The Taker by Alma Katsu
Published by Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster
It is a cold, dark night in Maine when a murder suspect shows up in Dr. Luke Findley’s ER and shakes up his life. Lanore McIlvrae is beautiful, but there’s something more to it than that. Lanny swears to Luke that Jonathan, the man she killed, died at her hands only because he requested it, because it was the only possible way that he could die. From there, Lanny begins relating to Luke the incredible – and apparently true – story of how both she and Jonathan became immortal, some 200 years ago.
There is not just one story in The Taker, but actually three, all of which are nestled inside one another like matryoshka dolls. The reader not only sees Luke and Lanny in the future and learns how Lanny came to be immortal, but the story of Adair, the man who made Lanny what she is, is told as well. Katsu does this surprisingly well, it is always clear which time period the reader is in, both with place names and dates at the beginning of every chapter that switches, and by switching tenses and points of view when the story changes. In this way, Katsu seamlessly weaves together the strands of her story.
What did not work as well for me was the story itself, particularly the relationships. I have no idea why Luke is so taken with Lanny that he would essentially abandon his life for her, nor why Lanny is so obsessed with Jonathan. I wish Lanny’s early declarations to Jonathan that they were destined to be together were explored more fully. In some ways she is obviously right, but it is unclear how at a young age she would be granted this sort of insight into her future. These infatuations were stated, but never seemed fully developed to me. Equally weak was Lanny’s revelation about Adair that brings about the climax of the story. It was too sudden, too out of nowhere.
The Taker is a book with very real strengths, strengths which bode well for Katsu’s continued success. I simply wasn’t able to connect with the characters enough to understand their motivations, but this was likely a very personal and subjective reaction, and others might feel very differently (and others whose opinions I respect have, in fact, felt very differently), so I certainly do not intend to warn any readers away from The Taker, but just to offer a different perspective. Prospective readers may, however, want to be aware of the repeated sexual abuse and sadism, which will likely turn some off.
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