So, this book starts off with an ordinary girl, Kelsey Hayes, who lives with a family whose lady of the house Sarah makes vegan cookies and a few family members we don't care about, and is going in to look for a summer job. She earns one at the circus where things are quite normal and actually not so bad...until she meets this white tiger with eyes like shining water on a beach, by the name of Dihren, but Kells nicknames him Ren. And the crazy thing? This tiger doesn't bite, obeys Kelsey's every command, and a man by the name of Mr. Kadam invites Kelsey on a summer employment in India where she'll get to be with her tiger as long as she can be...except this trip is not all it's cracked up to be.
Many of the curses and tellings are about Ren, and people begin calling him Ren just because we and Kelsey did when his real name is Dihren. If the spirits heard this and knew his new name is never made clear. What's also never really made clear is the point of this whole book. The book may have some neat details on wealthy Indian culture, but ugh! This has got to be one of the most annoying female protagonists since West Grayer and Natasha Kestall. Remember when I said in my review of Julie and Romeo that the kissing was the worst part of it? Well, here, it's even worse. The book has an on-again off-again love line that keeps squiggling but always goes back. We understand the motive of Ren the first time and we never forget it, so why can't Kelsey of all people get it into her head?
There's a share of descriptions of Colleen Houck invented magic, such as windows of yourself where if you pay attention to one, you get sucked into it, and there's a snake bracelet, an amulet to help endure pain and aging, etc. but we aren't given enough time to appreciate the ideas. At the end (no spoilers, really) but Kelsey learns of a food ability and she enjoys it like a normal person, but that's when I realized not once did Kelsey step outside of the wealthy Indian. I mean, everyone knows there's a lot of poverty, but here it's more like Dominican Republic with daily donations to the poor or something. Basically, in this world, India is a utopia; one where there aren't people who bathe in rivers with dead bodies which stay clean cause of steam. There is also more hiking in this book than Taken and Frozen by Erin Bowman. You can let that sink in for a moment if you'd like. Colleen Houck should work better on how much running and walking a person can take, and when to focus less on the drive and more on the story. For instance, (this next line is going to be major spoilers, so skip down to the next paragraph if you want) but there is no real bad guy here! Like, what in the world?
And did I mention the romance? Ugh! Sometimes romance is gripping. Sometimes it gets in the way. There's really no in between. And here the romance made me groan at least more than the one time at the end where it made absolutely no sense, I'm sure. The reason I didn't really put romance in my first few Blacktop Brothers books was because I watched too many non-sexual cartoons as a kid and didn't see the point of me putting anything in suggesting BDSM. There is a big surprise at around ninety pages and I at first found the tiger-girl thing cutesy, but by the time it happened I was already exhausted to the point where I said, "Eh." The reason this book is at four-hundred pages is because Houck tries to mark every footstep the characters take that we hardly get anywhere, except one crazy exciting action chapter after one-hundred pages of ish aft, and then another one-hundred paged break...
Basically...this book will likely make you nostalgic for Twilight's love story.