Sunday, October 16, 2016

REVIEW | Tiger Eye by Marjorie Liu

Tiger Eye by Marjorie Liu
Publication Year: 205
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Dirk & Steele #1
Awards: None
Format: Paperback from Library
Narrator: NA

WHY?: It was recommended on Book Riot's podcast, Get Booked by (I think) none other than Sarah MacLean herself when she was a guest on the show.  The premise sounded pretty interesting and it is the start of a series. Catnip!

SYNOPSIS:  Dela is an artist on a business trip in China, when a street vendor practically forces her, under weird circumstances, to buy a riddle box.  When Dela gets the box back to her hotel room and starts examining it, a very large handsome man with multicolored hair appears out of it.  Dela is a little freaked by this but not perhaps as violently as you'd suspect as she herself has magic.  This man turns out to be Hari, a 3000 year old shape-shifter who was imprisoned in the box by an evil magician and who is cursed to serve who ever frees him from the box until that person's death.  Dela vehemently wants nothing to do with this and Hari is surly but when there is an attempt on her life and then the evil magician who cursed Hari shows up, the two agree to work together to figure out what is going on.

I really, really hate to admit I dislike a book recommended by the fabulous Sarah MacLean but this book was not my cup of tea at all.  In fact, I find myself in the weird position of wishing it wasn’t a romance novel.  The set up/premise is really cool and has all sorts of potential for cool adventures.  Unfortunately, because this is a romance novel, the first third of the book is spent covering ¾ of a day where very little happens except Hari and Dela meeting and getting to know each other.  And the getting to know each other?  They get way too cozy way too fast for my taste. They “meet” (Hari is released from a riddle box ala a genie and Dela has to wrap her head around that this kind of thing exists in the world) around lunch time and by the time they turn into bed that night they’ve had to flee a restaurant in shame because of their inappropriate erotic kisses and they are both contemplating whether they have found “the one”.  And these are supposed to be two characters that don’t trust other people very much.  Soooo, too fast.  If I had my druthers this would have been an urban fantasy/adventure novel with a b plot slow-burn romance.  The romance isn’t precisely insta-love or developed badly, I just wanted something different because of personal preferences.

At 3/4 through, the book had become a slog and I admit I didn't even quite finish it.  I got about 30 pages from the end and it was overdue at the library so I just chucked it at that point because I just really didn't care what happened. I may have skimmed through just to see how things wrapped up. Anyway, I honestly feel like this was a really interesting and exciting story idea that through clumsy execution and poor characters became...boring as hell.  So what didn't I like:

1 - The characters - ALL OF THEM - are insanely vanilla.  Even the four "bad boys" who are Dela's BFFs and protectors - we are supposed to believe they have tortured pasts like Hari and yet all of these men are kind, thoughtful, nurturing, get the picture.  It's boring and unrealistic.  Hari and Dela are also insanely perfect, always knowing the right thing to say to each other and falling in love within 24 hours simply because there both just such darn nice people, how couldn't they.  There is zero spark, zero conflict, zero excitement.  I mean I feel bad complaining about guys that are respectful and sweet and in touch with their feminine side but you can give them complexity without making them raging misogynists.  They ALL had Hearts of Gold and it's just too much.

2- Nothing happens.  For a book whose plot outline promises non-stop action, this book disappoints big time.  All the characters are passive, just moving from point A to point B and sitting around until they are attacked.  At 3/4 of the way through, they are just doing the first (okay maybe second) proactive thing. Other then that it's just been a lot of sitting around, having a meal, chatting, ogling each other.  YAWN.

3 - Dela.  So I find that the romance heroines that work best for me, and this is 100% my quirk, are underdogs or ones who have suffered some kind of setback or challenge in life that has kept them from romance.  A character who evokes sympathy and makes you root for her to find some happiness and someone who adores her.  Dela does not pass this test for me at all.  Liu tries to make the case in the beginning that Dela is a "loner"  but it's not quite clear why besides her magic powers which didn't seem like much of a barrier. She's confident and friendly and generally good with people.  And as we find out she's adored and fussed over by a whole passel of men who are all very attractive and special.  We also finally meet a woman friend, who herself is an extremely talented musician who  Dela met at an art gallery.  No normal old childhood friends for Dela.  All her friends are special and delightful and allow her access to and get her the best seats at the most exclusive night clubs in San Francisco.  Dela's also fabulously wealthy and a world-renowned artist. And while Liu tells us that Dela doesn't trust easily, this doesn't play out in action - she and Hari are BFFs and kissing within like 3 hours of him being out of the box.   So..... not really feeling too much sympathy or engagement with the heroine.

4 - Though the copyright on this book is 2005, it reads like it was written in the 1980s.  It is seriously schmaltzy and cliched from the situations to the writing.

5- It's not funny.  It's not what I would call a particularly angsty book but it does take itself way too seriously for a paranormal romance.  What humor there is I found predictable and not funny.  No spicy witty banter to be seen for miles.  I have very specific romance tastes and one of them is that the book must have humor.

I could probably go on, pointing out the fact that the motive behind the assassination attempts on Dela is pretty far-fetched among other things but I think I've griped enough!  I feel bad trashing a book that has a very emotionally healthy central couple and relationship as that is a breath of fresh air and is to be commended but there were just too many misses for me to like this book.  The series, it appears, goes on to focus on those protective bad boy "big brothers" of Dela's and that killed any notion of me giving the series another shot.  I have no interest in reading further about any of them.

FINAL VERDICT:  This was a complete miss for me with a boring story that missed potential to super vanilla characters, topped off with a schmaltzy writing style.  2 out of 5 Stars.
Other Opinions are Available: Talk About My Favorite Authors | Gosssamer Obsessions*

* Gossamer Obsessions, though sadly no longer very active, is my favorite romance review site so I was relieved that she had many of the same problems as I did with this one (Yay! I'm not alone!) though her review is MUCH more entertaining.  However she mentions that she is a fan of Marjorie Liu and first encountered her through books 8 and 9 of the Dirk and Steele series which she thought were really excellent SO perhaps I will reconsider my not-reading-any-more-in-this-series-no-way-you-can't-make-me stance.

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