Monday, September 5, 2011

The Taker by Alma Katsu — 448 pgs

One night in the dead of a rural Maine winter, Dr. Luke Findlay is surprised by an unexpected patient in his quiet ER. Her name is Lanore, and the police have brought her in to be examined after finding her on the side of the road covered in blood, claiming she murdered someone. As Luke finds a quiet place to investigate this strange childlike woman, she begins to spin an unlikely tale about her otherworldly origins. Lanny, it seems, began her life in turn-of-the-century Maine as the oldest daughter of a farmer. From her earliest memories, she’s been in love with Jonathan, the rich only son of the town’s patriarch. But although Jonathan thinks very highly of Lanny, he can’t give her his whole heart as she wishes he could. After Lanny and Jonathan get themselves into a compromising situation, her parents send her off to Boston to shake off the dust of the past. Lanny’s first day in Boston is both frightening and lonely, as she’s not used to city life, and before she knows it, she’s swept up by a group of nefarious socialites and brought to their patron, the larger-than-life Adair. Soon Lanny is in the clutches of the debauched socialites and is prevented from leaving their opulent mansion on the hill. When she falls gravely ill, Adair gives her a mysterious elixir that will change her life forever. Now Lanny is at the mercy of the strange Adair, who has his own tale to tell, and she’s doomed to be caught up in time along with these strange courtiers and their foreign prince. As Lanny shares her mystical and unlikely story with Dr. Findlay during that cold night in the ER, her story will inspire Luke to take an untold risk to protect her. Both engrossing and full of strange unexpected twists, The Taker straddles the past and present to tell the remarkable story of a woman who has learned to capture and harness time in a way that may prove to be a blessing and a curse.

Though this book had a mystical and strange premise, I found myself utterly engrossed in it very early on. It’s written in alternating chapters that mingle the past with the present to great effect. While a part of the book focuses on a timeless love story, it also seamlessly incorporates elements of the paranormal into its foundations and narrative. It was unlike any book I’ve read before, and it was the type of story that keeps you guessing, no matter how many plot points you figure out. There was a great deal of suspense throughout both story lines, and though I much preferred the historical over the contemporary timeline, both were well melded and kept me happily tripping back and forth. Another thing I liked was that the storyline wasn’t overly prim. There were some highly sexualized aspects of the book that, while not being overly raunchy, provided a lot of heat to the natural components of the story.

When Dr. Findlay first discovers the truth about the enigmatic Lanny, he can hardly believe the story she tells. Despite his reluctance, he’s caught up in her spell as she slowly reveals her magical tale. This isn’t the light and frilly magic that you may expect; the tale Lanny tells is one filled with dark power, submission and pain-fraught love. Though Lanny starts off as an innocent girl living deep in the Maine woods, it’s not long after her arrival in Boston that her whole personality begins to morph into a rather self-centered and cantankerous woman. Though she’s left Jonathan behind, it’s not long before she sets off to find him at the behest of Adair, who wants to use Jonathan for his own unwholesome purposes. Lanny may claim to love Jonathan, but her motives in this strange tale soon begin to become suspect. The secret passed down from Adair and his cronies is one that will change and destroy lives, and though Lanny has some indecisive moments, she proves herself to be almost as ruthless as Adiar and the others.

This book was adept in its story, and many different and surprising plot points were expertly marshaled and displayed in a perfect amalgam of suspense, mystery and the supernatural. It was the kind of book that surprises you with its unexpected twists and turns, and it seemed that Katsu always had something up her sleeve to further entrench her readers. If I had to compare it to anything, I’d say it was a lot like the first book of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, but it didn’t deal with vampires and it was much more stylized. For a book of four hundred plus pages, I ripped through it, trying to discover the secrets and nuances of Lanny and her terrible band of acquaintances. The Taker was rife with magic and elegance, betrayal and lust, and in it I found a heroine that defied any label that I could hang upon her. It was a bewitching tale that took several seemingly disparate elements and concocted them into a story of terrible darkness and unyielding hunger.

