January 11, 2011
|“||I was dying. I knew it. At least the pain was gone. I wanted to tell him that I loved him. Then darkness overtook me...||”|
Tiger's Curse is the first book in the Tiger's Curse series, released on January 11, 2011. It was originally a free self-published eBook novel in 2010.
Passion. Fate. Loyalty.
Would you risk it all to change your destiny?
But that's exactly what happened.
Face-to-face with dark forces, spell-binding magic, and mystical worlds where nothing is as it seems, Kelsey risks everything to piece together an ancient prophecy that could break the curse forever.
Tiger's Curse is the exciting first novel in an epic fantasy-romance that will leave you breathless and yearning for more.
Nearly 300 years ago, a prince stood prisoner before three people traitors: Kishan, his brother; Yesubai, his betrothed; Lokesh, Yesubai's father and raja of a neighboring kingdom. After returning home from battle, the prisoner discovered his brother and his fiancée had been seeing each other while he was gone. Lokesh promised Yesubai to Kishan on one condition: that he and his brother each give the raja their amulets. If the prince did not obey, he would die. When the prisoner did not comply, Lokesh grabbed the prince and slit his wrist with a dagger. The man let the prince's blood drip onto a wooden talisman. When it began to glow, Kishan and Yesubai attempted to subdue the sorcerer. They were easily thrown off. Yesubai hit her head against a nearby dais. The last thing the prisoner saw before fading into unconsciousness was the sight of a grief-stricken Kishan mourning over Yesubai's limp body.
In the present day, a high school graduate searched for a job. Kelsey Hayes was at a local employment office to be interviewed for a summer job. The woman behind the desk suggested working at Circus Marurizio for two weeks. She would be selling tickets, caring for animals, and cleaning up after performances. The job required her to stay on the property 24/7. Kelsey accepted the job. She went home to her foster family to tell them the good news and prepare herself for the two weeks ahead. The very next day, Kelsey reported for duty. She is met by the ringleader Mr. Maurizio. He introduced her to Cathleen, the child of one of the acrobats, who in turn introduced her to Matt Davis, a fellow worker and son of the circus animal trainer. After Kelsey settled into her temporary living space, she got ready for her first day on the job. When bus full of children came to enjoy the show, she and Matt manned the ticket and concession stand. While not selling anything, the two teenagers watched the closing performance. Andrew Davis, the animal trainer, brought out the main attraction: a white tiger. Mr. Davis made the tiger perform tricks like sitting on stools and jumping through hoops. He even puts his head in the tiger's jaw. All the while Kelsey was amazed, but noticed the tiger's melancholy mood. When the big cat is carted away, she smelled jasmine and sandalwood as the big cat passed. Matt and Kelsey cleaned up the stands and seating areas before having dinner with the troupe and going to bed.
Kelsey found Mr. Davis in the kennel playing with the dogs the following morning. He told her she would be walking the dogs every morning. After the dogs had been exercised, Mr. Davis took Kelsey to the barn. There, he introduced her to Dhiren, the white tiger, whom she decided to nickname Ren. Kelsey was mesmerized by the creature's bright blue eyes. She went through the steps of feeding the tiger, and proceeded to watch Mr. Davis go over the tiger's performance routine. Kelsey noticed the animal was calm and tame, even on the occasions his trainer stepped on his tail. After a while, Kelsey went on to team up with Matt once more as a bus of senior citizens shuffled in. After the show, Kelsey returns to the tiger's barn. She sketched the animal in her journal. When Matt's father joined her, she asked if the white tiger ever got lonely. Mr. Davis told her Ren rejected the females he had been introduced to. Kelsey made the barn her retreat, a place for her to draw and read and enjoy the company of the white tiger. One week later, she and Matt were watching Ren's performance when he froze in place and stared Kelsey down. Matt remarked that this had never happened before. After the show Kelsey felt compelled to pet Ren. He welcomed the touch and licked her hand. Kelsey later read him the poem I Am the Cat by Leila Usher because she thought he would appreciate it. She stroked the tiger one last time before wishing he were free to roam.
A few days later, a well-mannered man showed up at the circus with an interest in Ren. He introduced himself to Kelsey as Anik Kadam. Mr. Kadam made an offer to buy the white tiger and transfer him to the Ranthambore National Park in India. He paid the troupe enough money to get by for about two years. Ren's last performance would be on Kelsey's last day of working at the circus. Later that day, Mr. Kadam told Kelsey the story behind Ren's name. He told her of Prince Dhiren, the noble future-ruler of his kingdom, and how his younger brother had Dhiren killed because of his jealousy. After finishing his story, Mr. Kadam offered Kelsey a job assisting him in moving Ren to India. She would make sure he was properly looked after and adjusting properly to his new environment. Kelsey was given time to think about this opportunity, and accepted the job at her eighteenth birthday party. The day finally came for Kelsey to travel with Ren to India. After making sure the tiger was properly taken care of, she and Mr. Kadam boarded a private plane that would stop in New York before flying the rest of the way to Mumbai. Kelsey learned quite a bit about Indian myths and legends from Mr. Kadam while the flight attendant Nilima saw to their needs. They all arrived in Mumbai the very next morning. Kelsey led Ren into the truck he would be transported in. She drove with the truck driver, who drove her and the tiger to their destination. After three hours, the driver stopped near a small restaurant for a break. Kelsey went into the restaurant and experienced a variety of new tastes. After she finished, she saw a young man arguing with an older man across the street from the restaurant. Kelsey went out to the vehicle, but remembered she had not paid for her meal. The next time she walked out of the establishment, the truck was gone, and only the tiger remained.
