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)
ÂCopyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
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