on April 19, 2012
Alma Katsu's debut novel, and the first in The Taker Trilogy, opens with a mysterious woman in an emergency room in northern Maine, handcuffed and accused of murder, while telling wild stories to the ER doctor about being an immortal who is over two hundred years old. The recipient of her tale, the doctor who eventually helps her escape from the police, is immediately transfixed and longs to hear the rest of her story, even if parts of it are disturbing, improbable, and interfere with everything he was supposed to be doing that night. I felt exactly the same way.
Parts of The Taker ARE disturbing. It is written with the language of longing, desire and sexual fantasy, but there are scenes that are so horrifyingly violent that I wanted to scream at the character of Lanny that she didn't need a doctor or an immortal boyfriend to save her, she needed a Fairy Feminist Godmother! I wanted to stop reading in places because I could not resolve in my head how the main character could endure so much sexual violence and still find sympathy with her attackers. It was less like Secretary and more like Saturday Night Fever (you know, where the girl gets gang raped and then forgives them all in the end for no apparent reason? Sorry if I ruined that movie for you.). At the same time, there is something addicting and seductive about The Taker. It is beautifully written and the compelling writing urges me along even past the most disturbing scenes. I just couldn't put it down.
I read the second in this series, The Reckoning, first (because I received an advance copy from the publisher) and I found it to be an excellent read, even as a stand alone novel. Likewise, I found I was able to enjoy The Taker even though I already knew what happened in the second book. They aren't so much linear tales as they are different pieces of the puzzle of these characters' lives. I learned more about Lanny and her captor/creator/hunter Adair in each of the two novels, but I didn't necessarily need to read them in sequence. In fact, in some ways I'm glad I read The Reckoning first because I wonder if the violence of The Taker would have put me off the series if I wasn't already hooked.
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on March 29, 2012
This story begins in the fictional small town of modern day St. Andrew, Maine. A divorced and lonely surgeon named Dr. Luke Findley finds himself captivated by an extraordinary young woman who has been suspected of murdering an otherworldly beautiful young man, leaving his body to freeze in the woods. She pleads with him to help her escape the authorities and after grabbing a scalpel in the hospital and slicing herself open - only to have the wound immediately knit together before Luke's eyes - he knows he's seeing something that must remain a secret and feels compelled to protect her at all costs. Later we realize that Luke has nothing to lose.
The Taker is Alma Katsu's debut novel and while it is certainly a page turner, it is so filled with melancholy that it leaves you feeling that way when you're finished reading it. The main character has been living for over 200 years and while she is tragically flawed she cannot find any joy in her immortality whatsoever. Throughout the story, Lanore "Lanny" McIlvrae, who is not a vampire, is subjected to almost every kind of pain, suffering and human degradation you can think of and we empathize with her but she is never able to find any pleasure in any of her actions or her sins. I could imagine her voice as being soft, low and monotonous; her visage pretty, but hard and grim.
Lanore's life is one of eternal unrequited love and betrayal that begins when she is a child in Maine Territory in 1809. While she is on the run with Luke she tells him everything about her life up to the moment when they met so the novel morphs back and forth between history and present day. This format works seamlessly and Katsu's descriptions of 19th century Maine and Boston are excellent and well-researched.
The love of Lanore's life is the unforgettably tall, dark and dazzling Jonathan St. Andrew, her best friend, who left almost every female who set eyes on him lovesick with lust and the desire to possess him. As he grew from a boy of twelve to a young man in his 20s, Jonathan became the most gorgeous man anyone in the northeastern US had ever seen. Unfortunately, he was also unable to remain faithful to any woman, not even his wife.
When Lanny, as Jonathan called her, becomes pregnant at 20 with his illegitimate child, her strict, puritanical father sends her away to Boston to have the baby in a convent but she decides before she gets there that she won't let anyone take the baby away from her and escapes her charge to wander aimlessly through the streets of Boston alone.
It is then that the naïve girl meets part of the evil entourage of Adair, the Count cel Rau from Romania, who take her back to his mansion under the guise of inviting her along to a fancy party where she will have plenty to eat and drink. She's never seen anything so luxurious before and is overwhelmed by the temptations set before her.
Adair and his immortal minions, Donatello, Tilde, Alejandro and Uzra, live a life of complete debauchery and bacchanalia and that night he drugs and rapes Lanore without realizing that she's pregnant. This is the beginning of the end of her mortal life and her journey towards redemption.
As I don't want to give away the specifics of Lanore's catastrophic adventures with the malevolent Adair, which are as hideously mesmerizing as a train wreck, I'll simply say that this is a story for adults. This is no Twilight. The Taker borders on historical S&M erotica and horrific scenes are described in graphic detail. Katsu's writing is exceptionally good and Lanore, Jonathan and Adair are gripping characters who will leave most lovers of paranormal tales enthralled. The secondary characters in Adair's subplot are also interesting. However, in comparison, Luke seems lackluster even though he serves an important purpose.
