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The Taker UK Cover Picture

The Taker

Alma Katsu

Published 2011              436 pages

Summary (from the book jacket)

When Dr Luke Finley turns up to his hospital shift in the small town of St Andrews, Maine, he’s expecting just another evening of minor injuries and domestic disputes. But instead, Lanore McIlvrae walks into his life – and changes it forever. For Lanny is a woman with a past…

Lanny McIlvrae is unlike anyone Luke has ever met. Hers is a story of love and betrayal that defies time and transcends mortality – and cannot end until Lanny’s demons are finally out to rest. Her two hundred years on this earth have seen her seduced by both decadence and brutality – but through it all she has stayed true to the love of her life. Until now.

The Review

The Taker is the remarkable first novel in a historical fantasy trilogy dealing with love, desire, eternal life and obsession. To be perfectly honest the story is more historical novel than fantasy. The fantasy elements are very low-key and while Lanny, the story’s main protagonist, is an immortal – she certainly isn’t a vampire.

Still, comparisons to Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles seem inevitable, even though The Taker has no vampires. Mostly because there are so few serious fictional novels written on such an epic scale that manage to encompass the supernatural without ending up delegated to SF/F shelves of the bookstore. Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles were books such as these and Alma Katsu’s The Taker stakes its claim on the same ground – a historical thriller enhanced, but not driven by, its fictional fantasy device. 

The Taker is a story that spans from the backwoods of early 19th century Maine to the big cities of the present day. Events start when Luke, an emotionally tired small town doctor, clocks in for his night shift at the local hospital. The police have picked up a young girl for murder but she needs medical attention before she can be charged. Luke is left to look after the girl and it isn’t long before he realises that there is something very unusual about her. She demonstrates her immortality by stabbing herself so Luke can see her heal. This is remarkable; but it is her story, how she came to be a blood-soaked murderess wandering down a country road, which captures Luke’s imagination. It is a story that spans two hundred years and many lifetimes of bitter sweet emotion.

The Taker isn’t always an easy book to read. The words “An Immortal Love Story” are embossed on the book’s cover but there is actually little love (and absolutely no romance) in this occasionally sordid but entirely captivating tale. Two hundred years ago when Lanny was mortal she had a great love for Jonathan, the son of the local squire. He was a beautiful boy as well as being the entitled heir of the largest local landowner. I could never understand her love, painfully unrequited as it was. Even when Lanny physically got Jonathan she never got to keep him for more than a moment and emotionally he was never hers. How this sustained her two hundred years is the book’s main mystery for me but that issue aside, it makes for uncomfortable, painful reading. The love in this story isn’t the sentiment that Hallmark Cards are made of; this story exposes a much darker vortex of dysfunctional relationships – dangerous and all-consuming.

The story has no shortage of sexual relationships either but again these aren’t your standard urban fantasy titillations. The author manages to draw a veil across proceedings to obscure the blow-by-blow details (no pun intended) but the imagination is more than capable of filling in the blanks. There is real brutality here, and some horrid sexual violence that makes for uncomfortable reading in places.

Yet for all its sharp emotions, uncomfortable scenes and general lack of anything approaching romance this immortal love story is compelling reading. Once the story gets it hooks into you it just doesn’t let go, leaving The Taker lingering in the imagination long after the last page has been turned. For readers looking for more of a serious read than fantasy or horror fiction usually provides this book is well worth checking out…

LoveVampires Review Rating:

Review Rating: 4 star out of 5

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