The Taker by Alma Katsu
Author: Alma Katsu
Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Maine / Historical / 19th century / Paranormal)
Publisher/Publication Date: Gallery (9/2011)
Source: The publisher.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: One woman, two hundred sordid years, and one unending love.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction, R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril
Do I like the cover?: Yes, although I vastly prefer the UK cover. While neither exactly capture the novel's feel (to me), the UK version is sort of reminiscent of the tattoos some of the 'chosen' have.
I'm reminded of...: Karen Essex, Anne Rice, Cate Tiernan
First line: Goddamned freezing cold.
Do... I love the freebies the author offers on her website?: YES. Signed bookplates and bookmarks, plus a chance to Skype with her if you read this for a book club.
Did... I love reading about historical Maine and Boston?: YES. I'm a sucker for New England historicals!
Am... I going to get the second book in this series?: YES, I think so. The book's ending is a bit unsatisfactory, and I'm curious to see what Katsu decides to do next.
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow for post-summer fluff read relief.
Why did I get this book?: Supernatural + historical = win!
Review: This uneven first novel promises the start of an entertaining series for those who enjoy supernatural/paranormal historicals. Big, dramatic, and lurid, this novel tells the story of Lanny McIlvrae, a woman born in 19th century rural Maine, who still walks the Earth some two centuries later, tortured by her past. Alternating between now -- when she convinces the ER doctor to help her escape to Canada and then Paris -- and recounting her past -- how she ended up immortal -- the story features sex, violence, a hint of supernatural elements, and unrequited love.
This book felt very familiar to me in tone and plot (most notably Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles and Cate Tiernan's Balefire books), especially with the story-within-a-story style Katsu employs. According to her website, she was particularly inspired by the Pinnochio story which can be seen in Lanny's developmental arc; but unfortunately, to me, the story just seemed a bit tired and 'done': the excesses and immoral decadence of the immortals, the fascination with beautiful people being immortalized, the desire to atone for one's centuries-long sins. Which is a shame because Katsu's writing is good and her heroine Lanny had promise. I greatly enjoyed the historical sections, following Lanny's adolescence in her repressive, small village, where she nurtured a one-side love for the town's rich, beautiful playboy. Her devotion to him leads to her downfall, of course, the slow eroding of her soul as she does what she can to remain his, in whatever form.
The contemporary portions of the novel rang most awkward and unrealistic; in a novel this size, I would have liked more time developing why this small town doc would give up everything to help Lanny. He's a flimsy foil for Lanny to tell her story; I'd much rather this have been her diaries or a letter although I suppose the doctor will feature in the next book.
I've seen a lot of reviews that describe this book as 'sexy' which I find baffling: certainly, there's a ton of sex in it, but it's often violent and/or non-consensual, which isn't my idea of hot. It is, however, dramatic and titillating and grotesque and entertaining, over-the-top escapism for the autumn, a beach read when it's too chilly for the beach.