CHAPTER SIX: MUMBAI

T: Did I ever tell you these chapter titles remind me of Twilight? Short, vague, and often unrelated to half or more of the chapter?

F: As you may recall, Mr. Kadam’s plane that should not exist is landing in Mumbai. Kelsey “hadn’t expected a modern city”, because this is backwards India where everyone lives in mud huts, right? They taxi down the runway, and Ren is totally alright— just sitting looking expectant, which is not at all how animals behave on planes.

Kelsey steps down and is completely astounded by the gray sky, because she thought it was always hot and sunny in India. Seriously:

“Mr. Kadam, isn’t it usually hot and sunny in India?”

Maybe today is just a little cloudy? Apparently, you see one sky, you’ve seen ‘em all.

T: Our intelligent 18-year-old Ms. Kelsey is not aware of the existence of monsoons. I am now disinclined to believe any other positive traits that CHouck yells about Kelsey. That’s the problem with stating that a Mary Sue is smart or well-read or thoughtful or whatever. They never actually display any of those traits. The best thing to do, in my opinion, is just let the reader come to their own conclusions about the character after reading the book, not blatantly give them labels that contradict every action they take.

F: Mr. Kadam tells Kelsey that India’s got a rainy season like anywhere else, and she doesn’t react at all. It’s bad first-person POV, because she receives information and, for all we know, just ignores it. There’s no internal or external dialogue about it, there’s no acknowledgement. She wanders over to Ren’s cage with no further thought spared for the weather of India.

If this was the only time it ever happened, that would be acceptable, but this is a huge problem with amatuer first-person POV. When was the last time someone told you something and you had no reaction whatsoever to it? First-person allows the author to share the character’s thoughts, but it also demands that the author does show the character’s thoughts. It’s not acceptable for the character to just ignore the last piece of every conversation unless they’re actually not paying attention to what people say, and somehow I doubt that was what CHouck was going for.

A bunch of men are loading Ren onto a truck with chains. One of them pulls a little too hard, and Ren roars and swipes the air. Kelsey’s immediate reaction is to run forward, grab the chains, and walk Ren to the truck all on her own. He calms down, walks docily beside her, then hops up into the truck and licks her arm as she takes off the chains.

Ren looked over at the men who were still standing frozen in the same place with stunned expressions, snuffed out his displeasure at them, and growled softly.

T: (Stunned Men): She’s a Sue! Quick, get the pitchforks!

I honestly cannot fathom what “snuffed out his displeasure at them” is supposed to mean. Is snuffing like sniffing? It should mean he’s not displeased with them anymore, but why did he then growl at them? The writing just isn’t clear enough.

F: Alright. We all know that Ren is not, in fact, a tiger. That can excuse his behavior, and the fact that he does not act like a typical animal. However, nothing can excuse Kelsey’s behavior. Short of authorial knowledge implanted into her head, there’s no way she can know that Ren won’t hurt her. Remember, to the best of her knowledge right now, Ren is an actual tiger who happened to lick her hand instead of bite it when she stuck it in his cage. She somehow thinks this means she can walk him around like a dog.

Ren doesn’t act like a normal tiger, but Kelsey has shown no signs of understanding that, and we can only assume she thinks he is just a tiger. And she believes it’s perfectly safe for her to do things like pull him around on a chain. He is a tiger. Remember the goat in Life of Pi? That was not exaggeration. Tigers are not pets. They can and will destroy living things, and they are fully capable of killing teenage girls in five or so seconds. We, as genre-savvy readers, understand that the tiger will not hurt her. KELSEY DOES NOT UNDERSTAND THIS. Or at least, she shouldn’t. My conclusion is that either Kelsey is really, really stupid, or she’s already got a “connection” with Ren, which is even more stupid. We’re about to get this issue again, reversed.

T: The men lock up the truck and Mr. Kadam introduces Kelsey to the driver, then gives her a backpack. The backpack contains a compass, a lighter, energy bars, maps, and bottles of water. She’s supposed to be in the truck for a relatively short drive to the animal reserve, where she’ll be in a house that contains food and water and all that good stuff.

This is possibly the most unsubtle foreshadowing I have ever seen. And Kelsey, of course, thinks it’s all just precautions, and nothing weird is going to happen that involves her stuck in the wilderness. This is a clear case of reader vs. character expectations. If I were actually Kelsey, I might not think anything strange of the supplies. However, we as readers can recognize the “plot twist” that’s coming a mile away. When you want something to be a surprise, you’ve got to not just consider the genre savviness of the characters, because the readers are the ones you’re actually hoping to surprise. That is an issue in so many form of media.

