Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Tiger Saga: Book 1: Tiger's Curse

by Colleen Houck, 405 pages

Kels just wants a summer job when she accepts a temp position as an extra pair of hands for a small circus while it's in town. Ticket collection? Check. Cleaning up the bleachers after the show? Sure. Bonding with the troupe's oddly domesticated tiger, flying off to India on a private jet, traipsing Indiana-Jones-style through jungles and temples in search of mystical clues, and falling in love with a 300-plus-year-old prince? Not so much mentioned in the original job description. But Kels is an adaptable 17-year-old and throws herself into her "other duties as assigned" with conviction. What she does worry about, however, is what will happen when her mission is accomplished.

Oh, angsty youth. I wanted to smack Kels for being such a self-defeater in emotional matters when she's so willing to take on angry monkeys, murderous trees, and personal snake-spirits. This series has a nifty premise and offers a wealth of fascinating details regarding Indian culture, history, and religion. It feels a little too hokey-convenient and Indiana-Jones-like now and then, and the language has an odd, staid rhythm to it (mostly Kels's voice, as everyone else has an excuse to sound formal and mature--she's a teen from Oregon, but her dialogue could lose the quotation marks and first person indicators and easily blend in with the narration), but it's still a fun adventure-romance with a mystical heart. Also, I am a sucker for cats, large and small, and Houck knows her kitties. (I once cried from a Siberian tiger's facial expression on a PBS program. Like I said, sucker.) The attractive cover design and physical feel of the book are professional quality, so I didn't realize until partway through the novel that it was originally self-published. Knowing that, I cut the imaginative author some slack about the language, which is very "subject-verb, subject-verb" without as much switching-up of the order (for example, with lead-in prepositional phrases and other clauses) as one would normally expect. I think that's just her style, though, and I got used to it by the end, though I do wish Kels would talk a little more like the native speaker she is and let the natural verbal shortcuts fly. It may not be perfect (I have additional quibbles regarding the "translation" of rhyming texts related to the titular curse), but nevertheless I like these characters (teen angst aside) and the big story well enough to wonder what's next and look forward to the entrance of the big bad in book 2.

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