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