Against her better judgment, Kelsey followed Ren as he ventured into the jungle. She was more concerned for the tiger's well-being than her own. After two days of trekking though the Indian wilderness, the girl and the tiger came across a clearing with a small hut in the middle. Kelsey urged Ren to stay behind while she investigated, hoping to contact Mr. Kadam for help. Behind her back she heard someone protest. A handsome man had taken the place of the white tiger. He introduced himself to Kelsey as Prince Dhiren. He was the tiger all along. Once inside the hut, Ren gave his explanation. He was placed under a curse three-hundred years ago that transformed him into a tiger for the majority of the day. He never aged, and only had 24 minutes each day to be a man. Ren explained that he was captured long ago and was unable to change into a man. But that all changed when he met Kelsey. Somehow, her presence allowed Ren to become human and call Mr. Kadam. The men came to the conclusion that Kelsey was meant to break the curse. He told Kelsey that he brought her to someone else that might aid in their journey. She believed him, but was upset he did not tell her sooner. Phet, an ancient Indian native, came back to his hut. He confirmed Kelsey was the one destined to break the curse, but called her Durga's chosen one. He instructed the two to seek out Durga's prophecy in the Cave of Kanheri. She would tell them what they needed to do. Before the girl and the tiger left, Phet painted a henna design on Kelsey's hand.
Kelsey and Ren walked through the jungle until they came across a jeep with a note from Mr. Kadam. The GPS led them to Ren's estate where Mr. Kadam was waiting for them. After cleaning up, Kelsey met with Ren in human form. He further explained himself by going into more detail about his predicament. Mr. Kadam had worked for him ever since he had been turned into a tiger. The amulet that the evil wizard was after is what had kept Mr. Kadam alive for so many years. Mr. Kadam cared for the prince's parents until they passed on to the next life, and did all that he could to help Ren when he was captured. After finishing their conversation, Ren left Kelsey so she could sleep. The next morning, Kelsey was searching through her room's large closet when she stumbled upon a blue sharara dress. She came down to breakfast wearing it. Mr. Kadam told her that Nilima picked it out for her. It was then that Kelsey realized the flight attendant was Mr. Kadam's great granddaughter. He told her he had family, but separated himself from them when he found he could not age. Soon after, Kelsey decided to explore the estate. She went through a storage space and both Mr. Kadam's and Ren's bedrooms. She came across Ren in human form once more. He told her she looked pretty and showed her the many ways in which to wear the d'upatta scarf with the sharara, with Kelsey admiring his attractiveness all the while.
Ren and Kelsey traveled to Kanheri Cave the following day. Mr. Kadam had given them Ren's family seal, feeling they might need it. Because there were so many tourists in the park, they decided to wait until nightfall to explore. Kelsey spoke of her childhood and her parents while the white tiger listened. When the sun had finally set, the two walked through the jungle until they reached the mouth of the cave. They entered to find it had once housed Buddhist monks. They searched through the chambers until they came across a wall with an engraving that matched the family seal. When the seal was pressed against the wall, it opened a hidden doorway. The tiger and the girl walked cautiously through the darkness with only a flashlight and torch lighting the way. They soon found themselves in a labyrinth. Ren used his sense of smell to sniff out the exit. He and Kelsey soon came to a corridor crawling with giant black beetles. Gathering their courage, Kelsey and Ren made a run for it. They escaped with barely a scratch. They continued onward until they reached a narrow passageway with a slippery floor and poisonous spikes that jutted out of the walls at random. The two walked slowly through the corridor until they were both safely on the other side. Kelsey and Ren walked a while longer before they came to a small room. Suddenly, the door behind them came down. They rushed to the second door, but it too came down, blocking their escape route. A panel in the ceiling opened and water was released into the tiny room. Ren found there was another engraving for the seal to be placed under the water, which was rising fast. Kelsey dove down and opened the door just before she ran out of breath. They continued through the maze until they came to a giant chasm. In order to cross it, Ren had to jump as a tiger with Kelsey on his back. He transformed into a man at the last second, catching her in his arms. When they came to the end of the labyrinth, the faced a large door with etched symbols, one being a handprint similar to the henna design Phet drew Kelsey's hand. Kelsey placed her hand on the door, and it began to glow. The door opened to a grotto with a monolith at its center. The stone also had a handprint on it. Hieroglyphics appeared when Kelsey placed her hand on it. She and Ren concluded it was the prophecy they were meant to find. After taking multiple pictures of the stone, Ren noticed a golden liquid coming from the stone. The acidic liquid was consuming everything in its path. The stone fell to the floor, allowing the acid to creep toward the girl and the tiger. When they were forced into a corner, Ren and Kelsey forced themselves through a stone wall. Rocks fell behind them, separating them from the grotto.
More is soon to come. Please be patient.
Throughout the novel, poetry plays a key role in presenting a mood or theme in the book. It should be noted that Kelsey is fond of poetry--particularly Shakespeare's works. Poems included in this book include:
- "The Tiger" by William Blake
- "I Am the Cat" by Leila Usher
- "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?" by William Shakespeare
- "Sakuntala" by Kalidasa
- "...[A] sweet romance and heart-pounding adventure. I found myself cheering, squealing, and biting my nails—all within a few pages. In short, Tiger's Curse is magical!"
- —Becca Fitzpatrick, New York Times best-selling author of Hush, Hush
- "The way Colleen weaves Indian culture, Hinduism, and her own made-up fairy tale into an action-packed love story is captivating."
- —MTV.com's Hollywood Crush blog
- "''Tiger's Curse is an alluring premise that opens with a bang..."
- —The Los Angeles Times
- "Houck's first novel is part Indiana Jones and part fairytale...she tells a good story that will keep readers turning pages."