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Nessa's Thoughts

Just a British girl who reads a bit too much.

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Tiger's Curse (Book 1) - Colleen Houck The Tiger's Curse sounds like such an interesting book. From reading the blurb alone I could tell there was going to be action, adventure, magic, and shape-shifting. Going by a lot of reviews, it also seemed really good...Until I read it for myself.Now, there isn't too much wrong with The Tiger's Curse. Certainly, its premise works well, and the mystic, exotic culture of India that draws tourists flocking to the country is well executed. It's just a novel that is extremely let down by its characters.Yes, its characters.Kelsey has to be one of the most juvenile eighteen year old narrators I have ever come across. She's always making (terrible) jokes, and she giggles and smiles far too much. This may be a coping mechanism she uses as to not be sad about her parents' rather recent deaths, but it got really annoying really quickly. It got to the stages of Tohru freaking Honda syndrome, people. Or the little kid from The Hunchback of Notre Dame II (Zephyr, I think?) or Kaylee from Firefly.The Italian circus owner was annoying to read. And thankfully, his role in the book was short. He was probably the biggest stereotype of an Italian you could ever hope to read. The weirdest thing was that he often spoke in English, and added in Italian verbs (which weren't conjugated properly – most of them were still in the infinitive), then corrected himself and added the English equivalent afterwards. For example: “I hope you piacere – enjoy – the show!” That was ridiculous. (Though amusingly enough, my mental image of him became Harold Zidler from Moulin Rouge.)Also, I would love to go to a careers advice centre where I just get given a vague description of the job, and then be able to tell the clerk I accept the job and can start tomorrow morning. Which is exactly how Kelsey gets her job at the circus in the beginning of the novel. (It'd be much better than the system in England, in which job applicants are generally ignored and must queue up behind people who seem to have a million children and screech at the clerks to give them their welfare benefits early because their kids don't have any food tonight (because their parents probably spent it on keeping up their 50 a day smoking habit) to get any attention. But I digress.)Ren is fairly interesting to begin with, I suppose. Now, he is a centuries-old Indian prince, frozen in time in the form of a large white tiger. Our heroine Kelsey goes to work at a relatively small circus where he is the star attraction. After her first time seeing his performance, she feels strangely drawn towards the tiger, who smells of sandalwood. Or temple incense, if you prefer. An Indian buyer, known as Mr. Kadam, turns up a week or so later, offering to take the tiger off their hands and put him in a nature reserve in India. He asks Kelsey if she would like to go with him and see that he's taken safely there, and she accepts.Right around now, is where all our problems begin. Kelsey gets a passport and all her travel documents in under a week. It takes MONTHS to get them sorted out, Ms. Houck. Just ask my friend who waited about for five months to get his first passport so he could travel to Ireland!Anyway, Kelsey and Ren then fly to India fairly easily, considering white tigers are a protected species and it would take months in reality, and then dumped in a town in the middle of nowhere. Kelsey puts a leash on Ren and follows him through the jungle, and then by the next morning... he's changed back into a human. Yes, he's the prince detailed in the prologue, cursed into the form of a tiger, and he can only return to human form for twenty four minutes every day, though how he knows the exact time limit is anyone's guess. Also, he's only been able to change back after getting close to Kelsey, who is of course THE CHOSEN ONE. Chosen by Durga herself, in fact, as a monk explains to us in painstaking and garbled English. In fact, most of the Indian background characters speak as if they learned their English with no grammar rules whatsoever. It's ridiculous and annoying. My best friend lived in India for several years, and English is very widely taught there. Most people speak some degree of it, they don't speak like this: “You necessity sleep.” Ugh.So Ren tells her all about the curse, and Kelsey takes it extraordinarily well (despite a really stupid scene in which she asks Ren if he's a were-tiger). He morphs back into tiger form, and they meet the monk who no speaky English very well, and then find a freaking Jeep left behind by Mr. Kadam. Ren hops into the back seat, and Kelsey manages to get a signal for her GPS, and her radio. IT'S THE MIDDLE OF FREAKING INDIA, MS. HOUCK. Though I must say, in your reality, it's rather amazing that the radio stations in England yield only static when you drive deep into the countryside (or amusingly enough, the police radio-waves), yet you can listen to 'interesting music' on the radio driving around the outskirts of the Indian jungle. What?Well, anyway, after all of this, Kelsey and Ren meet up with Mr. Kadam at this gorgeous mansion, and start researching and... around now, the novel gets really quite dull. Kelsey reads books about mythology and how it pertains to the curse and what have you, and Ren occasionally turns back into a man for very little reason. And from then on, Kelsey and Ren go back into the jungle and go on a series of fetch quests. They've got to get the pieces of this amulet, so they've got to go into a cavern and they've got to risk their lives to get an artefact and they've got to go back and research it and then research more about the next site and go to the next site and get the item and report back. These cave scenes are just... horrendously boring. In one of my status updates on this book, I compared it to somebody talking to themselves while working out how to do a temple/cavern/dungeon in a video game. It's true, unfortunately.Another thing that really affected my enjoyment of this book was the lack of conflict. Now, I am perfectly aware that there is no way in hell that Kelsey would get attacked by wild animals walking through the jungle with a tiger strutting by her side. No, it's not that. I'm really frustrated by the