F: Mr. Kadam says goodbye to Kelsey and leaves her alone in India.

Alone.

In India.

I’d also like to note that Kelsey speaks nothing but English—she has got a translation dictionary, but I think we all know about how helpful those are. She is also traveling with a large tiger.

If nothing else, how in hell did her foster parents ever agree to this?

We are treated to a description of Mumbai that is actually fairly decent. Its only issue is length, because there are five paragraphs describing a city where we only ever spend three pages. The amount of space you take to describe something should be directly proportional to the amount of time spent with the thing described! We already went over this!

The driver takes a wrong turn, but tells Kelsey it’s just a fast road. We suddenly warp three hours ahead in time, where they stop in a small town called Ramkola.

T: Here we go.

Mumbai is the capital of the Maharashtra state in India, which borders a piece of the west coast. Ramkola is part of the Uttar Pradesh state in the north-east. Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra are more than 1,200 kilometers apart, and the drive is estimated to be around 20 hours—not to mention that Ramkola is located in the Kushinagar district, which is about the farthest away from Maharashtra as possible. I do not care how fast your road is, CHouck, driving that distance in three hours is completely, utterly impossible.

Calling it a town would be overemphasizing the size of the place because it boasted only a market, a gas station, and five houses.

T: According to the 2001 Indian census Ramkola had a population of 13,333. It’s noted for its sugar mills and temple.

Kelsey finds a sign saying the Yawal Wildlife Sanctuary is four kilometers on. The Yawal Wildlife Sanctuary is a real place … located back in Maharashtra, over a thousand kilometers away!

I fail to understand. Why couldn’t CHouck just use an actual small town near the wildlife sanctuary? This is the same thing that happened with the plane. It’s like she’s shoving in things that might fit the situation with no regard to how they mesh with one another. Completely making up stuff is one thing, and given the proper treatment, it works. If you want to use real-life details, make sure they’re accurate, or the rules of magic or whatever excuse the differences. CHouck chooses neither of these! This is the worst way to do things properly! It just sounds like she’s trying to be official but failing to do her research, just throwing in names and hoping no one questions them!

F: The driver goes to the gas station which is apparently one of the only seven buildings in Ramkola, and Kelsey goes to get some food in a market. The following scene is completely pointless. Again, CHouck overdescribes, in this case for a tiny little market that shows up for two pages.

She said, “Please to eat and enjoy.”

F: Hooray for complete butchering of the way people who aren’t white speak! I notice that Ren, Mr. Kadam, and anyone else “acceptable” has perfect English, but the poor townspeople (and Phet, I’m looking forward to Phet) speak brokenly and make weird translation mistakes. And this translation mistake is weird. It’s not the kind that actual people would make, it’s the kind that authors who don’t do their research think actual people would make.

Lucky us, we get a full description of what Kelsey’s eating and the Indian translation for everything, which is totally unnecessary. She sits, sipping a milkshake, and sees through the window Mr. Kadam arguing with “a very handsome young man dressed in white”. Well, she isn’t completely sure it’s Mr. Kadam, because Mr. Kadam is supposed to be somewhere else, and this person is angry in a way Kelsey can’t imagine Mr. Kadam being. She hears a few of their words, whips out her dictionary, and figures out Ren the handsome man dressed in white is talking about something necessary that has to happen, and Mr. Kadam is telling him no way. The man sees Kelsey looking out through the window and steps out of sight behind the truck. Kelsey needs to know if that’s really Mr. Kadam, so she heads outside.

The store was a small, rectangular room (pg. 73)

I made my way through the maze of shelves to the door. (pg. 75)

F: Since the supposedly small room has suddenly grown a bunch of passages mysteriously (do they have no features? Is there a minotaur in the middle?), Kelsey navigates her way outside and finds that Mr. Kadam and Ren the handsome man have mysteriously vanished. I remind you that this town, in the book at least, has seven standing structures, and presumably nothing else but countryside around it. Where did Mr. Kadam go? Really?

Confused, but not bothering to think about it, Kelsey goes back into the market and pays her bill. In the time it takes her to divide a hundred rupees by forty—

I smiled to myself as I thought about my math-loving dad and his quick division drills when I was little.

