Saturday, May 28, 2011

Tiger's Curse by Colleen Houck

Kelsey Hayes is a girl with a sad history. Her parents were killed back in a car crash when she was only a freshman in School. Now graduated, she is living with a foster family and trying to find a job for the summer. When the placement officer asks if she likes animals, she says yes, and finds herself becoming the live-in animal carer for the Maurizio family traveling circus, especially their white tiger performer, Ren, who acts almost tame around her. And when his owner, an Indian man named Mr. Kadam, sees how well Ren likes her, he offers to let Kelsey come along to India, where Ren will be returning to in just a few days time, all expenses paid.

But Ren and Mr. Kadam have a vested interest in Kelsey making the trip to India, because Ren is not just a tiger- he's an Indian Prince imprisoned long ago in a tiger form by a magician named Lokesh. And Kelsey and Ren must go on a quest through India, led by the Goddess Durga, to bring him back to human form-permanently. This isn't without danger, either for Kelsey or Ren, and the two of them may be alone for weeks at a time in the jungle.

Kelsey finds the whole idea rather strange, but if Ren is an actual person, she can't just leave him alone in a tiger form for the rest of his life- she has to help him. And truth be told, she is finding the human form of Ren, which she gets to see in small bits and pieces at night for about an hour at a time, strangely fascinating. And while Ren appears to be falling for her just as hard, she is troubled by sights of a tiger who is a black tiger, the mirror opposite of Ren, who seems to have his own reason for wanting Kelsey to come over to his side, and who turns out to be his brother, Kishan, imprisoned in Tiger form the same way that Ren was, but Kishan wants Kelsey as his own, and in between fighting immortal sea-monsters and bloodthirsty monkeys, he pursues Kelsey with a steadiness that might bode ill for Kelsey and Ren's success.

Is Kishan on the side of his brother, or is he on the side of Lokesh? Or is he only serving himself by playing Lokesh and Ren and Kelsey against each other? And can Kelsey trust his answers if she dares to ask him for the truth? And will her story have a happy ending with Ren? Can a normal girl from America find happiness with an Indian Prince who was turned into a tiger three hundred years ago?

I enjoyed this book, it presented a fairly normal girl who gets tapped to try and break the curse on an Indian Prince. In a way, it kind of has shades of "Twilight" in it, but Kelsey is older than Bella Swan, and isn't nearly so helpless on her own. It has a bit of the same sort of wish-fulfillment aspects in falling in love with someone who is way, way out of your league, but Kelsey can definitely stand on her own, and makes friends because she is able to keep her head and land on her feet.

Tension is set up by the fight against the strange culture of India itself, the appearances of Ren's brother Kishan, and the various supernatural creatures that Kelsey and Ren must fight against, befriend, or whatever, and Lokesh, whose shadow overlays the entire story. But the secondary characters are wonderful as well, like Mister Kadam, who is Ren's owner/protector, but used to be his father's vizier.

I loved this book. I liked how Kelsey could take care of herself, that she didn't kick herself for stuff that happened outside her control. She got dragged into this situation, but she doesn't let that make her upset- she actually takes on the responsibility for helping Ren and helping him become human again rather than having it thrust upon her- she claims back agency for herself and becomes a stronger character for it. Highly recommended.

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