Colleen Houck,
Tiger's Curse
(Sterling, 2011)

In an age that's completely inundated with vampires, werewolves, zombies and angels, it's sometimes hard to find a paranormal romance novel that doesn't feel like something that's been done about a hundred times before. That's what is most refreshing about Colleen Houck's Tiger's Curse books. Their setting and use of Indian culture set them apart from most paranormal romances on the market. There are no vampires or other blood-sucking creatures, and while two main characters aren't always in human form, at least they're not werewolves.

Tiger's Curse, the first book of the series, tells how Kelsey falls in love with a beautiful white tiger named Ren while working a summer job at a nearby circus. When she's offered the chance to travel with the tiger to free him into the wild in India, she jumps at the chance. But Kelsey quickly learns that things aren't exactly as they seem. Her tiger is actually a 300-year-old Indian prince who, along with his brother Kishan, has been cursed to spend most of his day in tiger form. Ren believes Kelsey is the only person who can help piece together the prophecy and break the curse that binds him and Kishan. Ren and Kelsey are aided by Mr. Kadam, who had been a soldier in Ren's father's army. He now wears a magical amulet that has slowed his aging and allowed him to keep an eye on the tigers throughout the centuries. Together, Ren and Kelsey set out on an exciting and perilous journey that takes them all the way to the mystical city of Kishkindha, where they hope to find another piece to the puzzle of breaking the curse and setting the princes free.

I'm not an expert on Indian culture and mythology, but I thought one of the most fascinating aspects of this book was the way the story built upon the theme. It's common to see novels based on the Greek or Roman gods, and even more recently the Egyptian gods, but this is the first time I've read anything about Hindu gods, and it helped make the story more interesting. If you enjoy reading about other cultures and their legends and beliefs, then this is probably a great choice for you.

Something else that stood out in this book is that Kelsey is a strong female character. She doesn't wait for her beloved tiger to come rescue her when things get difficult; and she's not about to let an extremely handsome 300-year-old prince just walk into her life and sweep her off her feet. She has a forceful personality and a strong sense of self, which means the book doesn't necessarily end the way you would expect it to, but sets the stage perfectly for the next book of the series (and also serves to make the relationship between the main characters much more interesting than that of another famous fictional couple currently popular with teenagers).

The biggest noticeable flaw, the one that kept me from completely loving this book, was that the relationships between Kelsey, Ren and his brother Kishan in the present and the brothers and Ren's betrothed in the past are very similar to the relationships between the three main characters of The Vampire Diaries. In each case the brothers had a falling out centuries ago because of their love for the same woman, then find themselves in the present reliving the love triangle that caused so much pain in the first place. Even the personalities of Ren and Kishan echo the personalities of Stefan and Damon. While I loved the originality of the setting and the use of the Indian culture in Tiger's Curse, this parallel to The Vampire Diaries prevents it from feeling truly original. However, this observation was not enough to keep me from enjoying other aspects of the book. And, of course, history repeating itself is a common theme in literature no matter what genre you're reading.

If you enjoy young-adult fantasy or paranormal romance but are looking for something different to try, this may be a great alternative. Try not to judge Houck's writing style too harshly; this was her first novel after all. At times that fact was very prevalent in some of her word choices and writing style, but if you let yourself get involved in the story, as I did, you probably won't even notice the little things. This book is also a window into an entirely different culture, one that many people may not be familiar with. I admire Houck's attempt to give readers something new to dive into and I'm looking forward to seeing where she takes the story next.

book review by
Charissa Jelliff

22 October 2011

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