Plot summary: Eighteen-year-old Kelsey just graduated high school and lives a humdrum life with her adoptive parents in her home state of Oregon. Kelsey’s own parents were killed years before in a car accident, and she isn’t sure what life holds for her now that she’s an adult. After getting a temporary job at a travelling circus, Kelsey becomes enamored with a mysterious white tiger named Dhiren, or Ren. Kelsey is fond of the tiger with his soulful blue eyes, so she spends her free time reading to him and talking to him about her life. One afternoon, a friendly Indian man named Mr. Kadam visits the circus and informs Kelsey and Ren’s circus handlers that a man in India has offered to purchase the tiger for a hefty fee. The circus accepts, and Mr. Kadam asks Kelsey, who obviously has formed a bond with Ren, to accompany him and the tiger to India in order to make his transition into his new life easier. After arriving in India, Kelsey quickly learns that Ren is not actually a tiger, he is an Indian prince (an incredibly handsome one at that) who was cursed centuries before to spend his life as a tiger. Ren can only spend 24 minutes each day in his human form, and begs Kelsey to help him figure out a way to end the curse. Mr. Kadam, who is actually Ren’s faithful servant, Kelsey and Ren embark on an adventure in India that is beyond Kelsey’s wildest expectations.
Review: This debut novel of Houck’s Tiger’s Curse series sets the stage for a new fantasy series that is sure to excite readers who enjoy ancient curses, adventure and romance. It is obvious that Houck has done her research into the history and landscape of India. The story is chock full of references to ancient Indian figures as well as Indian dress, locations and landscapes. Houck’s writing-style is highly descriptive, which, at times, ventures into the realm of overkill (is it really necessary to know that Kelsey shampooed her hair twice in the shower?), but does set the stage well for the plot. She has also created a cast of characters that are complex enough to maintain the reader’s interest throughout this budding series. The romance between Kelsey and Ren is, obviously, the main selling point of the novel. Houck does an excellent job of describing just how handsome and dashing Ren in, as well as how madly in love he falls with the somewhat awkward Kelsey. Kelsey’s efforts to convince herself that Ren is only going to break her heart do, at times, seem contrived, but Houck has created enough sexual tension between the two to keep the reader interested. The addition of Ren’s brother, Kishan, a fellow tiger cursee, can only add to the mix. Overall, a good start to a promising series.
Reading level: Grade 6+
Similar titles: N/A
Similar titles: N/A
Themes: India, curses, romance, sibling relationships.