—the truck vanishes! Yeah, it just straight-up disappears! In the time it takes her to divide a hundred by forty, fork over a five-dollar bill (yeah, that’s right, 100% tip), and walk back outside, the truck leaves! Kelsey is stranded. Cue the drama!

CHAPTER SEVEN: THE JUNGLE

I ran out to the gas pump and looked both ways down the dirt road. Nothing. No dust cloud. No people. Nothing.

F: So how fast are you at division, exactly? Because it couldn’t be too fast, not if there’s no dust cloud and no sign of the truck in what I assume is open countryside.

T: Miss Kelsey pokes around a bit, discovers her black bag full of all those granola bars and water bottles, and suddenly realizes OMG REN IS JUST SITTING ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD! Yes, that’s right, our heroine is so startlingly unobservant that she failed to realize there was a tiger standing in front of her. She comes to the conclusion that the driver dumped Ren and stole the truck.

Tired, scared, and alone, my mom’s words of advice came flooding back: “bad things sometimes happen to good people”; “the key to happiness is to try to make the best of, and be thankful for, the hand we’re dealt,” and her all-time favorite, “when life gives you lemons, make lemon meringue pie.”

T: My first complaint: inconsistent formatting. She uses a semicolon to break up the first two “wise sayings,” then switches to a comma.

My second complaint: where exactly did this come from? Apparently Kelsey just summoned it from the ether or something.

F: Agreed. This really just shows up, spews like a “hang in there kitty” poster, then vanishes. It feels like a ham-handed way to bring up the dead parents for more angst, and the angst here definitely shows—oh, this is so difficult, and I’m all alone, but I’ll remember the things my dead mom told me and soldier on despite the pain of her being gone!

Kelsey goes back to the shop, buys some jerky and a rope, then approaches Ren. She admits the sensible thing to do would be to call Mr. Kadam at the shop and get him to send some “people, professional-type people” to catch the rogue tiger. When has Kelsey ever done the sensible thing? Instead, she follows Ren, waving a jerky treat, as he walks away, then begins trotting into the jungle. I will repeat: Kelsey follows the tiger into the jungle.

I was afraid for Ren. I had absolutely no fear of him for myself, but what if others panicked and used weapons to subdue him?

F: What? Just … what?

WHY? Why in hell does Kelsey care so much about Ren’s wellbeing? WHY? There is no reason given! Seeing a perceived sadness in his eyes that for all we know is just a reflection of Kelsey’s own mental state does NOT excuse this kind of messed-up action! WHY DOES SHE CARE ABOUT A RANDOM TIGER? You tell me there’s a connection? Prove it. We have seen no connection. We have seen nothing besides Ren not eating Kelsey when given the chance! That’s like saying “you can prove this guy loves me because he doesn’t hit me”! I don’t care if there was a tingling in her soul, I don’t care if God almight reached down and planted a sign saying “you two are soul mates.” A SANE PERSON DOES NOT DO THIS. She is willing to follow a tiger (A WILD ANIMAL, AS FAR AS SHE KNOWS) into a jungle where no one has any idea where she is in a country she’s never been to before! That is stupid! That is insane!

NO.

T: Kelsey follows Ren for about half an hour, is totally lost, and notices it’s getting dark. This is where I would chose to have the zombies show up and kill her for being so mind-numbingly stupid, but alas, that does not occur. Instead, once Ren realizes Kelsey is totally lost, he comes back and allows her to tie him up. Seeing as she is totally lost, she just lets Ren tug her around in the jungle until he finds a random patch of grass and lies down. Kelsey finds a flashlight in the black bag and gives Ren a couple energy bars.

First, I untied the rope from Ren’s collar, figuring that my trying to keep him from running away was moot at this point, and then crouched down and unzipped my bag.

T: Not the narration of someone who is totally lost, you might say? I agree with you! KELSEY IS SITTING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE JUNGLE IN THE MIDDLE OF INDIA WITH NO IDEA WHERE SHE IS, HOW TO GET HOME, OR HOW TO AVOID BEING EATEN BY THE TIGER WHO DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO HUNT FOR ANYTHING ELSE. AND HERE SHE IS QUIPPING ABOUT HOW SHE’D GIVE IT FOUR STARS IF IT INCLUDED A MINT AND CALMLY DESCRIBING HER ACTIONS.