The only niggle I had with this book was that the ending felt a little slapdash. Everything was moving right along nicely, and then Bam! The End. I felt the ending had been too orchestrated and all the foundations had been laid very early on, leading to an ending that lacked suspense and mystery. It was rather disappointing because the book could have gone in one of several other directions, and it was almost as if Katsu had hinted at them and then left them cold. I was surprised the book ended so abruptly and on such a cool note, because as a reader, I could see many directions that could have been utilized for better effectiveness. When I learned this book was the first of a trilogy, the ending began to make more sense and became less troubling and more satisfying.

While I had some trouble with the conclusion, the rest of the book was simply fascinating and dealt with an area of the paranormal that I found to be unique and provocative. The story flowed with a generous amount of detail and character description, and I was constantly guessing at what would happen next. If you’re a reader who enjoys well constructed and intriguing paranormals, or historical fiction, this might be the book for you. But of you’re the type that gets hung up on the perfect ending, I would regrettably have to tell you to steer clear of this one. A very interesting and thought provoking read.


This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

18 comments:

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I do like the sound of this one a lot, but not sure if I would be upset by the less than perfect ending.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I didn't like this one at all! Sandy and I are posting opposing reviews on the same day!

Jenny said...

Well, the ending sounds disappointing (Love the word "slapdash"!!) but the rest sounds great. I am very curious now thought about reading Jill's and Sandy's reviews!

Wall-to-wall books said...

This sounds like a really good book! I also like books set in Maine. So that would be reason enough for me!

Swapna said...

I enjoyed this one quite a bit as well - your review was really thoughtful and detail. It puts mine (posting tomorrow) to shame!

Audra said...

So glad you enjoyed this -- I'm having a great time with it too -- but v apprehensive abt the end now! :/ At least it being the first in a trilogy helps but...yeah. Nothing worse than an incomplete-feeling ending!

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I have this book and am considering including it for the RIP Challenge. I will definitely make sure to keep in mind that the ending may not be that satisfactory!

Sandy Nawrot said...

This book blew me away...I had no idea what the heck was going on from page to page. I thought it was rich in historical detail, in love, and obsession. It did feel alot like the early Rice books. Of course now I'm dying for the next installment!

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

I glossed over a lot of your review because I don't want to go in with too many expectations. But I do hope I can read this one soon. It sounds so good!

bermudaonion said...

I'm not always a fan of paranormal, but when it's subtle, I find I enjoy it. It sounds like it's done well in this book. I was hoping to have it read by SIBA, but we're coming down to the wire and I haven't gotten to it yet.

Tracy said...

This one sounds intriguing, though your likening it to Anna Rice's series puts me off - I couldn't get past the first few pages of Interview with a Vampire!

But of you’re the type that gets hung up on the perfect ending, I would regrettably have to tell you to steer clear of this one.
I'm not interested in perfect endings, just good endings, endings that fit with the story, not ones that read as though the author hadn't a clue where they were heading, and thought 'oh well, this'll do'.

reviewsbylola said...

I've never heard of this one but your review has me dying to read it!

Jenners said...

Sounds interesting … and I'm glad the ending sat better knowing that it was trilogy and not a standalone.

Alison's Book Marks said...

I remember talking to someone about this book at BEA, and I remember walking away thinking, "Oh, it's NOT for me!" but after reading your review, I may have to reconsider. (Interested to read Jill's and Swapna's reviews of it now too)

Amy said...

This book sounds fascinating! I love that you ripped through a 400+ page book, a very good sign! It's a bummer when authors write these enticing, absorbing reads and then just end them like it doesn't matter by that point. It happens a little too often for my taste. This book still sounds worth reading. I really enjoyed your marvelous review!

softdrink said...

Yay for being engrossed! I'm looking forward to reading this one.

Aths said...

I've seen this one around a bit but never really checked it out. It does sound fascinating despite the weak ending, and maybe going into it aware that it is part of a trilogy might help accept the ending better. I'll look for it when I can. Fabulous review!

Darlene said...

I'm glad you liked this because I just picked it up the other day. It sounds fantastic to me.

Post a Comment

 
Blogger Template by Delicious Design Studio