Saturday, October 22, 2011

Review: The Taker

Title: The Taker

Author: Alma Katsu

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Part of a Series?: Individual

Goodreads 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. 
I thought this was a pretty good book. There were definitely places it could've been improved, but I don't think I've ever read something quite like this. The Taker is a fascinating fusion of historical fiction and fantasy. Katsu parallels the present day story line with the 19th century story line, and the result is a puzzlingly, addictive book.

Lanny's story is the most obvious highlight of the book. It takes up 80% of the story. And I was pleasantly surprised by Katsu's effort to keep the story as historically accurate as possible. History buffs will enjoy this story for the author's honest attempts to stay as true to Puritanical Maine as possible. But there is also this unique aspect of fantasy. Lanny is an immortal, and her story is a lot about how she came to be that way. But the fantasy isn't like the vampires and werewolf kind of fantasy of YA fiction. The fantasy of The Taker has this touch of realism. There are no flashy battles between good or evil or stories of forbidden, interspecies love. Moreover, I just enjoyed the plot progression in general, with emphasis on the character development. Both Lanny and Jonathan grow into unique and mature characters. This is an adult novel, so the characters, while teenagers, aren't juvenile. They don't whine or mope around--I partially attribute this to the fact that both Lanny and Jonathan were raised with the "Puritan work ethic." Anyway, it was truly amazing to read how effortlessly Katsu wove Lanny's past with Luke in the present. Just because the focus was on how Lanny eventually came to where she is, I still wanted to know more about Luke. He had a past that I wanted to know more about.

And that's where I think the story faltered. While Katsu did an excellent job in giving each character depth, she teased us with details that could've been explained more. For instance, Luke has an ex-wife and two kids. I didn't get why Lanny could have entire chapters dedicated to her life when Luke barely got a paragraph about his family. Furthermore, specific story lines seemed to drop off into nowhere. I don't know if I wasn't reading carefully or what, but Katsu ended some plots too abruptly for my taste, leaving me with endless questions. How exactly did Lanny figure out Adair's secret? What happened to Adair? What happened to Alejandro, Dona, and Tilde? Who were the men Lanny "married" in her lifetime? Why does Lanny think the curse will "break" just because she's trying to make amends for her sins? And finally, my last frustration with this book was the copious amounts of passages on sex. Sex took up half the book. Adair is a sadistic sex-addict, granted, but Lanny, IMO, is all too willing to play along. I got really frustrated because Lanny took all of Adair's "punishments" without actually fighting back. Sure, she had these internal monologues where she said how much she deeply hated Adair. Yet in the end, she was all too willing to play along. And between Lanny and Jonathan, the sex just seemed like an excuse to put more sex into the story. I mean, seriously. I'm usually okay with a few sex scenes as long as it doesn't take up the entire story. But this book tested my patience...

Oh, and thank you to Alma Katsu, her publishers, and Goodreads for providing me with a free copy. 

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