|Title: The Taker
Author: Alma Katsu
Cover Art: N/A
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Reviewed by: Julia
References to sex, rape, and incest.
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.
As heartbreaking as any gothic novel, Alma Katsu’s THE TAKER is a sad story of beauty and love and human failing, spun out over the centuries. Though the story begins in a small town emergency room in Maine, we quickly flashback to Lanny’s origins in colonial America. To be honest, the nominal “main character” of the present day story, Dr. Luke Findley, was a forgettable foil that I mostly glossed over. I was focused on the long ago tale of the young girl Lanny once was, limited by circumstances and crippled by unrequited love.
Lanny is a sympathetic character, even as the hopelessness of her love is apparent from the start. Rather than making this a predictable story, the alchemy of Katsu’s writing transformed these common materials into something completely unexpected. In her hands, over the arc of such a long lifetime, familiar tropes take on nuances I never would have expected. Lanny’s devotion to Jonathan, her best friend, the gorgeous village philanderer and golden boy, is a classic scenario for heartbreak. Jonathan himself is by turns careless and kind, his benign neglect of Lanny and others breaks hearts, ruins marriages, and takes lives. When the worst inevitably happens, Lanny is set adrift in the world with no power and no protection. Though the writing itself is not explicit, the sexual circumstances of this book covers a lot of victimization, rape, and injustice. So many of the characters in this book are trapped by circumstance, powerless against those who would abuse them, yet still able to fight on and function. Despite the difficult subject matter, Katsu maintains a spark of humanity in even her worst villain. I rooted for his downfall, but never quite gave up expecting some moment of redemption for him.
While that particular moment never came, over the course of book other familiar roles are turned on their head. Lanny finds her fangs, and by trial and error comes into her own. She causes injuries of her own along the way, while Jonathan, isolated by his beauty and charisma from women and men alike, has moments of maturity and vulnerability before falling afoul of his best friend’s good intentions. The extended timeline of this story offers new depths to this sad story, though Katsu’s ultimate truth seems to be one of inevitability. Even with eternal life, one can’t control the human heart.