The Taker by Alma Katsu

Posted On 1 April 2012

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Just finished reading The Taker by Alma Katsu.  I enjoyed this story even though it actually wasn’t what I’d originally thought it would be.

The Taker is portrayed as a love story blending paranormal and history.  I would start by saying that I’m not sure that I would describe this story as an immortal love story.  It’s certainly a story about immortals but by describing it as a love story it gives you a certain expectation which I’m not sure is entirely true.  Personally, I would describe this as an immortal story of unrequited love.  A tale of obsession that reaches across the ages.

The story starts with Dr Luke Findley beginning his shift at the hospital where he lives in St Andrews, Maine.  Basicially Luke is not entirely happy with his lot in life.  He’s a doctor in a town where he doesn’t wish to live.  His family obligations have brought him back there and now he feels trapped.  His wife has left him taking his children and with his mother recently deceased he has very little to keep him in this small backtown and yet here he remains.  Until Lanore McIlvrae comes into his life.  Lanore, or Lanny, is brought into the hospital by the police as a potential murder suspect.  She’s brought in for examination by Dr Luke Findley who is going to become more deeply involved than he could have imagined when he set off for his shift that evening.

And, so we begin with Lanny’s story which spans back over the course of 200 years (in fact it goes much further back than that when we start to learn the story of one of the other characters from the story).

Firstly, the characters.  They’re an odd bunch.  We have Lanore.  Goodness knows she doesn’t always make the best decisions.  She can certainly be very selfish and cruel but she is aware of these shortcomings in herself.  I’m not sure at this point whether I exactly like Lanny which is a strange position to be in after reading her story and I’m not altogether sure I trust her either.  What I do enjoy about Lanny is how she relates her story.  Her voice.  Which is really quite compelling.  I found myself totally gripped to the story whenever we found ourselves going back in time and probably could probably have done without the more modern day elements completely.  The historical elements are fascinating to read about.  The details about the lives, firstly when Lanny lives in Maine and then when she goes to Boston are really well written and interesting to read about.  You certainly spend a lot of time with Lanny so in that respect she has plenty of character.  What I struggled to come to terms with is why she was so obsessed with Jonathon.  Jonathon is the son of the town’s benefactor.  He is perfect in all respects.  Absolutely gorgeous to behold, rich, intelligent and his full life is mapped out.  He is far and above Lanny in his station in life and without her practically throwing herself at his feet would never have noticed her at all.  However Jonathon is lonely, he has no friends and Lanny becomes his companion – platonic of course.  Jonathon is only really briefly sketched as far as I’m concerned.  He’s a total philanderer and basically seems to have sexual relationships with all the females in town – not helped of course by the fact that most of the women are so overcome with desire for him on account of his good looks that they simply throw themselves at his head.  The problem I have is that Lanny is obsessed with this guy for 200 years and yet apart from his good looks we have very little other reason to see why.  He also, isn’t the most likable character.  He’s quite weak at the start of the novel and appears to go through life with a very bored and abject expression.  I wouldn’t say I disliked him – just that I feel perfectly indifferent towards him and so apart from the fact that Lanny can’t have him – what exactly is the attraction that it remains so strong for that length of time.  I guess basically it seems a little bit fickle.  Yes, you may be attracted to a person’s looks initially but after that there has to be more?  Anyway, I digress!

We are then introduced to the character of Adair – and what a perfectly horrible little monster he is surrounded by his little crew of vipers – of which he is soon to make Lanny a member of.  We now take a further step back in time to hear Adair’s tale – which is really quite dark and twisted. This certainly isn’t a YA book although maybe it would cross over for the older element – that being said, there are a few elements that are rather brutal, not gratuitously so but the back stories include rape, beatings and elements of torture.  The thing with Adair is we are given a much greater insight into his character which makes him much more real.  Perhaps this is because Adair is set to play a much bigger role in the next novel?

We also, of course have the character of Luke.  Again, Luke,  feeling so/so about him.  Apart from his obvious unhappiness with life in general we don’t get a good feel for him really and clearly he’s there as a means by which Lanny can relate her story.

I don’t really want to elaborate further on the plot as I don’t want to give away spoilers and although it seems as though I’ve been quite critical above I think it’s almost in a good way.  Just that I had lots of ‘what if’s or ‘what’ moments!  This is a story about immortals – we are given some background into this and the end reveals a twist that I hadn’t anticipated.

Basically, in spite of the observations about the characters, I thought this was a really good story.  I’ve never read Interview with a Vampire but have seen the film and for me this has a definite flavour of that type of story.  I can’t say whether it read like Anne Rice but maybe others will have a better idea of that.