After such a tumultuous ride, I was disappointed in the sedate ending of The Taker. However, for a debut novel, this is an above average read, and I would not hesitate to read more from Alma Katsu.
THE TAKER by Alma Katsu
THE TAKER can best be described as a novel of mixed genre. It is a historical fantasy that spans the past to the present with sci-fi undertones, gothic horror and there is a definite love story, of sorts. Some reviewers have labeled The Taker as a romance story that crosses the centuries, but for everything I have read, this is definitely not a romance novel. The Taker is well written, thought provoking and eerily depressing. The novel spans two centuries in the life of Lanore (Lanny) McIlvrae and is told through flashbacks and flash forwards using three different and varying points of view. My biggest concern is that the novel left me depressed yet wanting more. Apparently I am a reading-masochist at heart because I want to know what happens next and I know I will regret both-not reading and reading more.
The novel is divided into three parts and three stories. There are overlapping stories (between the parts) where flashbacks are required to explain the significance to the current day drama and within the parts-the story is told from two different points of view and the current day is narration. Some readers may find the back and forth confusing, but the individual storytellers recount the circumstances of how they came to be.
Lanny and Jonathan is a story of unrequited love. Lanny has loved Jonathan all of her life and the fact that she has lived more than 200 years, has never eased the longing and memories. But the heartache grows deeper and the sorrow of loss and pain becomes almost unbearable with every bitter story of conquest and denial. Jonathan's history of womanizing will eventually catch up and it will be Lanny who will make the decision between life and death.
Lanny and Adair is another story of love, power and control. But as her Master, Adair demands things from those he has brought into his life, and his demands are hard, especially on Lanny. Adair believes he is unlovable, a man who has lived 100s if not 1000s of years, but with each incarnation, he becomes more despondent and bored. His need for Lanny can only be explained as a necessary evil. Is it because he knows she will never love him the way she have loved Jonathan, or does it go much deeper than a maker to his charge?
Lanny and Luke's relationship is the overlapping narration throughout the story. On the run from the authorities, Luke aids Lanny in her cross country and cross continent trek searching for the answers as to who and what is Lanny McIlvrae. Their adventure is the storyline. Lanny recounts her story to Luke, flashing back to the time of her making and allowing Adair's point of view to flash us back even further. It is this particular part of the storyline that is the apex of the story. All other storylines are told throughout Lanny and Luke's adventures.
The Taker is a well-written novel. It is not a story of vampires and blood. It is dark, mysterious, depressing and passionate. The storyline will haunt and anger. There is grief for the loss of a love, of a child and a life once shared. But in all honesty when I finished the novel, I felt depressed. There was only loneliness and misery, sorrow and pain. There is no HEA. But this is only Book ONE. OK'.*looking around for some Xanax and a couch*'.on to The Reckoning July 2012 (Book TWO ) and The Devil's Scribe (e-novella)
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on October 3, 2011
Simon and Schuster
Dr Luke Findley is recently divorced, he has returned to his childhood hometown in Maine to take care of matters for his ailing mother. When his mother passes away, Luke is all alone. His life in St Andrews has become routine, and comfortable but not entirely satisfying. His ex-wife and daughters have moved on. On a midnight shift Luke is shocked to find a young woman brought in by the police, bloodied and accused of killing a man, leaving his body in the woods. On a frigid night, Luke was expecting to treat frostbitten drunks; this was not on this radar. Immediately Lanore McIlvrae completely captivates Luke; inexplicably Luke wants to help. Lanny is not denying that she has murdered someone but she tries to explain herself to Luke. After convincing Luke to free one of her cuffed hands, Lanny pulls out a scalpel and plunges it deep within her chest. A distraught Luke is stunned to see her flesh heal before his eyes. Luke has no idea what she is, but he feels compelled to assist her. Luke doesn't have much time but he must make a decision. The police have gone looking for the body, and Lanny is in his care. A novel rooted in the paranormal, filled with horror and suspense. Lanny's history is filled with alchemy, deceit, and romance.
