First Published: 2011
Young Adult, Fantasy
Passion. Fate. Loyalty.
Would you risk it all to change your destiny?
The last thing Kelsey Hayes thought she'd be doing this summer was trying to break a 300-years-old Indian curse. With a mysterious white tiger named Ren. Halfway around the world.
But that's exactly what happens.
Face-to-face with dark forces, spell-binding magic, and mystical world where nothing is what it seems, Kelsey risks everything to piece together an ancient prophecy that could break the curse forever.
Believe it or not - this is the much shortened version of this review...
Can you shout MEH loud enough?
I was immediately snared by Tiger's Curse gorgeous cover. Learning it was about shape-shifting tigers and Indian culture? William Blake's The Tiger as an opening poem??? Sounded like a shoe-in for me. So much so, that I bought all three books in series at once (it was before the final or maybe-not-final one came out).
If there was one thing this book made me feel, and often, is exasperated. Frustrated. Angry. Occasionally, it would also incite a more positive range of emotions, like a bit of tingling here and there, laughter, and nerves, so it really wasn't all bad.
We'll start with the good: Right of the bat, the most fascinating thing about this book is the culture it presents. The book takes a refreshing turn to the tried and well used plot line of "girl finds herself a chosen one in the middle of a magical world and goes on a dangerous adventure with a gorgeous magical boy" by showcasing Indian mythology.
Everything from the description of the clothes, the weapons, the gods and the culture was delightful to read of. Enough so that I googled quite a bit of them, so I could picture them correctly in my head.
It was hands down the best thing about this whole book, though I did later learn that many of the "facts", mythology and culture presented in these books are not quite accurate.
The girl in question is Kelsey, whom I liked enough... at first. There was nothing overly special about her, but I did find her funny, nice and smart. But then she got annoying. Like, over-thinking, pushing the guy away by being obnoxious towards him for no reason annoying. Despite everyone reassuring her about her worries.
To me, Kelsey kind of redeemed herself towards the end. I expected to hate her decision (which I knew in advance because I had myself spoiled by the sequel's synopsis), but found myself feeling like it was handled correctly, because it felt like the right choice for Kelsey in the place where she was at the end of the book.
The guy she's pushing away and being occasionally a jerk towards? His name is Ren. He was pretty swoony, I admit. He's an adorable tiger, and a sweet and gentlemany man. He speaks in an old fashioned way and isn't afraid to say anything. Mostly, he says things no real boys of our times will say--or rather be willing to say.
And I loved how he wasn't afraid to tell Kelsey he loved her.
Obviously the main romance of the story is between these two characters. I felt like it started really well - it was both sweet and cute, depending on whether they were tiger and "owner" or man and woman. I was pleasantly surprised at how long it took to develop considering the type of book this is (though I would still have liked for more time to pass), and how Houck structured everything to make the illusion more time had passed--and how she made Kelsey admit they were rushing ahead.
However, once Kelsey's worrying and moaning started, I was feeling a little meh about it all. We'll have to see where it develops to.
Always alongside Kelsey and Ren is Mr. Kadam, who is the older mentor for our main characters. Every bit of information we get in this book comes from this guy. He shares some amazing stories from the Indian culture, which as I said before was my favorite part of the story.
And did I mention that he cooks, reads, knows how to fight, and ages really well? He just may be the perfect man!
The final cast member we're introduced to is Kishan, Ren's estranged brother. He was in the book for a short while, but you could already tell he was very different from his sibling. His attraction towards Kelsey was a bit jarring though, considering they've known each other for a week. I couldn't help but wonder if he was interested just because Ren was, trying to re-create his former "success" against his brother.
And of course, one also has to mention the none-existing villain Lokesh whom we see 3 times during this entire 500 pages long book. None of which are actual appearances, but more like visions and flashbacks. It's hard to be afraid of someone who thought a good curse would be to turn his enemies to tigers--with a grace period, no less.
I mean, he clearly hasn't read the evil-villain handbook. First lesson on it is kill your enemies if you capture them. But if you're looking for more flair, turning them into deadly animals that can bite your throat off is not a valid option! Turn them into harmless bunnies if you must turn them into anything - that way you could torture them with eternal humiliation and they couldn't really hurt you.
Can you tell I'm a little touchy about this whole thing?
Another highly disappointing thing was the action. It took a looong time to get to it, and when we did there were a ton of exciting problems - with solutions that didn't deliver. Everything was resolved much too easily, with the first idea always being the correct one (even if it was extremely silly). So either it was too easy, or Kelsey was made much too smart.
Speaking of this, I have to mention the writing and the editing.
The editing, at the very least in my edition (Hodder), was god-awful. I'm not one to usually notice these type of thing, but Kelsey's thoughts were sometimes said in past-tense, sometimes in present. Words jumped lines in some places, and in other's paragraphs continued for pages without break. And the freakin' fonts. My god, curly handwriting is pretty and all--but some of it was completely unreadable to me!
Even without the faulty editing, I did not enjoy the writing style of this book. At parts Houck's details helped weave these magical, beautiful pictures that took my breath away, at others I simply drowned in the description, and had to read the same paragraph a couple of times or give up all together.
I felt like Houck lacked the balance between creating an image in our head and trying to make us see an exact replica of what she saw, down to how the freakin' faucet looks like. I really don't care about that damn faucet.
And the dialogues were sometimes... odd. It was wooden and unnatural at times (especially Kelsey's), and had the Dora-The-Explorer effect every time someone said a "big word" in another language. People don't do that in real life. Usually, when foreigners move to their native tongue, it's because they can't figure out the counterpart in English. So naturally, they aren't going to translate for the convenient of your readers. Be authentic, or don't do it at all.