The Taker by Alma Katsu

The Taken by Alma Katsu

(c) 2011, first trade paperback edition 2012

Published by Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

First thing to know:  the cover of the book makes it clear that this book is the first of a trilogy, so anyone expecting any significant closure, plot-wise, will be disappointed.

Second thing to know:  although the cover art is very similar to that of Melissa de la Cruz’s Blue Bloods series, and although this is a book with paranormal themes, it is absolutely not a Young Adult book.  That’s where it was shelved at the Barnes & Noble when I bought it, but that is a serious mis-shelving.  The fact that the narrator looks young and her tale begins when she’s fourteen absolutely does not make this book YA.  Of course, the work of V.C. Andrews is now being marketed as YA, so what do I know?

On the midnight shift at a hospital in rural St. Andrew, Maine, Dr. Luke Findley is expecting a quiet evening.  Until a mysterious woman arrives in his ER, escorted by poice – Lanore McIlvrae is a murder suspect – and Luke is inexplicably drawn to her.  As Lanny tells him her story, an impassioned account of love and betrayal that transcends time and mortality, she changes his life forever…. At the turn of the nineteenth century, when St. Andrew was a Puritan settlement, Lanny was consumed as a child by her love for the son of the town’s founder, and she will do anything to be with him forever.  But the price she pays is steep – an immortal bond that chains her to a terrible fate for eternity.

What did I think of the book?  It was very well written, in terms of craft and structure.  A very dark fairy tale people with characters who are by turns ugly and pitiable, and none of them particularly sympathetic.  Lanny is the narrator-heroine, the voice of the novel, and also one of its villains.

The lines that drew me in and sold me on the book originally (In any case, he’d misunderstood me: I hadn’t given myself to him. I had declared he was mine.)  are also emblematic of what I found frustrating about the narrator and eventually the book as a whole.  As I reader, am I supposed to feel empathy for Lanny, whose desire to be loved is what drives the entire plot?  Probably.  Certainly, I cringed at some of the things she endured.  But ultimately I found her obsession with Jonathan to be disturbing and creepy, especially since she uses it as both justification for her actions and a grief that she swathes herself in even as she drags other people into disaster.  Based on the author interview included in the book, readers may see some development of her character in the coming books of the trilogy.

The narrator tells us that Lanny has lived in exotic places and had amazing adventures, without actually sharing any of those adventures, just mentioning the narrow escapes and the treasures she’s made away with and hoarded.  I’d be interested in reading some of those adventures, but I’m not particularly interested in reading the two remaining books.

Language question:  would a Spaniard of noble birth (born in the 15th century but immortal) use the word “lynching” or would he use some other noun?  The use (in dialogue, so it’s not drawn from the narrator’s current vocabulary) occurs in a conversation in Boston in 1817, which is a few years  after the first recorded usage (1811) of the Americanism, so it’s technically possible, but it was jarring.  I had to stop and chase down of date of usage, which interrupted the flow of the chapter for me.

Would I recommend this book?  Maybe.  As I said, it’s well-written.  In some ways it reminds me of Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, so maybe if you enjoyed that book you’ll enjoy this one.

The Kindle version of The Taker is available for $5.99, which is a fair markdown from the $15.00 trade paperback price.  The second book of the trilogy, The Reckoning, will be released in June.  The first chapter is available at the author’s website, if you’d like to check it out.  Or if you’re a regular, feel free to email or tweet me and I’ll send my paper copy your way since it’s not a keeper for me.

Afterthought:  the authors and review blurbs gushing about this book are quite varied, ranging from Scott Westerfeld and Kresley Cole to the Washington Post, Publishers Weekly and Booklist.  One of them would certainly have given me pause though, if I’d noticed it before buying the book:  “Twilight for grown-ups…”  Since I slogged through only the first book of that series, I can’t say whether that comparison is apt or not in terms of plot, but The Taker is certainly better written IMO.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Taker by Alma Katsu

  1. Pingback: June in books | Shuffling through a book-less desert

  2. I’m reading this book right now and I agree with your review- the book is beautifully written but there is nothing about it that really draws me in, and Lanny isn’t a particularly likeable character. I’m already tired of her obsession (and her bad decisions as a result of it) and I’m only half way through. I like the doctor but he’s barely there :( I didn’t realise this was a series either. How frustrating. Why can’t books just come as stand alones any more?

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