The Taker is a fascinating read, full of gothic mystery and intrigue. Alma Katsu is an incredible writer, enchanting her readers with a haunting tale. The Taker spans centuries and continents as we learn who Lanny really is, and what her story is. Lanny is immortal, and the essence of the story is her love for Jonathan., a young man that was always deemed too good for her, a young man that captured her heart and tore at her core. It's hard to believe that this is Katsu's debut novel, her writing is flawless. The Taker is a book that is undeniably adult, for the open minded reader who is willing to step outside of their boundaries. In my opinion this book is not for everyone, and not for the squeamish. While I fell in love with the book immediately, half way through I became very nervous and wasn't expecting the obscurity of the novel. As the book shifted gears and became very dark and graphic I started to be turned off, and had to take a break. I knew I needed to come back when I had a few hours to devote to it and finish. While I adored the opening of the book, my adoration never truly returned for the characters. This was due to the malicious character's that began to unfold. I appreciate the novel for what it is; a work of art that is unquestionably filled with talent, and skillfully crafted.
on September 6, 2011
I knew nothing about The Taker by Alma Katsu before I received an e-mail from Simon and Schuster Canada. So, it sat on my shelf for a couple months, I knew I was going to read it, but I also knew I had other things to read. I am so glad that I got to read this book. SO glad. Alma Katsu took me for a literary ride that I will never forget. I think after reading this story I am kind of obsessed with it. The story itself was amazing, but so was the writing, so were the characters. While reading this book, I had a hard time putting it down. It was full of suspense, and twists and turns, and thrills. It was a roller coaster that I was happy to be on.
The story essentially starts with Dr. Luke treating Lanny, and Lanny- revealing herself as immortal-needs Luke's help to escape. What Lanny also needs help with is her grief. She has just lost the love of her life, Jonathan, and is suffering for it. However it's not that simple. I don't want to give away to much here, So I won't go into to much detail. However, Lanny goes on to tell Luke her story.How she came to be immortal, the people she met, the things she did, and how after so many years, Jonathan is dead.
I have read stories in the past, that start out hundreds of years in the past, and somehow end up in present day. I have read stories that tell of what life was like way back when, what was done, how a character has changed for the better, and so on, and so forth. The Taker has all of this, but it also has more. What that more is, I don't really know. Lanny starts her story in 1816 when she first approaches Jonathan at church. It is here that their friendships begins. She talks about how their relationship evolved, but, she also says that she loved him from the very beginning. She tells about how things changed and she was forced to leave the town she knew as home, and venture to a big unknown city. It is here that she meets Adair, and her life of immortality begins. It was all very captivating. The Taker was a story within a story, and at one point, I was reading a story within a story, within a story. I really loved the multi-dimensional story telling that I found in The Taker. The story flowed beautifully, and I was never confused by the back and forth between past and present.
Katsu is a great writer, and I feel like she had a great balance of plot and character. The characters in this novel were great, however I think that without the story that she had created they wouldn't have been that special, however, at the same time, I also believe that without the characters she had developed the plot would have fallen flat. The Taker was a story about interpersonal relationships, and the relationship dynamics were complex. They were insanely destructive,co-dependant, and incredibly unhealthy, but, at the same time, you didn't want them to end.
I was happy with how the book ended, having no clue that it was indeed part of a trilogy, I felt it ended well. I thought there was some possibility for a sequel. Now I am so excited for the next installment. There are characters I am hoping will return and I am eager to read more about Lanny and Luke.
The Taker was really an amazing novel and I hope that you all go out and buy it.
The Taker by Alma Katsu opens in present day Maine at a small rural hospital Dr. Luke Findlay is called upon to examine a young woman named Lanny - a murder suspect - before she is taken to jail. When she slices herself open with a scalpel and the wound begins to heal instantaneously Luke is stunned. She begins to tell him her story - and he is mesmerized. Against all good judgement, he helps her escape and goes on the run with her. And as they drive she continues her story.
In 1817 Lanny was sent to Boston to give birth to her illegitimate child. But she never made it as far as the convent. Instead she fell in with Count Adair and his household. Adair is himself a centuries old alchemist with the ability to bind his minions to him for life - never aging and never dying. His lifestyle is depraved - an unrelenting search for the hedonistic.
Lanny's story is the tale of her years with Adair and the love she so desperately seeks with the father of her child. Can she reclaim that love? What is love? How far will she go? Will Adair let her have that love?
The modern day story of the doctor and Lanny takes a backseat to the pages from the past. I quickly became caught up in Lanny's recounting of her years with the Count. I very much enjoyed the historical detail of the times. Maybe it's my pragmatic nature, but Lanny's obsessiveness with Jonathan, the father of her child, became a bit tiresome after a while.
The Taker isn't my usual fare, but Alma Katsu has crafted an addicting tale that's hard to define. It's paranormal, but without the use of creatures - simply immortality. There's history, mystery and yes, romance. Think Twilight for adults. The Taker was a different read, going in directions I hadn't predicted. I was a bit frustrated by the ending, which I found unsatisfying, until I found out that The Taker is the first book in a planned trilogy. I'll definitely be picking up the second book - The Reckoning - to see where those loose ends go.
I would recommend it to anyone, such a good story have read all books but the last in this trilogy. Its intoxicating and a good overall story