by Alma Katsu
Published by Gallery Books, September 2011
Dr. Luke Findley is on the midnight shift in the emergency room when the police bring in a young woman. Few strangers come to this remote town in northernmost Maine in the winter, and this stranger is accused of a bizarre crime: killing a man and leaving his body in the Great North Woods. The young woman, Lanny, tells the doctor that she and the man in the woods lived in this town at its founding two hundred years ago, until fate sentenced them to an eternity of unhappiness until they atone for their sins.
The man in the woods is Jonathan, son of the town’s founder, and the love of Lanny’s life. After Lanny commits a terrible sin in the hope of claiming Jonathan for her own, she’s banished from town and sent to Boston to serve her penance. In Boston, she falls in with a beguiling yet frightening man, Adair, who has otherworldly powers, including the ability to confer immortality. His world is one of unknown sensual pleasures and seemingly limitless power, but at what price?
Adair wants to add Jonathan to the collection of treacherous courtiers who do his bidding (but for unknown ends) and sends Lanny back to Maine to collect him. It seems like the answer to Lanny’s deepest desire—to be with Jonathan forever—but once Jonathan has joined Adair’s pack of immortals, she sees that Adair is not what he seems and his intentions toward Jonathan are far worse than she imagined. And now it is up to her to save her beloved—and herself—from a terrible fate designed to last for all eternity.
The Taker is a story of the power of love to corrupt, to drive us to do terrible things in its name, and the courage it takes to sacrifice in the name of love and ultimately be worthy of absolution.
This review may come across as gushing, but if you haven’t read this book, you are doing yourself a disservice. I met Katsu at the BEA in 2010 long before the book came out and had the ARC sitting on my shelf for far too long. I picked it up and flew through it.
As some reviews of this book have expanded upon, there are some seriously violent scenes and activities that will disturb some readers. However, these scenes are not there to be gratuitous, but to elicit the extreme emotions that Katsu impresses upon the reader. The reader is taken from the heart wrenching tale of young love; a love that we rarely experience outside of a book and yet one we all crave, to the intense yet brutal extremes as Lanny is taken in by Count Adair and his entourage, and finally to her realization of what she’s done and the woman she has become after many years finally taking responsibility for the choices she made.
Part historical fiction, part psychological horror, a bit of paranormal circumstance and all love story, The Taker will draw you in and run you through an emotional roller coaster that you don’t want to get off. You cannot wait for the next page to reveal yet another reason to cheer for Lanny, even when she makes a decision that seems unforgivable.
The characters, Lanny, Jonathan, Count Adair, and Luke are so well-developed, it’s hard to believe this is a first book. The love Lanny has for Jonathan, which turns to obsession, sometimes blinds her, but it doesn’t feel contrived and her intense feelings are at times almost palpable to the reader. And the warmth felt from the love side, is starkly and perfectly contrasted by the violence experienced from Adair and his cold-hearted entourage. Adair’s back story is delicately crafted to fit seamlessly into the tale.
I can’t stress enough that you should pick up this book. A book that can make the reader feel such an array of emotions comes along rarely. It’s been a long time since I felt this strongly about a story that is both beautiful and tragic. The last time I felt this way was when I read The Gargoyle and if you haven’t read that one either, then I suggest you get yourself to a bookstore and pick them both up. Perhaps this will be continued in a sequel; one that I will jump at the chance to read.
This post is a selection for the Peril the First portion of the 6th annual R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril (R.I.P.) Challenge. To find out more information and/or to sign up to participate, please follow the link. If you are interested in more books or films that are being reviewed as part of this event, please visit the R.I.P. VI Review Site. (This paragraph borrowed from Carl V. who is hosting R.I.P. VI)