Kelsey Hayes has to do summer work placements before college, and is told to present herself at a circus. While there she works with the white tiger Dhiren, and agrees to help transport him back to India when he is sold. Once in India, Kelsey learns that she is the key to unlocking an ancient curse. Accompanied by the princely Ren, she has to perform a number of tasks, but finds herself in the gravest danger - including falling in love...
I can see that Houck has worked incredibly hard to present a very different culture from the usual YA fantasy romance - here, she presents a vision of India, all lush jungle, exotic food and strange mythology. I enjoyed having a different background to the plot.
Unfortunately, I have to say that that was the best part of the novel. Tiger's Curse was simplistic and formulaic, at the same time, which meant my interest wandered even at key points.
Other reviewers have talked about the breathless romance between Kelsey and Ren, but all I could see was all the other occasions when a teenage girl has fallen hard for a supernatural chap when she doesn't really know him!
For me, the overwhelming feeling while reading Tiger's Curse was one of irritation. I got tired very quickly of the Dear Diary approach: 'I woke up. I got dressed. I ate breakfast. I spent time talking to a tiger'. Kelsey was a sickening character - one of those girls who is mystically powerful, beautiful but overly modest and seems to constantly require a man to protect her.
The realism in the novel was lacking. I do understand I was reading a fantasy novel, and hence there will be some lack of realism, but this went to ridiculous levels: Kelsey is supremely talented at looking after a tiger, even though she has no prior experience of looking after dangerous animals. She decides that it will be fine to touch said tiger, because it "feels" as though he won't hurt her. She thinks it is fine to travel to India with a man she had met on two other occasions, in order to look after a tiger because she'll miss it after having spent just two weeks taking care of it.
The switch between rather ordinary circus adventure/travel itinerary that comprised the first hundred or so pages (seriously, we are told the entire specs of the plane she travels on to India; we hear about various hotels she stops at) and the supernatural quest/Indiana Jones tale that finished the novel gave me whiplash, it was so sudden. And when I say Indiana Jones, I mean it - we have a whole sequence where Kelsey and Ren have to deal with a tomb that throws up unexpected surprises, such as bugs and spikes through walls.
I ended up rolling my eyes so many times - not least when Kelsey starts to over-analyse her relationship with Ren. I mean, she's clearly attracted to him and kisses him often, but Houck decides to string this out through the last third of the novel, with an entirely unconvincing resolution.
Altogether Tiger's Curse was about two hundred pages too long, and shared far too many similarities with other YA fantasy romances. It frustrated me more than it thrilled me, and I would say categorically that I have no intention picking up the other two novels in the trilogy.
I know my review is tough, so here is an alternative view from someone who adored it: Serendipity Teacher