I’m hoping that with the developments at the end maybe Lanny will become a changed individual in the next instalment?  Anyway, time will tell and I look forward to picking up number 2.

I think that if you want a good historical/paranormal read then this may be for you.  It’s not always the most gentle read but it is definitely compelling.  Plus, the other thing that I do really like about this book is that although this is a trilogy there isn’t a cliff hanger ending and you could actually stop reading at this point.

The Taker

The Taker

25 Responses to “The Taker by Alma Katsu”

  1. Jan

    This was a compelling book, wasn’t it? I agree that the love story aspects are misleading, but the characters are unforgettable, if not utterly twisted. This is not a light, fluffy read, that’s for sure. I would lean toward calling it a horror with literary elements. I picked this up because I’m from northern Maine and was intrigued to read a horror story set in an environment I am familiar with. I felt Katsu did an amazing job with her historical setting. As for Jonathan, well… we did get to witness his death in the end, that’s somewhat of a consolation. :o)

    • lynnsbooks

      It was really compelling. I don’t particularly mind that it wasn’t really a love story as such, like you say unforgettable characters! It must be great to read this and actually live in the area. Will you read the second one? I think it’s out in a few months.
      Lynn 😀

  2. TBM

    This sounds interesting. I love history, but I’m not too familiar with the paranormal genre.

    • lynnsbooks

      I really liked the sections that dealt with Lanny’s history. Very interesting to read about people’s lives.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Novroz

    Historical and paranormal? this is the first time I heard such mix. I never try reading this kind of book before…sounds interesting tho

    • lynnsbooks

      I think there have been comparisons to Kostova’s Historian and Anna Rice’s Vampire chronicles. I enjoyed it and will definitely read the next which thankfully there isn’t a long wait for.

  4. Heidi

    I receieved a recommendation on this book awhile back. Your review perked my interest. I love Anne Rice and Interview with a Vampire is up there on my list of fav reads, you need to read it sometime. I would be interested to see how this compares to Ms. Rice. I will now have to try and find time to read it,

    • lynnsbooks

      Well, I’d be interested to know what you think and how they compare. I’ve not read the Anne Rice Interview story but I definitely will do – I have got her most recent novel about Werewolves just sat her winking at me!
      Great to hear from you Heidi.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Jen McDowell Mullen

    Great cover. Sounds like an interesting read–I loved The Historian! Might be a great book for Carl’s R.I.P. challenge.

    • lynnsbooks

      Yes, I did submit it for Carls challenge – wasn’t quite sure how you categorise it and so fell on the side of Folklore as it’s about Immortals?? What do you think. I also loved the Historian – I know some people thought it a bit lengthy but I actually really enjoyed reading it. Such great places involved and pretty creepy in parts.
      Lynn 😀

  6. Genki Jason

    I’ve read The Historian although I wasn’t too enthused with it I may get it as a gift for someone very soon. How does this compare to The Historian?

    • lynnsbooks

      I liked the Historian, BUT, I can see why people wouldn’t do. I remember somebody who I know describing it as ‘vampire librarians’. I think it could have happily benefitted from some serious editing. On reflection I think I preferred The Taker because I liked the casting back into history style of story telling – it put me in mind very much of Interview with a Vampire, except there are no vampires (and that was the mistake I made when I picked it up because I hadn’t read it properly). It’s about immortals. And they’re very decadent and not always terribly nice – but not vampires. I liked both but would imagine the Taker would be more popular on the whole. (Unless your gift who is for somebody who doesn’t mind quite lengthy stories).
      Lynn 😀

    • lynnsbooks

      Actually – I think you can’t really beat Stoker’s Dracula if you want an excellent gothic vampire book. Or if you like a bit of history and horror – Jasper Kent’s Twelve – which is set in Russia during the Napoleonic invasion.

      • Genki Jason

        When I read Dracula I was surprised at how cinematic it really was. I loved the bit when Harker spots him crawling on the wall of his castle. I found it genuinely creepy.

        Thanks for the recommendation of Twelve. I’ll definitely check that out!

      • lynnsbooks

        I know – it is a creepy book. I think It’s one of the best gothic horrors ever! I enjoyed Frankenstein as well – in fact I really enjoyed reading it. It gives you so much more insight into what is truly going on and why the monstrous side comes out in Frankenstein.
        If you do pick up Twelve let me know what you think – I will warn you though, they’re quit long and detailed and if you like something that’s quite fast paced then you may not enjoy. On the plus side though the vampires are definitely of the nasty variety – they’re smelly, cruel and vicious.

