An Oregon teenager falls in love with a shape-shifting tiger who turns out to be a hunky Indian prince afflicted with an ancient curse. A job as a temp worker at a local circus turns more challenging for Kelsey when she's hired to accompany Dhiren, a white tiger with whom she has developed a strangely close mutual affinity, back to India. Once there her journey becomes a quest (thanks to the requisite obscure prophecy) through magical realms for four Gifts that will not only break the centuries-old curse that keeps Dhiren in tiger form—except for a few minutes each day, during which he reverts to a sultry lothario "like James Bond, Antonio Banderas, and Brad Pitt all rolled into one"—but may well have broader implications. This entails not only treks through dusty temples and battles with vampire monkeys but frequent aggressive flirting, chaste but passionate snogging and emotional tempests fueled by his tigerlike pride and her artificially low self-esteem. Twilight fans ready for a not-too-radical change of pace are the natural audience for this steamy opener.Â (Paranormal romance. 13 & up)
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Houck's debut YA fantasy, which she self-published in 2009, is richly imagined, but pacing and technique lag behind her inventiveness. Eighteen-year-old Kelsey Hayes gets a temporary summer job working at a one-ring circus that features a white Bengal tiger named Dhiren. Kelsey and Ren, as she calls the tiger, form an immediate bond, and when a mysterious businessman purchases Ren, Kelsey is asked to escort him to his new home on an Indian reserve (despite her complete lack of experience). Given extensive foreshadowing, it's no surprise that Ren turns into a man once back in his native land, inspiring Kelsey to break the ancient curse that forces Ren to shape-shift. The attractive premise is let down by wooden dialogue, excessive detail, and wobbly mechanics; Kelsey's plainspoken narration more often befits a preteen than a high school graduate ("Poor thing. All alone with no girl tiger and no tiger cubs"). Houck doesn't quite realize her potential in this outing. Two companion books, Tiger's Quest and Tiger's Voyage, are due later in 2011. Ages 12-up. (Jan.)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC
Gr 9 Up--Many years ago, two Indian princes fell in love with the same woman. Her sorcerer father took advantage of the brothers' rivalry to gain control of the magical amulets they possessed. The girl was killed, and the brothers were transformed into tigers. More than 300 years later, Kelsey, an American orphan who has just graduated from high school, takes a temporary job working with a circus. There, she develops an inexplicable bond with a white tiger named Ren, and she is asked to accompany him to a wildlife preserve in India. There he transforms into a handsome young man and reveals that only Kelsey can help break the curse he is under. She must embark upon a journey where she is in danger of losing her heart, her life, or both. Houck has clearly done a great deal of research on Indian culture, and she is adept at including details that allow readers to understand the story's setting. Unfortunately, that detail is too elaborate in many places and bogs down the Indiana Jones-esque action. Also, the characters are flat, with little nuanced behavior or dialogue; for example, Ren is a 300-year-old prince, and yet based on his behavior he is indistinguishable from a modern American teenager. Kelsey's redeeming character component is that she is self-aware and reluctant to succumb completely to Ren's eager romantic advances. Twilight (Little, Brown, 2005) fans will appreciate the supernatural, star-crossed romance.--Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO[Page 108]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.