Book Review: The Taker – Alma Katsu

Title: The Taker
Author: Alma Katsu
ISBN: 9781439197059
Pages: 440
Release Date: September 6, 2011
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Source: Author
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

Luke Findley is working his shift at a hospital in St. Andrew, Maine when a beautiful young woman is brought into the hospital.  The police claim she shot and killed a man in the woods and is under arrest.  As Luke examines her, she tells him her name is Lanore McIlvrae and that the man she shot is a St. Andrew, even though no St. Andrews have lived in the town for over one hundred years.  Intrigued, Luke listens to more of her story, a story that spans hundreds of years and is a tale of obsessive and unrequited love, loss, and betrayal.

Review:

The Taker is one of those books that has been generating buzz for a long time.  I first heard about it a year before its publication when I met the author, Alma Katsu, at the Baltimore Book Festival.  After that meeting, I began to hear about it from publishers and the literary world, which only increased my desire to read it.  I was lucky enough to obtain an early copy and was able to read it months before the release date, unable to wait before devouring this impressive, dark novel.

The Taker is an incredible piece of fiction.  It jumps between the present and the past, juxtaposing Lanore’s sordid history against the development of her relationship with Luke.  And sordid her history is – sex, drugs, death – not the typical doings of an innocent looking young woman.  Katsu has a way of taking Lanore’s past and separating it from both Lanore and the reader, such that it sounds like a fantastical tale.  While this may sound strange, I was completely riveted.  To be honest, I can’t put into words what made this book so compelling.  If I describe the elements individually, it probably won’t seem like something you want to read, yet it all meshes so incredibly well and comes together to make an amazing whole.

Many of the characters in The Taker aren’t very likeable, yet I absolutely loved Lanore.  She schemes, manipulates, lies, and allows herself to be controlled, but she has a spirit that I adored.  I admired her desire to live above all, as well as her devotion to Jonathan, though he definitely didn’t deserve it.  The funny thing is I shouldn’t have liked her – usually, I wouldn’t.  But Katsu wrote her in such a compelling way, I couldn’t help but fall in love with her honesty and self-awareness, just as Paul did.

Katsu’s writing is absolutely amazing.  The entire book has this dark, gothic nature that permeates everything.  There is a marked difference between the close, claustrophobic feeling of St. Andrew and the wild and crazy atmosphere of Boston.  I loved how Katsu’s writing could set the mood for a scene.  Her descriptions are also vivid and wonderful.

This is really an epic novel.  I feel like my descriptions don’t do it justice; instead of describing what I loved about it, I discuss how it shouldn’t have worked for me, but it did.  That’s because as much as I’m struggling, I can’t put into words why I enjoyed this book so much.  It sucked me in from the very first page, with its wonderful storytelling and vivid cast of characters, and still has not let me go, months after finishing it.  This is a book full of subtleties and contradictions, of beauty and despair, and above all, of darkness. 

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Comments

  1. Oh, Swapna, this was such a wonderful review! I love how much your enthusiasm shows through your writing, and agree that this book was so deliciously dark and foreboding, but also totally unique and mystifying. One of the best things about it was that it was totally unpredictable and somewhat scandalous, which is something that gets me every time. So, so glad to have read your thoughts on this one, and to have found that you loved it so much!

  2. Oh, Swapna, this was such a wonderful review! I love how much your enthusiasm shows through your writing, and agree that this book was so deliciously dark and foreboding, but also totally unique and mystifying. One of the best things about it was that it was totally unpredictable and somewhat scandalous, which is something that gets me every time. So, so glad to have read your thoughts on this one, and to have found that you loved it so much!

  3. Yeah, rivited is one way of putting it! I couldn’t stop reading it, and was simultaneously horrified and enchanted by the whole sordid group of them. It made me feel like I did when I first read Anne Rice’s books about the vampires…gothic, and deliciously bad. I am jumping out of my skin that we will get to meet Katsu in a couple of weeks.

  4. Yeah, rivited is one way of putting it! I couldn’t stop reading it, and was simultaneously horrified and enchanted by the whole sordid group of them. It made me feel like I did when I first read Anne Rice’s books about the vampires…gothic, and deliciously bad. I am jumping out of my skin that we will get to meet Katsu in a couple of weeks.

  5. I was hoping to have this read before SIBA, but it doesn’t look like that’s gonna happen. 🙁 It sounds so good!

  6. I was hoping to have this read before SIBA, but it doesn’t look like that’s gonna happen. 🙁 It sounds so good!

  7. I don’t think my previous comment posted.

    I received an ARC of this one, but still need to read it. I’ve heard so many positive things about this book. I can’t wait to read it. Great post!

  8. I don’t think my previous comment posted.

    I received an ARC of this one, but still need to read it. I’ve heard so many positive things about this book. I can’t wait to read it. Great post!

  9. Sounds like a lovely, atmospheric read for fall! I picked up a copy of this one at the Book Blogger Convention and will look forward to reading it soon.

  10. Sounds like a lovely, atmospheric read for fall! I picked up a copy of this one at the Book Blogger Convention and will look forward to reading it soon.

  11. Very happy to have seen his post. I’m currently reading this and so far I love it. I’ve literally been thinking about it all day at work. Can’t wait to go home and read it 🙂

  12. Very happy to have seen his post. I’m currently reading this and so far I love it. I’ve literally been thinking about it all day at work. Can’t wait to go home and read it 🙂

  13. This is the third review of this book I’ve read today … one liked it like you and one HATED it passionately. So 2 to 1. Hmmm…I need more votes to decide whether to read it.

  14. This is the third review of this book I’ve read today … one liked it like you and one HATED it passionately. So 2 to 1. Hmmm…I need more votes to decide whether to read it.

  15. I have to admit that I haven’t heard of this book before, but it sounds really good and like something I would enjoy!

  16. I have to admit that I haven’t heard of this book before, but it sounds really good and like something I would enjoy!

  17. I love the way you write about this one. I cannot tell you how dark and exciting you have drawn this book. I look forward to reading it!!

  18. I love the way you write about this one. I cannot tell you how dark and exciting you have drawn this book. I look forward to reading it!!

Trackbacks

  1. […] a connected story, and of course you should read them in order, but these are very different books. The Taker is a gothic novel, a historical fantasy/mystery with incredibly thick atmosphere. Its sequel, The […]

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