Introduction and Prologue
It's that time again!
Finals are over and it's time to dive head-first into the next book in the Tiger's Curse saga! I'm looking forward to getting into this book, because Tiger's Voyage is...a weird book.
In some ways, it's an improvement on both Tiger's Curse and Tiger's Quest. This is mostly because the pacing is actually...normal in this one. Which is great news for all of you guys, because I don't have to spend the first ten or so chapters saying variations on "nothing is happening" over and over again. We actually start with...not filler!
But for all of the improvements to story structure (which, believe me, I greatly appreciate), the third book is still not, well, good. As part of the law of equivalent exchange, this increase of quality in pacing means that there is a sharp decrease in quality in...pretty much every other aspect of the book. The mythology is worse. The characters are worse. The unintentional racism is worse. Ren is worse. Oh, God, is Ren ever worse.
Because, see, Ren doesn't remember who Kelsey is anymore! So this book lets us have a glimpse at what he's like when he's not trying to impress Kelsey. Spoilers, he's even worse than I could have imagined!
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's get started! Woo-hoo!
The Front Cover
This...doesn't look as good as the other two covers. The first two books are beautiful, and were one of the main reasons I picked up the first book (because I am easily swayed by a shiny book cover). This dragon looks really wonky in a way I can't describe. Plus it's sticking its tongue out like "bleeeeeeeeh."
But hey, it's a dragon! I fucking love dragons!!! That's something to look forward to, right?
Unrelated, but I looked up the synopsis on GoodReads and one of the top reviews is written by a familiar face: Colleen Houck. Her entire review is "My favorite of the series."
She rated it five stars.
The Back Cover
Danger. Heartbreak. Choices.
Is forever too long to wait for true love?
Ooooh, the Drama!
Five mythical Chinese dragons and the open sea beckon nineteen-year-old Kelsey who must embark on a third voyage--this time to find Durga's Black Pearl Necklace and free her beloved Ren from both the tiger's curse and his sudden amnesia.
Holy run-on sentence, Batman!
But, hey, we're going back to Asian mythology this time! No more weird Roman/Greek nymphs, no more Hugin and Munin...nice. Also, I think Houck realized that keeping the MacGuffin secret was completely pointless in the last book, so we actually know what they're looking for this time.
Ren's bad-boy brother, Kishan, however, has other plans, and the two vie for her attention and try to outsmart those intent on foiling their goal.
What is it that makes Kishan a "bad boy"? He wears black! That's the only difference, except that Kishan is actually a bit nicer than Ren is!
Also, I love how this is phrased like it's only Ren and Kishan who actually do anything to keep Lokesh from stopping them.
Tiger's Voyage, the third book in the Tiger's Curse series, spins a deliciously suspenseful tale of enchanted creatures, love-torn hearts, and edge-of-your-seat action as Kelsey, Ren, and Kishan journey toward their true destiny.
If you're hoping Kelsey actually takes part in the action in this series, you would be woefully mistaken. She's a damsel in distress for a worrying percentage of the story. I mean that completely literally.
But still! Dragons!
Inside the Cover
Like the previous two books, Tiger's Voyage starts with a full poem as an epigraph. It's a poem called "Forget Thee?" by John Moultrie. Geddit? Because Ren has amnesia?? And the poem is about forgetting people??? Marvel at Houck's subtlety!
Prologue: Shark in the Water
Unlike the prologue in the second book, this book starts off from Lokesh's point of view. Aw sweet, this'll give us a chance to finally hear what his evil plan actually is, right?
Lokesh is chilling up in his penthouse in Mumbai. I mentioned this in the last book, but the last thing you want to do if you're secretly immortal is fail to keep a low profile, since the more people you know the more likely it is that your secret will be discovered. Now, Lokesh is a cartoonishly evil caricature who would presumably just kill anyone who found out, but that just kind of compounds the problem. Stacks of bodies tend to get noticed pretty quickly.
Anyway, Lokesh is angry.
[. . .] Lokesh tried to control the incredible rage slowly circling through his veins.
Oh God he's gonna Hulk out.
He thinks back to the events at the Baiga camp and about how everything went wrong for him. He reminds us that Ren was rescued by Kelsey and that he took the amulet from her, which I forgive as exposition because it's the prologue and that's how sequels work. Anyway, he thinks about how he was surprised that Kelsey & Co. had magical weapons that were "somehow tied to the goddess Durga." He notes that the weapons were magical.
This highlights a major problem I've had with Lokesh as a villain in the first two books! Lokesh isn't connected enough to the main plot of the story. Yeah, he's looking for the Matt Damon Amulets, but the Matt Damon Amulets literally don't factor into the protagonists' plot in a meaningful way! They don't actually need the pieces to break the curse, and the worst thing that would happen would be that Mr. Kadam would start aging again. Given how ineffective Kelsey's piece has been for her, she wouldn't notice a difference at all.
Whatever. Mentioning the word "magic" gives Lokesh the excuse to monologue about how evil he is. He sees magic as a way of getting what he wants, a means to an end.
A trick of the universe that only a few sought and even fewer could harness. Lokesh had it, and he would use it to bring him even more power. Others thought him evil. He didn't believe in good and evil--only in powerful and powerless. Lokesh was determined to be the former.