F: Kelsey, using her mad Girl Scout skills, builds a little fire and a makeshift bowl for Ren to drink water. Suddenly, she hears a mysterious howl!

Ren jumped up at once and rushed off in a whirl, disappearing into the darkness. I heard deep growling and then an incensed and vicious snarl. I stared gravely into the darkness between the trees where Ren had disappeared, but he soon returned unharmed and began rubbing his side on the teak tree.

T: Two things. One: yes, CHouck actually wrote “I stared gravely into the darkness.” Two: Kelsey is so stupid, she has no idea why Ren is rubbing himself against all the trees in the area, and actually states “Gee, Ren. That must be some itch.” How old is she supposed to be again?

Kelsey sits by the fire and begins crying. Her narration remains utterly emotionless and without expression. It’s still that bored, sad monotone that doesn’t change no matter what the situation. Kelsey tries to sleep and Ren cuddles up to her. Because I know what I know, that’s creepy. If I knew what Kelsey knew, that would be frightening. In no case would it be comforting.

F: Kelsey falls asleep, and wakes up with a 500 lb tiger sleeping on her leg. Because she is stupid, she starts trying to shove Ren away. Why? Why is she not frightened of this tiger? WHY?

Anyway, she complains about her hating camping, then lets Ren lead her through the jungle, because that worked so well last time. They stop to drink water, Kelsey from a bottle and Ren from a stream, and Kelsey inventories the black bag and discovers that it’s got all the basic wilderness survival stuff— a first aid kit, bug spray, a pocketknife, a flashlight, etc. Kelsey finally begins to wonder if Mr. Kadam intended for her to get lost, and immediately dismisses it as impossible. She comes up with the explanation that he’s “just a really well-prepared Boy Scout.” She then continues to follow Ren for much of the day. Finally, they arrive at a little clearing with a hut in the middle. Kelsey wants to go knock on the door of the hut, but she ties up Ren to a tree first. Then— brace yourselves, folks, we’re about to meet Human!Ren, who is a lot more of a dick then Tiger!Ren.

“I’m sorry, Ren, but we can’t have you loose. It would scare the family. I promise I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

I started walking over to the small house, but then froze in my tracks when I heard a quiet male voice behind me say, “Is this really necessary?”

Turning around slowly, I saw a handsome young man standing directly behind me. He looked young, in his early twenties. He was taller than me by a head and he had a strong, well-developed trim body that was clothed in loose white cotton garments. His long-sleeved shirt was untucked and carelessly buttoned, revealing a smooth, well-built golden-bronze chest. His lightweight pants were rolled at the ankles, emphasizing his bare feet. Glossy black hair swept away from his face and curled slightly at the nape of his neck.

His eyes were what riveted me the most. They were my tiger’s eyes, the same deep cobalt blue.

Reaching out a hand, he spoke. “Hello, Kelsey. It’s me, Ren.”

T: One: “strong, well-developed trim body” and “smooth, well-built” seems redundant in the same paragraph (but we mustn’t forget the muscles, now, right?). Two: What does it mean to emphasize his feet? What’s the point? And three: I warn you now, the whole golden-bronze chest is nearly as prolific as the marble statue in Twilight.

F: Congratulations, everyone, you just met Ren. Ren, this is everyone. Pretty soon you’re all going to be hating each other. See you next time!

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Comment

  1. The Smith of Lie on 7 November 2013, 08:39 said:

    So… Does he transform at will? The scene at the end seems to imply so. Which would make him pretty much a weretiger.

    Also, very considerate curse, allowing for Ren to have clothes when he transformpsh into his human form. Although it could make for much more entertaining (or at least rapey) scene if he stood naked in front of her.

  2. Epke on 7 November 2013, 09:17 said:

    I ran out to the gas pump and looked both ways down the dirt road. Nothing. No dust cloud. No people. Nothing.

    No exclamation marks. No feeling. No sense of urgency or panic. Nothing. No connection with the character. NOTHING.

    Turning around slowly, I saw a handsome young man standing directly behind me. He looked young, in his early twenties.

    It appears that he’s young, but how can we be really sure? /sarcasm

    He was taller than me by a head and he had a strong, well-developed trim body that was clothed in loose white cotton garments. His long-sleeved shirt was untucked and carelessly buttoned, revealing a smooth, well-built golden-bronze chest.

