Thursday, August 25, 2011

Book Review #4: Tiger's Curse

This week's animal fantasy book review is Colleen Houck's awesome YA novel, Tiger's Curse.  I know you're not supposed to judge a book by it's cover, but I just couldn't resist the beautiful, shimmery, white-tiger cover.  The cover reeled me in, the story won me over.  In the rare case the cover didn't win you over, too, here's the blurb from Houck's website to entice you further:
The last thing Kelsey Hayes thought she’d be doing this summer was trying to break a 300-year-old Indian curse. With a mysterious white tiger named Ren. Halfway around the world. But that’s exactly what happened. Face-to-face with dark forces, spellbinding magic, and  mystical worlds where nothing is what it seems, Kelsey risks everything to piece together an ancient prophecy that could break the curse forever.
In case you didn't know by now, I'm a sucker for shape-shifting/animal fantasy romances.  They combine two of my favorite things--animals and a head-over-heels love story--and mold them into one powerhouse novel.  Although there are technically no talking animals in this book (Ren growls like a normal tiger while in his feline form), I still think it counts as an animal fantasy due to the abundance of magical elements and animal transformations.  Even though the tiger-prince can't speak, Houck still infuses his actions and growls/whines/roars with powerful emotions, from humor to despair and everything in between.  What's especially interesting is that Tiger's Curse was originally self-published, then offered representation after e-book sales skyrocketed.  If you have any curiosity about the self-publishing industry, you will want to check out Houck's inspiring success story on her website.  
My two favorite elements in Tiger's Curse are Houck's use of setting and voice.  The book takes place in India with several trips to mythological realms full of fantasy flora and fauna, as well as Indiana Jones-style booby traps.  The real-world settings are vivid and full of details that invoke the senses, while the fantasy ones brim with magic and feel like somewhere you could actually travel.  With such realistic, believable settings, I was shocked to find out that according to Houck's website, she's never even been to India!  (She did conduct a massive amount of research on the country, traditions, and mythology, though.)  I never once doubted her facts and descriptions, proving a bit of sleuthing and a keen eye for detail can save you quite a bit of money in research-travel expenses!  
Houck's use of voice is just as important in Tiger's Curse as her setting.  The main character, Kelsey, narrates the story from First Person perspective.  Remember when I griped a few months back about growing tired of that overdone "snarky" teen voice?  Well, Tiger's Curse is a breath of fresh air!  To me, Kelsey had a contemplative, realistic, normal voice which I could relate to easily.  "Normal," in this case, is by no means "boring."  Kelsey had enough humor and sass to keep me chuckling, but not too much that it overwhelmed the story.  She doesn't wallow in her woe, or explode in unnecessary outbursts, or rebel at everything and everyone in her life.  Instead, she's complex, kind, and just a little jaded with believable reactions to the good and bad events that come her way.  Kelsey's narrative prose is simply lovely; I guarantee your heart will go out to her and her tender, inner "love plant" that flourishes and withers as she follows Ren to the end of the world and back. 
If you like a good animal fantasy romance like East or Shiver, then Tiger's Curse is certainly for you.  If you're a writer, it's a great opportunity to study a superb execution of setting and voice.  And if you simply wish you had a tiger who could turn into a charming, hunky prince, then run out and get this book right now!  I can't wait to start the sequel, Tiger's Quest.  The ending of Tiger's Curse left me yearning for more, and it might just have my favorite closing lines out of any book I've ever read.       
You can check out Houck's website at:  And if you read the book, let me know!  I'd love to hear what you think. :)

Note: Summary blurb and cover art are both from Houck's website.

1 comment:

  1. kathryn, i am loving reading your manuscript!! it is quite a good read, even if i only have time to get to it in pieces :) I will have to buy the book for little dustin as soon as it comes out... but only if i can get it autographed for him!!