As much as I hate to admit it, the main thing that drew me to this book was the cover. I read the synopsis and it seemed interesting, but the cover art and detail were what finalized the purchase. I try to stay true to the saying “Never judge a book by its cover,” but this is one of the few instances where I was shallow. All the different hues of blue are beautiful and I love the texture!
As far as the plot and premise of the book are concerned, I appreciated the originality of the story (it is like Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones go to India). I have never read a book that deals with Indian religion and/or mythology, so it was definitely something different for me. I have to say with all the books dealing with vampires, werewolves, faeries, nephilim/fallen angels, etc. nowadays, this book was a refreshing read. Colleen Houck does a good job weaving in elements of Indian mythology and shaping a story around an Indian curse and tigers.
Houck also did an okay job with the characters. They are not the greatest characters ever and most of them just had mundane and generic personalities that can be found in almost any other book. I have to say I did not particularly care for Ren or Kelsey, and I was worried about how much I would like the story when I did not care for the main characters. But then you meet Kishan, Ren’s brother. Oh man, Kishan. Why are you a minor character? WHY? He is the reason why Houck did an ‘okay’ job with the characters. Kishan, being the bad boy he is and stirring up trouble, salvaged this book. Lots of people go on about Ren and how great he is, but he cannot hold a candle to Kishan. Kishan has the real personality of the two. Ren was described as being perfect and the only thing that could get under his skin was Kelsey, but that does not make him ‘real.’ People are not perfect and everyone has flaws. While some people liked Ren for that reason, it was the same reason why I did not like him. Kishan is the one that actually seemed to have faults and regrets from the past, which is what makes a good character and enables a reader to connect to him. And boy, did I connect (hello, sir).
The things that really took away from this book was the childish writing and plot/character inconsistencies. I am sorry, but this book honestly could have been written by a ten year old. The dialogue was weak, and in some cases it seemed like Houck just looked up a word in the thesaurus and picked one that seemed most SAT-esque. And the details….oh, the details. I thought I had a little bit of OCD because my drawers were also meticulously tidy. My socks were all rolled in balls, arranged from the front of the drawer to the back. I usually grabbed the front ones and worked my way to the back. White socks were lined up on the right, black ones in the middle, and colored ones on the left.
I picked up the first one. The label read “Hot Dog Buns.” I hauled it over to the hot dog stand, then went back to get another box. It said “Neon Necklaces.” I took that one to the memorabilia stand.
Not. Necessary. Details like this do not help the story progress in the least, and they just frustrated me. It was another reason I thought the writing was childish and left a lot to be desired.
Another thing that really annoyed me was Phet. I did not dislike the character, but his way of speaking just really irked me.“At the present, you must respite. Important sunrise is tomorrow. Phet must pray in the dark hours, and you necessity sleep. Embark on tomorrow your traverse. It’s hard as difficult. In first light, Phet assist you in the company of tiger. Durga’s secret to unveil. Now go drowse.”
Really? For a man who is obviously not fluent in English, he certainly uses some big words, no? One would think that if he knew words like this, grammar would be a cinch. This REALLY got on my nerves. In Houck’s defense, Phet was not around for very long. However, coupled with her immature writing style, Phet’s speaking abilities were just….UGH (insert shudder here).
Another thing that really grated on me was plot holes and inconsistencies. Kelsey decides she is going to go to India randomly to take care of a tiger, and her foster parents do not even blink an eye. There was also the time she was able to get a passport in an hour and there were no security problems for bringing a tiger along on a private airplane. There were many moments like this in the story where things just went by a little too smoothly to be believable. These moments were not terribly important to the overall plot, but they distracted from the book itself and made Houck’s writing seem even worse than it actually is (or is it just naturally that bad?). It displayed one of the weaker points of her writing abilities. The inconsistencies just continue from there. Ren is a gentleman stuck in the past, where he cannot kiss Kelsey without asking for her permission and is very behind on current dating practices and culture references (he does not even know about Shakespeare). So how, pray tell, is he able to make jokes about wet t-shirts? How does he even know about wet t-shirts? Maybe this kind of knowledge is just innate in a man, or maybe there were wet t-shirts in India 300 years ago. Sorry, but I find it very unbelievable and unrealistic.
And then there was the beginning and ending of the story. The first 100 pages of the story were really not needed. It was supposed to be an introduction to Ren and Kelsey, but it served almost no purpose besides making the book longer than it should have been. And the ending, WTF? Kelsey decides that Ren is too perfect for her, so she leaves? “I am sorry, Ren. I love you, but I must leave you for you are too amazing.” Seriously? If it wasn’t the end of the book, I would have hurled it at the wall, pretty cover and all. Not to mention the bickering that went on for 50 pages or so when she decides she wants to split from Ren and he gets angry about it. Here are the two main characters on a life and death quest, and while running from danger, they are yelling insults at one another. In some cases, it can be comedic (like in an Indiana Jones movie), but in this case, it was just SUPER ANNOYING.
Overall, the novel had a very original story and plot (and pretty cover), but poor writing and inconsistencies really dragged it down. I respect the fact that Houck tried to make a story based on Indian mythology, but when compared to other books dealing with mythology, such as Percy Jackson and the Olympians, she is a little out of her league. I will try reading the next book in the series, but my expectations are going to be much lower.