  7. Genki Jason

    Will do. I enjoyed Frankenstein too. Anyway on the subject of smelly, cruel, and vicious vampires have you tried The Strain and The Fall by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo Del Toro? My interest in it started off strong but I found it became rather generic by the second book.

  8. lynnsbooks

    No, not read – so you don’t recommend then? What’s your favourite genre do you think? I’m not sure what mine is exactly – I’m a bit of a book ‘tart’ really. I like a bit of history, paranormal, fantasy, horror, YA and classic. I’ve started trying to add a bit of sci fi recently – read classic sci fi but nothing more uptodate than Asimov (which I only just read). I think fantasy and gothic horror are probably my faves? Have you read Patrick Rothfuss?

    • Genki Jason

      Sorry I took so long to reply! It’s not that I don’t recommend The Strain but after an intriuging start it failed to grip me.

      My taste varies but what I like most of all, like you, is a mixture of historical, paranormal, and horror. I’m pretty well read when it comes to gothic horror – Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian all the way to Jekyll and Hyde. Generally I read a lot of things although I have been reading a lot of books connected to films. I read Arthur C. Clark’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel 2010 last year and was really impressed. I like Japanese novels like Summer of Ubume and anything by Haruki Murakami. If you like horror then I really recommend getting a hold of Koji Suzuki’s collection of short stories named Dark Water as well as Ring.

      I have not read Patrick Rothfuss.

      I can recommend manga for you as well but this reply has gone on long enough…

      • lynnsbooks

        Hi Jason.
        No worries. Probably won’t read The Strain. I love recommendations but I only feel like I want to read the ones that you ‘love’ – if you know what I mean?
        I absolutely love gothic horror. Jekyll and Hyde, Dracula and Frankenstein are obviously classics. I haven’t read any Japanese novels so maybe I should check that out. I have a couple of Murakami books but haven’t actually read them yet 😦 I think I have to make a concerted effort to read more contemporary novels. Patrict Rothfuss is, literally, ‘the man’, The name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear are sublime! But, that’s if you’re into fantasy. I love that guy and his story telling – but his novels are HUGE (although in fairness he only chucks out a book about every 4 years!) Do you mean the Ring – as in the film – I love the original version of that – it’s a masterpiece.
        You can definitely recommend manga to me. I wouldn’t really know where to start to be honest.
        Lynn 😀

      • Novroz

        So glad someone else has read Ring. I want to read the other two but it’s so hard to find it in my country 😦

  9. Jen's Closet (@Jens_BookCloset)

    I’m kind of intrigued by it, but stories of unrequited love don’t tend to be my forte. Mostly because the end up sad and I’m one of the crazies who try not to read sad books. LOL! I know that sounds silly, but life is sad enough, I like something a little happy. I don’t know if that made any sense.

    Lanore sounds like a particularly interesting character. I think I would enjoy reading parts of it just to hear her voice, with the way you describe it.

    In all honesty, I’d never heard of this book before. Depending on what you think about the rest of the series, I may pick it up.

    • lynnsbooks

      Hi Jen. I know what you mean – I’m not really into sad books myself to be honest – although sometimes you just don’t know until you start. I’m not sure if I would call this story sad though – rather than making me feel sad it made me feel almost a bit like shaking Lanore or giving her a slap!
      It will be interesting to see how it develops. I do worry about the next book however because I suppose it will change it’s style – we’ve had the ‘history’ element now and as that was my favourite element I wonder what the next book will do to capture my attention!
      oh well, I’ll look forward to the surprise.
      Lynn 😀

  10. Buried In Print

    What you have to say about the ending intrigues me; I tend to avoid first books in series until the next has been published because I hate to wait after a cliffhanger. I like the idea of a book having a satisfying ending and yet still making the reader want to see what happens next for the characters.

    • lynnsbooks

      I really enjoyed the writing style in this book as well, I liked the historical aspects which were really compelling and the fact that it has a definite ending is to be commended. At the end of the day you might not want to pick up No.2.
      Lynn 😀

  11. Genki Jason

    Yep, I do mean Ring as the the movie. The movie takes a very different tack from the book and decides to go the pure horror route while the book has a fascinating investigation. There are many character changes in the film version and a lot of comedy is lost so you’ll really get a different experience with the book. Its sequels, “Spiral” and “Loop”, go off on an interesting tangent that loses the supernatural vibe and heads into pure science fiction.

    As far as manga goes I really love Biomega by Tsutomu Nihei. It’s a sci-fi/zombie/dystopia mix and the art is so dark and chilling. Naoki Urasawa’s mangas “Monster” and “Pluto” are also great. If you have the time watch the anime of “Monster”. It’s an absolutely brilliant thriller and it makes the live-action stuff look boring in comparison.

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