Back to the Book Club with ye! Friends and dear followers, I’m excited to dip my toes into yet another completely new book genre. As a child, I struggled with the overall concept of fiction. Smugly considering myself to be above the fancies of a phony world, I only ever wanted to engross the majority of my reading time with things and events that “actually happened.” Thankfully, today we get the opportunity to round-house kick 13 year old me right in his stupid ugly face, and review a book that the dumb little shit would’ve hated. Now that we’ve got these self-loathing issues out of the way, it’s time to crack the spine on a brand new story and get lost deep in a fantasy adventure!
Tiger, Tiger by Carly Chase is the first book in her other-worldly fantasy genre “Fearful Symmetry” series. This initial offering hits the ground running, wasting no time to bring the reader right to the action. Remember again that is a fantasy novel, so try your best to embellish this universe in your mind, despite my limited description. Anya is a painfully normal young woman in America working as a graphic designer. Something has gone horribly amiss, and she suddenly wakes up centered in a “summoning circle” residing in a far off world not of our own. A group of Asian looking people led by a powerful priest had attempted to summon the incarnation of a great warrior mage called “Hime-sama” to aid in their war with a neighboring tribe. Anya is just as surprised as the summoners that she’s appeared, as I can’t imagine the priest was calling across dimensions for a Hallmark Channel movie main character to save their people. The thorn in the side of these humans are the yokai, a tribe of seemingly unjustifiable, monstrous shape shifters that reek havoc on the people of this land…or so Anya is led to believe. Such told atrocities include the near death of the priest’s comatose sister who resides inside the house as well. If Anya’s destiny was to be summoned, mistaken identity or not, she’s going to have to figure out her place in this world and make good to her legendary status.
Points of view swap around a lot in Tiger, Tiger aided by an all-knowing narrator. On the flip side of the coin are of course the yokai, and the reader is exposed to their interpretations of the conflict as well. Kiba and Ikari are brothers in the same clan of yokai, possessing an ability to shape shift into the form of tigers, naturally making them the most powerful creatures in this world. Blessed not only with obvious power and speed, but these yokai also have the ability to see things far beyond what humans can. Every yokai, much like the people that summoned Anya believe in the power of fate. Rather than MySpace or awkward high school reunions, yokai feel the energy of their chosen life partners, and trust that the universe will display their one true love. For the brothers they share a common goal: both of their loves to be are in the home of the human priest…but Kiba’s was just summoned into existence.
I’m best described as a fantasy genre novice, but after the early learning curve I was welcomed to the author’s fantastic world through their talented description. To Anya’s best deduction, the land of spell casting priests and shape shifters is culturally Japanese. But with the lore of wards, potions, and powers brought to life, this is only a measure of convenient identity to both the character and the reader. After the novel’s conflict and objectives are laid out, the reader can take great joy in exploring the little details that would make getting transported to this place a fun experience. Fox-human girls with nine tails, swarms of butterflies, and chiseled bombshell dudes that can morph into soft pelted tigers? Yeah, all this new and bizarre fauna is a lot for Anya to process. Much like the video game player that won’t question their role as protagonist, Anya quickly makes peace with her new life. Eager to melt her talents with the fantastic surroundings, Anya’s artistic skills take new meaning here leading to discoveries of her true purpose. The true “book club” discussion from Tiger, Tiger is a question of fate. What is the measure of a person that yields themselves to the structure of the universe? Moreover, who would we be to question fate in the face of unexpected change? Your average fantasy novel probably wouldn’t present such an engaging discussion, but the author left enough room here for some lovely good natured debate. Or if you just wanna go the Twilight route, sign me up for team Kiba over team Ikari.
Verdict: Tiger, Tiger by Carly Chase creates a world that feels worth exploring not only in this novel, but in future works as well. After a rather steep learning curve exposition of characters and conflict, your only desire thereafter is to enjoy this unique interpretation on Asian culture and art. Romance, erotica, action adventure, it all works beautifully inside this universe…and I’m ready to explore.
Very special thanks to Carly Chase for supplying an advance review copy of Tiger, Tiger to TehBen.com. All thoughts and opinions are my own.