“…I tried to make his feelings for me into what they were not and, in trying,
I ruined the beautiful eternal thing that I had.”
– The Taker by Alma Katsu
The narrative structure of these novels is reminiscent of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire – when a young woman, a self-professed murderer, is found covered in blood and wandering around in the Maine wilderness, she is brought to a doctor in a nearby town to be evaluated before she is incarcerated. But once Luke Findley – a recently divorced physician – meets the strangely alluring Lanore McIlvrae and begins to hear her fantastical tale, he becomes enamored with her and, risking his own life, helps her escape to Canada.
But when she arrives in Boston, she runs into a man allegedly of royal descent named Adair and his bizarre circle of friends. She is picked up off of the streets and essentially abducted. Adair, it turns out is an alchemist, a sadist, and a collector of people. Initially kept against her will, Lanore is physically and psychologically abused for countless months – but then Adair gives her something completely unexpected: immortality.
But when he finds out about Jonathan – a man with an almost supernatural sexual magnetism – he forces Lanore to go back to Maine to retrieve her love, who by this time is married and has an infant daughter.
Lanore, desperate to save Jonathan from Adair, eventually uncovers her master’s nefarious grand plan – and together her and Jonathan find a way to (at least temporarily) break free from Adair’s grasp...
The Taker trilogy is a story within a story within a story. There is the contemporary thread that follows Luke and Lanore; there is the thread revolving around Lanore and Jonathan in the centuries after they escaped from Adair; and then there is Adair’s story, which goes all the way back to the 1300s and earlier.
The title of this trilogy couldn’t be more fitting – and it works on numerous levels. First, and most obvious, is the reference to bad love: “And it’s not so different for a lot of people I’ve known. One partner doesn’t love the other enough to stop drinking, or gambling, or running around with other women. One is the giver and one is the taker…” Secondly, is the allusion to Adair – he is an ageless taker of people, a destroyer of lives, someone who, after giving them immortality, damns them to eternal unhappiness. Lastly is the passing on of this dysfunctional love like a disease: Jonathan took from Lanore and now Lanore is taking from Luke.
Don’t let the pretty cover art fool you – this is a dark series. (The black cover art for the British edition of The Taker, which is featured at the bottom of this blog, is just perfect, in my humble opinion.) The idealism of romantic love is replaced with the reality of reckless and ruthless sexual encounters. The storyline is heartrending and brutal and every single one of the characters are deeply flawed. But, strangely enough, there is an undertone of hope – the hope that someday everyone will be able to find that perfect love where both are givers and no one is a taker.
I loved the multi-tapestried feel of these novels – it’s an utterly readable blend of supernatural-powered fantasy, historical fiction, and existential horror. Katsu’s writing style has an almost effortless power to it – it’s rich in description and sublimely stylish. Here’s an example:
“The dawn this time of year has a characteristic hue, the dusty yellow-gray like the rime on the yolk of a boiled egg. Luke could swear it hangs over the land like a miasma or a ghost’s curse but knows it’s probably nothing more than a trick of light playing on the water molecules in the morning air. Whether it is light waves or an ancient curse, it gives the morning a peculiar appearance: the yellow sky a low ceiling of clouds in ominous shades against which nearly bare trees stand in grays and browns...”
I, for one, can’t wait for the final installment (tentatively entitled The Descent) to find out if Lanore ultimately finds love – and with whom.
“We women make our worst decisions when we are in love.”
– The Taker by Alma Katsu
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.
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