Author: Colleen Houck, 2011.
Genre: YA Fantasy. Adventure. Indian Mythology.
Other Details: Paperback. 498 pages
Eighteen-year old Kelsey Hayes takes a temporary job at a small family circus where her duties include looking after their rare white tiger. Kelsey quickly bonds with Dhiren, the tiger, sitting and reading aloud to him, which he seems to enjoy. One day a gentleman named Mr. Kadam turns up and offers to buy the tiger on behalf of his philanthropic employer so that he may be returned to a tiger reserve in India. Given how well Kelsey gets on with the tiger, Mr. Kadam hires her to accompany them back to India.
Once there she discovers not all is at it seems. Dhiren (Ren) is actually an Indian prince cursed into tiger form over 300 years previously, then captured and taken to the West. Ren is able to transform into human form for a brief period each day (luckily that he didn't pull that trick while at the circus!). Kelsey learns that she is the one who can lift the curse by unravelling an ancient prophecy and undertaking a series of tasks that includes journeys to mystical worlds and facing various dark forces and creatures. In the first novel together they undertake the first part of the quest.
I adored the premise of this book as not only do I love tigers but have been actively involved in campaigns to ensure their continued existence on this planet. They are powerful creatures both in reality and as symbols, which is one of the things that makes them so vulnerable. I also applauded seeing the rich mythology of India being incorporated into a YA fantasy work. In her author's note Colleen acknowledged the assistance she received from her editor from India and wrote "my hope is that I’ve shown India’s people and culture respect, and have depicted the beauty of their land and the rich mythology of their people in an appropriate way." This statement counted a lot with me even if at times her early modern and modern India seemed a little out of synch with reality. I certainly felt that her heart was in the right place.
Overall, there was plenty to enjoy in the novel even if there were a few things that made me groan such Kelsey tending to incorporate the minutia of her day into her narrative and rather clumsy dialogue. I had to remind myself that I am not the target demographic for the series. However, what certainly diminished the experience for me was the way that part-way through the novel Kelsey suddenly morphed into a Bella Swann-like bundle of insecurities worshipping at Ren's feet and constantly referring to his god-like beauty to the point that I wanted to give her a good shake. Having read a few other reviews of the novel on sites such as Goodreads, I was not alone in decrying the introduction of this particular troupe, which is hardly a positive role-model for young women.
Still the central quest is intriguing and the romance between Kelsey and Ren quite sweet. I found it mildly amusing that Ren in human form is slightly jealous of Kelsey's affection for his tiger self. As I share my own life with a black cat, that resembles a small black panther, I appreciated how Kelsey could feel a much less complicated bond with the tiger than the man. It is certainly a series I will be continuing with.
Official Page for 'Tiger's Curse' - includes link to pdf of first 7 chapters.