The cover blurb on this book says that fans of Christine Feehan are likely to enjoy it. For once, the cover blurb does not lie. Tiger Eye reads like the offspring of a Feehan novel and an X-Men comic, and it is loads of fun.
It seems that there are people in the world with psychic powers, and they’ve banded together to do good, behind the front of a detective agency called Dirk & Steele. Our heroine is Dela Reese (not this Della Reese – ours is blond). She is not an official member of Dirk & Steel, but her grandparents founded it. She also has powers: a psychic affinity for metal.
Dela’s in Beijing for reasons that, as I recall, are never explained. There she buys a puzzle box from a strange old woman. When she opens the box in her hotel room, a seven-foot tall warrior with variegated hair and a sword springs forth and glares at her menacingly. His name is Hari and, two thousand years ago, he lived peacefully in the forest with other tiger/human shape-changers like himself. Then an evil magician (he is called a Magi in the book) stole Hari’s shape-changing powers and imprisoned him in the box, like a genie. Whoever opens the box can command Hari to do anything, and as a rule they’ve wanted him to do really, really unpleasant things. Hari has endured two thousand years of torture, both physical and psychological, and he’s not happy about being summoned again.
Dela believes his story after touching one of his knives and learning its story (she has an affinity for metal, you recall). She tells him that she doesn’t want a slave and promises never to command him to do anything. But she can’t free Hari: they are bound together until she dies or she puts him back in the box. Dela decides that they have to find a way to break the spell, but Hari doesn’t trust her to keep her word (and doesn’t believe it’s possible in any case). As it turns out, though, Hari’s arrival is timely. Someone has sent assassins after Dela, and he’s good in a fight.
Dela is an extremely plucky heroine. Not much fazes her. Huge warrior with an attitude in your hotel room? She doesn’t even flinch, just cuts him down to size and starts figuring out how to break the curse. She faces other challenges thrown at her with similar forthrightness. I like kick-ass heroines and I liked Dela; although a bit more vulnerability on her part might have softened her edges. Superhero-like, she’s got a gift for metal and it makes her a steely girl. Hari is a dark and tortured hero. His initial mistrust of Dela is more than understandable, as is his reluctance to commit to her, due to the terrible things he’s done over the years. Though I liked him, too, I have to say that he’ll never be the brains of any operation.
There is loads of sexual tension between them, and their love scenes, when they finally occur, are quite steamy. Generally I would rate the sensuality in this book as Hot, but there are a couple scenes towards the end of the book that push the book’s rating up to Burning. I really liked these scenes, but some readers may be shocked. Be prepared for the unusual – the very unusual.
The pacing slows down in the last quarter of the book. The plot gets a little complicated, and the role of the woman who sold Dela the box is downright convoluted.
I believe that this is Liu’s first published book, and if so, it’s the most promising debut I’ve read in a very long time. Tiger Eye is original, sensual, and action-packed. If you like paranormal romance, you’ll want to read this one. There’s obviously more in store, too: several members of Dirk & Steele are all conveniently single and lined up for their own novels. If her next books are anything like this one, Liu is going to be big.