For What It's Worth

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Review: The Taker by Alma Katsu

True love can last an eternity . . . but immortality comes at a price. . . .
On the midnight shift at a hospital in rural Maine, Dr. Luke Findley is expecting another quiet evening of frostbite and the occasional domestic dispute. But the minute Lanore McIlvrae—Lanny—walks into his ER, she changes his life forever. A mysterious woman with a past and plenty of dark secrets, Lanny is unlike anyone Luke has ever met. He is inexplicably drawn to her . . . despite the fact that she is a murder suspect with a police escort. And as she begins to tell her story, a story of enduring love and consummate betrayal that transcends time and mortality, Luke finds himself utterly captivated.
Her impassioned account begins at the turn of the nineteenth century in the same small town of St. Andrew, Maine, back when it was a Puritan settlement. Consumed as a child by her love for the son of the town’s founder, Lanny 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 all eternity. And now, two centuries later, the key to her healing and her salvation lies with Dr. Luke Findley.
Part historical novel, part supernatural page-turner, The Taker is an unforgettable tale about the power of unrequited love not only to elevate and sustain, but also to blind and ultimately destroy, and how each of us is responsible for finding our own path to redemption. (Adult)

Reading The Taker made me feel like I was watching an oncoming wreck while being stuck in quicksand with my mouth duct taped shut, powerless to warn the victims of their impending doom.

When Lanny is just 14 years old, she falls instantly and madly in love with Jonathan, the son of the town's founder. They become friends and occasionally more. For Lanny it becomes an obsession, going so far as to sabotage Jonathan's relationships. 

Jonathan is a bit of an enigma; he's described as beyond beautiful. This brings him the attention of all of the town's women and yet he seems unhappy. He turns to Lanny whenever his relationships hit a speed bump. Every time she comes to his aid, and every time they seem to take a step forward in their relationship only to take 10 steps backwards. I never could tell if Jonathan truly reciprocated any of Lanny's feelings or if he was just using her to get out of his many illicit affairs or as a rebound. She was easy to manipulate into doing his bidding. She's so young and so infatuated that I could see why she would fall for his lines time & time again. I even found myself believing him once or twice. When he's speaking to her he seems so sincere…..until he doesn't.

When her forbidden relationship with Jonathan causes her family to send her away to Boston, Lanny's life hits yet another tragic turn where she falls prey to a group of beautiful strangers offering her shelter and food and maybe the happiness she seeks. There she meets their enigmatic leader, the Romanian Count Adair. Theirs is a house of horrors which nearly leaves Lanny dead until Adair offers her the gift of immortality and possibly forever for her and Jonathan. 

This is where the story took me on an emotional and downright disturbing ride. Katsu has drawn such a detailed picture of Adair. I was horrified to learn his background and even more shaken to see what he had become. The story of how he was sold to a cruel alchemist as a naive and innocent boy turned cruel, sadistic leader was tragic beyond words. 

The Taker is really several stories told within a story. Lanny in present time after she is brought to a Maine hospital as a murder suspect and through flashbacks spanning 200 years recounting her and Adair's tales. It was very reminiscent of Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice where the Vampire Louie recalled his tragic life to a reporter.

The present day chapters didn't really grip me the way the past did. Lanny meets a Dr. named Luke Findley who, of course, is immediately drawn to her and Lanny finally tells her story. She's lived with guilt and shame for centuries and finally feels the need to unburden herself. She also needs Luke to help her escape from the police and a murder charge.

I wanted to feel sympathy for the characters because of what they've endured but I just couldn't. I only felt pity. Lanny and Jonathan in particular seem to be passive about everything that happens in their lives as if they had no choices other that the ones they've made. Unfortunately, we never really learned much about Jonathan other than he was beautiful which seems a poor reason for Lanny to be inspired to basically sell her soul for him. To her credit Lanny acknowledges this fact. Adair….well let's just say his situation is more complicated. I in no way liked him or condoned any of his actions, but he was incredibly fascinating and I could see how he got to the place he is at.

I wish at least one person was redeemable or even moderately likable but I couldn't find it. Even Luke who may bring hope for Lanny's redemption didn't make much of an impression. I almost see a set up of him being so infatuated with Lanny that he doesn't see her using him to do her bidding like Jonathan used her. This is the first book in a series so I could be way off base here and Lanny could be, in fact, on her way to finding true love or at least redemption. I hope so for everyone's sake. They most certainly deserve it.

I have to warn you that this is a very dark tale of tragedy, selfishness and hedonistic behavior. The sex scenes are plentiful and for me in no way romantic but were surprisingly not graphic. Honestly, I found what she didn't write far more disturbing when left to my imagination than if Katsu had been more graphic. The author uses sex in The Taker not as titillation but as a psychological weapon (IMHO anyway). It's not going to be for everyone and I had a hard time with it myself. I'm used to having at least one character to pin my hopes on….a glimmer of a happily ever after. You're not going to find that here.

Rating: 3 out of 4: Definitely not for the faint of heart. The Taker is beautifully written with characters that will shock and offend you but hopefully you will see it as a cautionary tale. I do wish that Lanny and Jonathan's story was fleshed out more so that I could see what about him was worth all the sacrifices Lanny made. Adair was both revolting and riveting as the villain.
Tragic..... yes, but I could not look away.

Alma Katsu: website | Facebook | Twitter
Buy the book! The Taker
Source: Provided by the publisher/author for my honest review
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Gallery Press
*To purchase The Taker inspired jewelry visit Cadsawan Jewelry


  1. Oh wow this sounds really intense o_O I have seen this one around a lot but never really read anything about it until now. Great review Karen!

    Xpresso Reads

  2. Oh sounds like a distrubing mystery . I dislike not seeing characters fleshed out.

  3. That sounds like it would be rather draining, but it also sounds really quite good. I think I'll take note, but I want to see what the consensus is for book two before I dive in.

    Adair sounds like a mesmerising character. I adore when you find someone you simultaneously love and hate and can never decide what influence they have. Salander in Dragon Tattoo was like that, but she was a heroine so it did eventually fix itself!

  4. @Giselle - It is very intense and I think readers will have strong reactions either way.

    @Julie - the characters were very fleshed great detail. I didn't mean to imply otherwise, it was just one particular relationship that I wanted to know more from Jonathon's perspective.

    @Alex - I'm not really seeing much in the way of redemption for Adair so far but oh man his past and his present are riveting and revolting all at the same time.

  5. Not for the faint of heart, well I would not put myself in the faint corner but who knows ;)

  6. I have this book but I haven't had time to read it yet, it does sound intriguing though so I may to to try and work it in soon.

  7. I think I'll continue to skip this one, dark tragic tales filled with unlikeable characters are not my cup of tea. If you continue onto the sequel I hope you enjoy it more!

    My review of Graceling @ WildFire Writing

  8. No, I don't think the Tiger will be checking this one out. She has no pity, none at all.