Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Tiger Saga- Book Series Review

For Otherworld Saturday (Otherworld to us means anything other than Whedon and Harry Potter, fyi), I’d like to review the YA book series The Tiger Saga by Colleen Houck.  I was directed to this series by a couple of my 8th graders last year, and it’s right in my wheelhouse.  I love these fantasy stories- but only when the authors pull it off.  I also appreciate originality, which is a rare find in today’s Young Adult genre.  There are four books in this series and I just finished the fourth and final book yesterday.  The books include Tiger’s Curse, Tiger’s Quest, Tiger’s Voyage, and Tiger’s Destiny.  The final book was released a couple of weeks ago. 

Basic Summary- (Light spoilers, nothing you couldn't get from the backs of the books, other than book one.) 

This is a contemporary story about a girl, Kelsey, who inadvertently stumbles upon a cursed tiger.  She is older than most heroines in the genre at 20, so I automatically appreciate this.  Our leading lady isn’t giving up school or abandoning her future for a guy at any point in this series. Kelsey is ready for adventure.   Kelsey, “through a series of strange circumstances” (thanks WDW Beauty & the Beast show for that shortcut statement), finds herself the savior of not one, but two ancient Indian princes who’ve been cursed to live their lives as immortal tigers.  They can spend a small part of their day as a human, which connected me with the Polar Bear King story.  For some reason I’ve always loved that story. (Check out my reviews of East and  Ice, two stories retelling the Polar Bear King legend.) The Tiger books are stories big on adventure, as Kelsey and her tigers must complete a series of tasks to try to defeat a powerful villain and break the curse.

A modern style retelling of
The Polar Bear King
A very classic, fairy tale
version of The Polar Bear King

My Review-
I enjoyed these books.  They are not my favorite that I’ve ever read, but they make an interesting read.  I don’t hate Kelsey, and I enjoy that for the most part she’s the savior, not the damsel in distress.  I thought book one, Tiger’s Curse, was great.  I do believe it’s the high point of the series.  The set up was fantastic, and the characters were vivid.  I got a little lost in the second and third books.  That generally means I started skimming.  I have a tendency to do that in books where the plots are less than captivating.  I did not really care about the tasks set up in these books, since I knew the general outcome.  They had to be mostly successful in order to make it to the next task, so there was minimal anticipation.  These books were also featuring my main problem with this series, which I’ll get into in my rant in a moment.

Lord of the Rings, giving me my well
deserved, detailed conclusion.
Thank you.
I did get back into the series with the fourth book, because I was intrigued by the many possibilities that could conclude the adventure.  As anyone who knows me will tell you, I judge a book (and many other things) by its ending. I want a decisive ending with lots of details.  Endings should be proportionate to the story. If you spend 90 minutes on a story, give me a 3-5 minute ending.  If you spent hours and hours on a story, I want a drawn out ending (think Lord of the Rings here).  To conclude on that point, I was extremely satisfied by the ending of the book.

The writing is good.  Not spectacularly amazing, but good.  I am done looking at terrible writing in YA novels.  I have high expectations, and this one was fairly successful.  At no point was there anything stated in the book that was distractingly bad or completely ridiculous.  I believe that there was a great deal of research done on religion and mythology throughout the story, and I appreciate that.  With casual references to Shakespeare and William Blake littering the pages, I can’t help but appreciate the homage to classic literature.  It automatically makes you appreciate the author’s good taste, and it gives me hope that teens reading it are just maybe becoming familiar with something I love.

My Rant-
My true issue with these books is prominent in the second and third book, while dragging into the fourth. Fortunately the fourth book has other interesting things happening, so it wasn’t as annoying.  Why must Kelsey love two men?  Why is this an okay thing?  A teenage girl would never tolerate a book series where the boy was blatantly in love with two likeable girls. That would label him a player, or at the least not boyfriend material.  That has all the makings of a tragedy, and that is not what this book is aiming for.  For unknown reasons, it is perfectly acceptable to readers that this girl loves both of these boys, and the boys must both patiently adore her while she wavers back and forth, otherwise they’ll be labeled the bad guy.  She literally imagines herself with one while she’s with another.  It’s sad, and I hate that such an otherwise enjoyable book condones such behavior.  It’s basically teaching that emotionally cheating on the person you are with is fine.  No worries.  I completely blame Twilight for this.  This ridiculous “one girl, two guys” theme has flooded our culture and I am over it.  I know that occasionally that may be the plot, but I’m finding it over and over and over and over… and never with genders reversed.  Does this not bother anyone else?

Final Words-
This series was NOT a series that I couldn’t put down.  More than once I walked away and didn’t come back for a day or two.  What is rare is that I came back at all.  Usually if I put a book down for more than an hour I’m unlikely to be coming back. The characters were well written and the premise itself was fun and exciting.  If I can look past the clichéd romantic plot, I call this a pretty good series.  By the way, it isn’t just for girls.  I’ve had twice as many 8th grade boys check this book out as girls.  I think it’s because of excellent cover art, which appears to be designed by Katrina Damkoehler. 

If you enjoy a good paranormal adventure/romance story, this is a much better pick than most things on the YA shelf today.

Stay Shiny!

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