I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Series: Chinese Zodiac Romance
Published by indie author on February17, 2015
Genres: Paranormal Romance, Romance, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
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Delve into a world steeped in tradition and superstition…
After her parents become infected with the Red Death, Lucy Yeoh flees to Malaysia seeking answers. Everything in this closed-off section of the world is paradise—from the lush tropical climate to her sexy new neighbor, Sheng…who just might be delusional. He claims the Plague God unleashed the Red Death and only a circle of Chinese Zodiac spirit animals can cleanse the Earth. Even more, he insists she’s one of them: the Rabbit. Long furry ears and fluffy bunny tail included.
He’ll show her how to fight to save the world…
As the Chosen of the Tiger, the burden of restoring balance to the world has fallen onto Li Sheng’s shoulders. When he discovers that the ally he’s long awaited, the Dragon, is actually just the Rabbit, Sheng is quick to dismiss Lucy. If only she’d stay dismissed. Lucy’s Rabbit refuses to cooperate, undermining the authority of his Tiger at every turn…and seducing him to the limits of his darkest desires. He’s not supposed to want her. Not when he needs the spirit circle complete and she’s their weakest link.
She’ll show him a love worth fighting the world to save…
Sheng’s enemies draw closer, and not everyone wants Lucy alive. Together, they’ll have to navigate a treacherous world where a line between duty and their hearts has been drawn between them. They must either sacrifice one, or find a way to surrender to both.
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“You’re gonna hear me roar!” Katy Perry might have sung it first, but I’m pretty sure Rachael Slate’s fingers must have tapped out the tune to this mantra as she was pounding away at this novel. Because I never would have expected an independently published debut novel to just bowl me over the way Trancing the Tiger did.
First things first, though. This novel is set in Malaysia after the advent of a pandemic that has decimated much of the Western world’s population. Front and center is Lucy Yeoh, who is orphaned by the plague and who flies to Malaysia to join the only remaining family member she has left, her father’s estranged brother. Right away, she meets the tatted out, über-hot Li Sheng, who opens her eyes to the truth: that she’s a host for the spirit of Rabbit, a gift from the Jade Emperor of Chinese mythology. He, in turn, is the host for the spirit of Tiger, charged with leading the others like them to banish the Plague God who has been unleashed upon the world.
Now, I’ll start by saying that all I knew about the Chinese zodiac when I started this book was that I was born in the year of the Rat. I didn’t even know what all the other signs were or what order they came in. So I worried a bit about my ignorance before I started the book. Fortunately, I discovered very early on that how much you know or don’t know about the Chinese zodiac doesn’t matter. You get a crash course in the basics of what you need to know, and the rest is irrelevant. The novel just sucks you right into the action then spits you out around the time you hit the Acknowledgments page, and you’re left with the worst sort of book hangover. Seriously—I told myself I would read a chapter or two before going to sleep one night, and the next thing I knew, it was three hours later and I was finished and wishing the second book would come out already!
I had gone into the book not really expecting to like Lucy very much. Because I’d gathered, from the blurb, that she would embody the traits of the rabbit, which didn’t seem particularly well-suited for the heroine of a book set in the middle of a disease-ridden apocalypse. I’m partial to alpha characters usually compared to predatory creatures, and a rabbit is, well, not that. But what’s great about how Slate has written Lucy is that you get to see how strength doesn’t always lie in badassery, which translates to the rest of the plot, where we learn that victory does not always come as a result of violence on the side of right.
Of course, Li Sheng more than makes up for any lack of predatory alphaness on Lucy’s part. In a word? Rawr.
Apart from wholly engaging (and in the case of Li Sheng and a few other characters, completely drool-worthy) characters, I enjoyed Slate’s world-building. The concept of the Jade Emperor bestowing the spirits of the zodiac animals into worthy humans in order to maintain or, in this case, restore balance to the world is an interesting one. Kind of like avatars of the gods. The warring sects, a Council of Elders to whom the Chosen are answerable, and a cryptic Matchmaker who would do the Cheshire Cat proud set up some of the necessary fantasy tropes so that the characters can sprint off the mark and just explode into action at all the right moments.
And it does, both in terms of the series-wide plot, in which the goal is to save the world, and in terms of the romantic plot, in which the goal is to get Li Sheng in Lucy’s pants. Or Lucy into Li Sheng’s. Or just to make sure neither of them are wearing pants. There is lots and lots of seriously heated foreplay, which leaves the characters (and the readers) so frustrated that when the Tiger and the Rabbit finally come together, the steam factor will hit you as savage and primordial. (And I know how that sounds, but believe me, by the time it happens, any notion of interspecies weirdness will be the farthest thing from your mind.)
The long and short of this is Trancing the Tiger is a seriously good read, and I had a hard time believing this is Slate’s first novel. The moment I hit the last page, I was searching to see if I could find out when the next novel would be out and whether I could pre-order it. Sadly, I couldn’t find any information on this, but I’ve followed the author on all the usual channels and will wait with bated breath.