[538]: The Taker by Alma Katsu

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GOODREADS SUMMARY | Simon & Schuster | Hardcover, 438 pp. | April 11th, 2011 | Adult Fiction | Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


This was a very interesting take on immortality. The cover and title imply of something sinister, so my first impression/expectation upon seeing this book was vampires. Since they’re virtually the only creatures I know that can live several lifetimes, my uncreative mind immediately jumped to this assumption. Of course I was severely mistaken.

The Taker was an atmospheric novel about a girl who’d fallen on hard times at a time (1800s) when pregnancy out of wedlock was mortal sin. But that’s not how this book started. This book started in present time when she was picked up by cops wandering the streets bloodied, and with claims that she’d just killed someone.

She was brought to the hospital where she meets Dr. Luke Findlay, a man who had just gone through a series of bad luck himself. He was inexplicably drawn to the young woman. She was charming, enigmatic and had the gift of persuasion. There was very little she could ask that Luke wouldn’t give her, including, escaping the cops that took her. It was during the escape that she tells her story to Luke: how she became who she is and the stories of people that created her. It was a history hundreds and hundreds of years in the making; a lonely existence of debauchery, excess and unrequited love. And more importantly, the alchemy that provided her a life without end.

Alma Katsu is a brilliant story teller. This introduction had me in its grips from page one. It was rich in gothic-inspired history shrouded in a cloud of dark mystery.  It was a vivid imagery of how brutal and punishing love could be, and how quickly we all become victim to weakness and vanity.

So why the middle of the grade rating? One word: characters. I’ve never been a fan of characters (mostly heroines) who were so blinded by love that their actions make them weaklings. And Lanore McIlvrae is perhaps the poster girl for heroines with this affliction. There wasn’t much she wouldn’t give to “her eternal love” regardless of how fruitless her efforts were. Lanore was the classic example of a woman who’s incredibly brave and weak at the same time. She was a mixture of both, but I have to admit that her unrequited love made her every bit the weakling the I couldn’t admire.

Despite the rough start, I still think this could be the beginning of a fantastic series. And the ending, though, finished by all rights, left an ominous cloud that had me fearing and wanting the next book in the same breath.