lack of an antagonist, for once. I mean, it's about a girl who gets an all-expenses-paid trip to India for very little reason, and is the chosen one of a Hindu goddess, so... yay. Everything is paid for her, everything is mapped out for her, miracles fall into her lap, she never gets lost, she never runs into any ne'er-do-wells, she never has culture shock, she never complains about the weather, etcetera. About the only real threat was when they were in the first cavern. It only got more laughable from there on in. A swarm of monkeys running after you from out of Hanuman's realm? Large black beetles? Please, this really does get to read like a generic adventure video game at times. Having an overarching villain would have really pulled this book up in the ranks. Instead, we get an epilogue where some villains hear that Kelsey has one part of the amulet. Now, let's think about the setting of the story. Kelsey and Ren go around the Indian countryside on these quests. Ren is a white tiger. There would be poachers and bandits along the way, surely? Mr. Kadam tells Kelsey about tiger body parts being used in ancient medicine around the beginning of the book, so rather than pages upon pages of padding about romance, I would have loved to see, say, Ren or Kishan being captured by some poachers and Kelsey has to fight to get them back. And even in the more backwater parts of India, you'd assume there would be police officers patrolling the area, and Kelsey would have eventually been pulled over and asked why the hell she has a giant white tiger in her backseat?The mythology and wording in this book can be rather iffy at times too. Take the scene where Mr. Kadam describes a (completely untrue, apparently) belief in Islam that Allah sends tigers down from the heavens to protect his true devotees, and also to punish those who do not lead a good life. Firstly, Islam has its roots in the Middle East. I don't imagine there were many tigers in ancient Saudi Arabia. Lions, maybe, but not tigers. Secondly, right after this, Kelsey giggles that if she were 'Islamic', she would run away from any tiger, even one from the heavens, just to be on the safe side. The term for an adherent of the Islamic religion is 'Muslim'. Or 'Mohammedan', if you want to be archaic.And thirdly... this really ground my gears. Around the start of the third act of the novel, Kelsey and Ren are in Hanuman's realm. And there are... kappas. No, seriously, kappas, from Japanese mythology, make an appearance in a story about Indian mythology. In Japan, kappas are portrayed as river imps who look like the cross between a goblin, a turtle, a toad, and maybe a duck. They love cucumbers and have a little dish of water on their head that renders them stiff as statues if they ever spill anything from it on dry land. They're used to frighten children out of swimming in dangerous rivers and ponds. Whereas here... kappas are featured in the realm of an Indian god. Ren remembers the stories his (Chinese) mother used to tell him about the kappa. They're bloodsucking demons used to frighten children into bowing to their elders. So the first time they come across one, if I remember correctly, they bow and skirt around it. That was a pointless scene. But this novel contains more fluff than a pillow factory, so eh.Then, Kelsey gets her neck suckled by one of them (not thinking to maybe push it over and get the water to fall out of its head) and it just annoyed the hell out of me. Kappa are not vampires, Ms. Houck. Kappa love eating human children, and also subsist on human livers. You want to know how they get these livers? They suck it out through their victim's rectum. Apologies if anybody lost their lunch, but that is a kappa. Not some bloodsucking demon. Ugh. I am aware there are similar beasties in ancient Chinese folklore, but I'm still baffled by the use of the Japanese term and some of the Japanese monster's features.By the end of the book, I found that the brothers are really freaking boring. I don't quite know why, maybe it's because I've seen the archetype so many times, but I really couldn't give two shits about Ren and Kishan. Ooh, they're handsome Indian princes who, through an unfortunate misunderstanding, are cursed to be in the form of tigers for all eternity. Why? (Well, it's a trilogy, so I imagine the answers will be revealed in the next books, but suffice to say, I will not be getting them.) Ren is the quiet and serious one, whilst Kishan is younger and a lot more flirtatious. I've just seen these types of characters done so many times. Kishan's more animalistic, so he prefers his tiger form, whereas Ren quite likes being in human form, despite the fact he can only maintain it for a short time. Also, to reinforce the fact that these brothers are polar opposites, let's make their tiger coat colours black and white! Like the Yin and Yang symbol! That's Indian, right? Their past lives with Yesubai are explained in such a boring way too, whether it's a straight up information dump or one character giving us some exposition. It reminded me of the rather dull scenes in the first two Vampire Diaries books, where we get dragged out of the modern day scenario to read some historical plot about a girl who was brought into the vampires brothers' lives back when they were rich and aristocratic. I will eat my hat if Yesubai comes back in the next books.The ending was also inconclusive as anything. Four hundred and ninety eight pages later, all we have resolved is... well, Ren can stay in human form for six hours now, rather than twenty four minutes. That's it. Kelsey hasn't grown or matured as a character, and she has far too many hissy fits for my liking in the last hundred or so pages. I understand that it's a trilogy, but there could have been more resolution than that, is all I'm saying....However, there is one positive about this book. It is an extremely creative idea, it's just a shame that it falls flat because of the characters and writing. I was also happy as to how the novel ended without Kelsey becoming Ren's girlfriend. Ren admits that he loves her, and Kelsey, still ever unsure, doesn't make any promises. Unfortunately, for all the failings I described above, I'm going to have to give it a 1.5/5.(This review is also available on my blog: http://book-wyrm.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/the-tigers-curse-by-colleen-houck.html)