixlings invariably occupy the lowest rungs of Luminia society. Especially when their mutual acquaintance often has a barbed tongue on the subject and Jindal is slow to defend Rahz.
Fae, human, mixling… whatever Rahz is doesn’t matter one whit to Jindal, he loves Rahz for being Rahz: compassionate, impossibly kind, hotter than sin, and, for some reason, completely devoted to Jindal. That last part gives Jindal immense comfort since Jindal’s own father has all but ignored him ever since Jindal’s mother slipped into a hibernation-like dormancy when Jindal was born. But together, he and Rahz do their best to tend their little farm and contribute to their fae community as much as they can. Then, one day, the queen of Luminia comes through on her annual tour to receive tithings with a life-changing proclamation: All mixlings must report to the capital to pledge loyalty to her and sign a registry. Jindal is filled with anxiety at the prospect of being separated from Rahz for the weeks-long trip, but he knows it would be impossible for them both to make the journey. He also doesn’t understand why Rahz is suspicious of the queen’s so-called request. After all, she is as much Rahz’s queen as she is Jindal’s, isn’t she? Not even Rahz’s news of civil unrest between humans and fae further south can convince Jindal that the fae queen means anything by calling all human-fae mixlings to the capital at the height of the farm season. This royal demand throws Rahz’s and Jindal’s differences into sharp relief, leaving them wondering how love is supposed to overcome a battle brewing along species lines.
Tattered Allegiance is the first book in the Luminia series by author Lee Colgin. It’s set in an eponymous fictional world and features themes of belonging, othering, being caught between two worlds, friends to lovers, and found family. The narration is split pretty equally between Rahz and Jindal, too. I think this does a great job of exploring the two characters’ lived experiences and really shows how their fae and mixling identities help them appreciate each other, even as it sometimes threatens to wedge between them. The book opens with a short introductory chapter of our two main characters as tweenagers. During this short chapter, we learn that our MCs are childhood best friends and that both are just now starting to feel and understand more romantic and deeper emotions for each other. If you like friends-to-lovers tropes, I think you’ll find this a delightfully sweet beginning for these two.
I really enjoyed how Rahz and Jindal’s life experiences as fae and human are strongly reflected in the larger plot, and how the social order in Luminia also echoes these experiences. Together, this makes for very compelling world building, while helping to keep the story itself relatively short. I also thought this was a great way to really explore how much Rahz is feeling stuck, or trapped between his largely fae community and his upbringing at home with his beloved human mother. To him, it’s easy to see how undervalued humans are and, with the rumors of unrest amongst the various human and fae classes in the south, he makes a great focal point for the conundrum of which side would he be on in a full on war. The question of sides gets a major boost when it’s clear that the queen of Lumina is gearing up to quell the unrest by basically conscripting mixlings like Rahz to do her bidding since mixlings generally have the strongest magical abilities.
While Rahz is having an existential crisis of identity, sweet summer child Jindal simply cannot understand how the status quo is in any way, shape, or form deficient for fae, mixlings, or humans. Not even Rahz himself explaining the crux of the situation and how it makes him feel is enough to convince Jindal that the status quo is questionable in the slightest, let alone as nefarious as Rahz fears. This mindset carries throughout most of the book. However, Jindal does interact with other humans who are close to him and to whom he feels a deeper attachment. Eventually, Jindal finally gains a bigger perspective of social class and how these social striations can be harmful to everyone.
Since this is the first book in the series, the plot described above seems like it will tie into the meta-plot for the whole series. In other words, this book ends on a cliffhanger where the queen’s mixling registry and human-led social uprising are concerned. Nevertheless, the threads in this book that concern Jindal’s mother and the fact that she has been dormant his entire life offer a nice bit of closure for this first installment of the series. Throughout this book, Jindal struggles to have any sort of meaningful relationship with his emotionally unavailable (and rather neglectful) father. All of that changes towards the end when they get news about Jindal’s mother that promises major upheaval for Jindal’s home life.
Overall, I thought Tattered Allegiance featured a sweet romance between Rahz and Jindal. These two feel like a cozy sweater with their supportive, comforting relationship—and a surprising bit of lusty spice to round out most of their days. I think readers who enjoy adventure and suspense will appreciate the meta-plot about human-versus-fae class strife and the carefully laid threads of civil unrest that run through this book. Overall, this was a great read and I’m eager to find out what comes next!