Thursday, September 15, 2011

Review: The Taker

Summary: 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. -- Gallery Books

I have read some pretty terrific reviews about THE TAKER by Alma Katsu from a few book bloggers whose opinions I respect. Plus this book got a starred review from Booklist. So when I keep hearing great things about a novel, my curiosity gets piqued and I can't help but want to read it. However, in the case of THE TAKER, I had some reservations. I'm not usually a huge fan of books with supernatural elements and THE TAKER definitely has some of those. And If I'm being entirely honest, the whole premise of the story just doesn't sound like one that I would normally be attracted to. Still, I decided to see what all the fuss was about...

And guess what? I actually liked THE TAKER. In fact, I liked it a lot; and I couldn't have been more surprised by my reaction. Now I'm not entirely sure that I'm the best judge of whether this book is a outstanding in its genre, but I can say that I was highly entertained by it. I was pretty much hooked from the get-go and I thought the excitement in the story didn't let up. I was blown away by the ending and can honestly say that I didn't see it coming! Is it going to be one of my very favorite books of 2011? Probably not. However, I had a fantastic time reading it and I thought it was a real page-turner. And I can see that fans of this genre will absolutely adore it.

I'm not exactly sure how to describe THE TAKER. On one hand, it was a paranormal suspense-type thriller, but it was also part historical fiction. I think I probably enjoyed the historical fiction elements a bit more than the supernatural ones (but that's just because I do have issues with buying supernatural aspects of stories), but I did appreciate how well-done the paranormal scenes were. I guess I'd go so far as to say that they were pretty believable and I didn't have many issues with suspending reality while reading.

The story was told in chapters that alternated between the present and the past, and I thought the author did a fabulous job of establishing the story and then gradually revealing the details. While I found the present day story to be intriguing, I found the real strength of this novel to be in the flashbacks. I liked how the author captured the feel of the small Maine community in the early 1800, and I think I was already hooked on the story and the characters by the time the supernatural stuff started occurring! I also thought Ms. Katsu did a wonderful job of creating the mystique and mystery surrounding the story that takes place in Hungary (it was really the Hungarian Territory) in 1349 too.

I've seen THE TAKER described as a love story, but I might have to disagree a bit with that classification. While THE TAKER definitely explored some "romantic" relationships between characters, I felt it was much more intense than a love story. The "love" explored in this novel was obsessive and intense, and it was unlike any love story that I've ever read. In addition, the relationships in this book were incredibly violent and sexual (sometimes to the point of violence.) In fact, I was sort of uncomfortable reading quite a few scenes so I don't recommend this novel to the faint of heart. Overall, I guess I'd say that THE TAKER wasn't exactly a love story, but there is a 200 year old love affair that explores deep feelings of betrayal and jealousy.

One thing I found very interesting about my reaction to THE TAKER is that I didn't really like any of the characters. Rather, I pretty much disliked all of them. I wanted to like Lanny and I really tried, but again and again, I was turned off by her intense jealousy. And as far as the vampire types go... they were all pretty awful. What I will say about the characters in this story is that they are extremely complex, and I guess part of the appeal of this story is in their inherent darkness.

THE TAKER would make an very interesting book club pick -- definitely not my group's normal fare. There is a reading guide available which explores some intriguing topics. In addition to delving into the characters' psyches, there are plenty of other things to discuss including love, rage, jealousy, unrequited love, violence, hedonism, choices, and magic.

I definitely recommend THE TAKER to fans of paranormal stories, but I also recommend it to those of you who find it outside of your reading comfort zone. Who knows? Like me, you just might find that you really enjoyed it!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this novel.


Serena said...

I'm glad that you enjoyed this in spite of the supernatural elements. I have this on deck to read in October for my creepy reads month. I can't wait to meet the Author in october as well, she'll be at a local bookstore in Clarksburg...Thanks for the review.

Jenn's Bookshelves said...

I think the reason why so many readers enjoy THE TAKER is because it crosses genres, appeals to readers of all tastes. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Alma is an amazing woman (granted, I'm a little biased).

Laura Kay said...

great review! The Taker has been on my radar, lol and seems to be getting great reviews.

Laura Kay
A Novel Review

Sandy Nawrot said...

No, Julie, they aren't vampires! Kind like vampires, but not blood suckers. I don't want anyone to get turned off! haha

Loved this book. We are meeting Alma in a day or two, and I can't wait. This was one crazy, wild ride of a read!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I'm glad you liked it since as you may recall I hated it! The sexploitation was too much for me!

bermudaonion said...

I've been excited about this one because of all the buzz. It's way outside of my comfort zone too, but I plan to give it a try.

Anonymous said...

I am not usually one for paranormal fiction either but I am definitely willing to give it a chance, especially considering this one has gotten the praise of many a book blogger.

Audra said...

I like supernatural fic but I really disliked this book -- for the same reasons you liked it! :) The over-the-top sex and unlikable characters were too much -- I certainly appreciated the sections about Lanny's life in the small village in Maine, but it wasn't enough to get me to care about her or the rest of the characters. I understand this is the first in a trilogy -- I'm still curious enough to give book two a try, I think!

Kailana said...

I have been hearing really good things about this book. I am thinking I am going to have to read it.

Beverly S. said...

Thanks for your review of "The Taker." I've downloaded a sample of it on my Kindle. If I like the first few chapters, I'll buy it. You did make me want to read it though. :)

Lesley Carol said...

The Taker is a dark tale that can't be called a conventional love story. It's too fraught with obsession and jealousy for any loving positive interchanges to take place between the protagonists.

I disliked Lanny,a genuine 'taker' from the onset but my curiosity was piqued as to the tale's outcome. plot. In spite of this dislike,I was swept along by Katsu's masterly mixture of genres: paranormal, historical and corrupted love. I felt the influence and literary tone of both Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe in "The Taker".

The novel has a believable and interesting and wide reaching 'sense of place': present day Maine, the 19th century puritanical community in the deep woods of Maine, the sea and carriage journeys, Boston in the mid-1800's, Hungary in the 14th century. All these settings were interwoven to create a very rich and compelling background.

The scenes of sexual and physical violence are not gratuitous. Though these very graphic, brutal scenes were hard to read, they were a necessary part of the narrative.

Alma Katsu is a clever novelist who has mastery of her characters and her plot. I look forward to reading her future work.