    I like how 1) Kelsey can recognise fabric at just a glance while faced with something that’d make normal people turn around and run and 2) how she’s immediately drawn (despite later claim) to stare at his muscles.
    Also, golden-bronze makes me think Ren here is wearing make-up from head to toe so he has that metallic sheen.

    His lightweight pants were rolled at the ankles, emphasizing his bare feet. Glossy black hair swept away from his face and curled slightly at the nape of his neck.

    Did CHouck glance at a Harlequin novel while writing this?

  3. Brendan Rizzo on 7 November 2013, 12:22 said:

    Oh wow. This just keeps getting better and better. Picking out the holes in this is like shooting fish in a barrel.

    To start with, what’s really stopping Kelsey from going to a pay phone or something and calling Mr. Kadam once her ride (somehow) leaves? Was there even a single line handwaving this?

    And if Ren can become a human at will, then why doesn’t he do this all the time instead of being treated like a circus animal? But let me guess, he can only change back when in the presence of his twu wuv, right?

    I can’t wait for more of this now that Ren’s shown up for real.

  4. Forest Purple on 8 November 2013, 01:33 said:

    And if Ren can become a human at will, then why doesn’t he do this all the time instead of being treated like a circus animal? But let me guess, he can only change back when in the presence of his twu wuv, right?

    So… Does he transform at will? The scene at the end seems to imply so. Which would make him pretty much a weretiger.

    … sort of. He does transform at will, but there are limits. Which could be cool, but it all hinges around Kelsey’s INSTA-RELATIONSHIP with Ren, as well as becoming more and more lax as the books go on.

  5. swenson on 8 November 2013, 10:04 said:

    This is one of those books where so much stupid drips from the pages, it’s hard for me to actually respond coherently to it, even filtered through the lens of a spork.

    At any rate, the thing which comes to mind most when reading this chapter is just how much I loathe it when characters react to things the way they need to for the plot to advance, as opposed to how a person would realistically react. For example, Kelsey’s inexplicable and incredibly stupid trust of Ren. I write too, and I know it’s hard when what you want to have happen and what probably would actually happen don’t align. But you’ve just got to accept that and either work out a logical way for it to happen, or… accept that the character is simply not right for the story you want to tell.

    For example, a precocious but naive five-year-old would make a much better protagonist for this story than Kelsey. Her actions would just make so much more sense.

  6. Brendan Rizzo on 8 November 2013, 11:02 said:

    For example, a precocious but naive five-year-old would make a much better protagonist for this story than Kelsey. Her actions would just make so much more sense.

    I’d like to read that, too. Step on it!

  7. Juracan on 8 November 2013, 13:38 said:

    Oh God, this looks bloody awful. I’m praying for your soul.

    The research fails especially get to me; I looked up this book on Goodreads, and a few of the positive reviews noted how well-researched they thought this book was. Granted, a lot of the negative reviews said the opposite, but I’m worried that people are reading these books and bragging about how much they “learned” when in reality the author is pulling stuff out of her ass.

    Miss Kelsey pokes around a bit, discovers her black bag full of all those granola bars and water bottles, and suddenly realizes OMG REN IS JUST SITTING ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD! Yes, that’s right, our heroine is so startlingly unobservant that she failed to realize there was a tiger standing in front of her.

    I just.. wouldn’t a white tiger sitting on the side of the road bring a lot of attention? Wouldn’t someone notice that? Also, why would she conclude that someone dropped off a white tiger for no reason? Wouldn’t a healthy white tiger be worth quite a bit?

    And three: I warn you now, the whole golden-bronze chest is nearly as prolific as the marble statue in Twilight.

    Ave Maria, this is going to hurt, isn’t it?

  8. Ryan McCarthy on 8 November 2013, 14:53 said:

    @Juracan

    Houck basically took advantage of the fact that most readers don’t know much about India. However, even as someone that doesn’t know shit about India, I could still tell that Houck was pulling stuff out of her ass. Also, the way some of the Indian characters speak is infuriatingly stereotypical and downright offensive. Hell, she claimed that her editor(or some shit) helped her make sure the info on India was accurate. If you ask me, that is the biggest bullshit I ever heard.

    That said, I can look past some(but not all) of these inaccuracies if the story, characters, and writing were good but they aren’t…at all.

    Not that this matters because the way the info is exposited, whether or not it is accurate, is amateurish, which makes it clear that Houck has no idea what she is doing.

    That’s just one of many reasons why Tiger’s Curse might be the worst book I’ve ever read.

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