You know. Eeeevillll.
For some reason, this makes him think about Durga again (as opposed to right after bringing Durga up before, which would actually make sense) and wonders if Durga is involved somehow. He thinks that she is probably guiding them somehow.
Like good and evil, he didn't believe in gods.
Two problems. One, that's a mother of a dangling participle and should have been caught in editing. Two, he just said that Durga was probably involved. Why would he think that if he doesn't think she exists? Also, he knows magic! Why would the existence of gods not fit in with that?
He's still evil:
Faith was a crutch, a convenient way to control the masses who would become mindless slaves, choosing not to use whatever meager intellect they possessed. Believers sat at home and wept and prayed, prostrating themselves for divine assistance that would never come.
I mean, yeah, I get that he's evil. But given that at least one goddess literally exists, this doesn't really make sense with the world Houck has created where they...uh, exist.
Anyway, his assistant comes into the room and tells him that the tracking device he'd implanted in Ren has been found, sans-Ren. Lokesh picks up the chip and throws it out of the sixtieth-floor window "using the power of the amulet." Oh, he also throws the assistant out of the window.
But hey, he's using the Matt Damon Amulet! But this gives us no idea how they actually work, especially given that the pieces we've seen in action with Mr. Kadam and Kelsey don't work this way! Is super-telekinesis/super-strength an inherent power of the pieces of the Amulets? Is it because he has two pieces, which makes them more powerful? Does it amplify his own magical abilities? I have no idea!!! Creating a consistent magic system is too hard!
Anyway, the assistant screams all the way to the ground, at which point Lokesh opens up a hole underneath him to bury him alive. Holy shit!
Uhh, aren't we in the middle of Mumbai? Also known as one of the most densely populated cities in the world? And we're in a giant office building that is presumably in a downtown area in the middle of the day? How does no one see this happening? Also, the narration explicitly describes the assistant as screaming all the way down, which Lokesh can hear sixty floors up. He doesn't occupy the whole office building--just the penthouse. There are at least 59 other people that should have seen this happening.
He whips out Kelsey's Matt Damon Amulet and reminds the readers that he's trying to unite all the pieces (of which we know of at least four--Lokesh has at least the two Ren's parents had, and it's possible that he's found some other pieces Mr. Kadam didn't know about).
Soon, he . . . would finally have the means to accomplish what he'd always dreamed of since he'd learned of the amulet's existence.
Which is still a complete mystery to us, the audience! I don't understand what Houck is trying to accomplish by hiding this from us for so long.
He knew that the completed amulet would fashion him into something new . . . something . . . more. Something . . . perfect.
This isn't even his final form, you guys.
He tries to attach Kelsey's piece to his, but it doesn't fit. He...well, he throws a magical temper tantrum when he realizes that Kelsey & Co. tricked him by giving him a fake piece of the amulet.
Apparently, Kelsey reminds him of Deschen (Ren and Kishan's mother). He was apparently super into Deschen, but it's unclear as to whether it was her he was into, or the fact that she had two sons. He'd apparently killed his own wife for having a daughter for extra Evul Points. But, uh, Yesubai was old enough to get married, yeah? She was at least in her late teens? Why had he not married someone else to have a son right away?
Well, this is somewhat excused by Lokesh resolving to kill Rajaram, Ren, and Kishan in order to marry Deschen. He also says the fun part would have been "breaking her spirit," so we're explicitly bringing kidnapping, torture, and rape into the plot. Great.
Wait, I thought his plan was to get the Matt Damon amulets from Ren and Kishan? I have no idea what he was trying to do. I don't think Lokesh knew what he was doing, either.
Regardless, you know how he just said that Kelsey reminds him of Deschen? Well...
Slowly, his seething rage transformed into something else. It cooked and bubbled in his mind, thoughts forming and bursting like cankerous blisters until his determination boiled down to a dark, maddening desire.
Oh God he's horny.
Yeah, so Lokesh also wants to bone down with Kelsey now. Because he's evil, he thinks it would be fun to put his knife against her skin. Kinky. He even decides to capture the tigers alive in order to...uh...
Yes. Caging the princes and making them watch as I subdue the girl will be highly pleasurable.
WHAT THE FUCK AM I READINGGGGG
So, um. In addition to Lokesh's undefined evil plan, he also wants to capture Kelsey, Ren, and Kishan, so they'll have to watch while he has his way with her.
Not enough YA paranormal romances have explicit references to rape.
He has goons placed all over India, including Durga's temples, and watching all major transportation hubs to keep an eye out for Kelsey & Co.
Let's see, he "shudders" while imagining touching her, and wants to hear her scream.
The need to have her was vicious. It tore through him as his fingers itched again.
Houck, I really don't want to read about Lokesh getting an erection. Stop.
He does realize that he'll have to get through the tigers, but that they're not the only predators involved. Because Lokesh is like a shark. He's not an actual shark, mind, but sharks are eeeeevil animals.
They would never see him coming.
Lokesh doesn't show up in person until 90% of the way through the book.
Well, I'm glad to be back and working on this spork! It's pretty fun to work on (despite the...horniness of this prologue), and I hope you enjoy the ride through book three.
Next time, Chapter One: Living without Love! Kelsey complains about Ren not remembering her, because he has amnesia.