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The Taker by Alma Katsu

November 21, 2011

Have you ever loved someone so much that you’d do anything for them?

When Dr Luke Findley 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 put 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 one true love of her life. Until now.

This book went straight onto my wish list when it was first released and I saw its beautiful cover. I was very intrigued by the idea of an immortal love story but had no idea what to expect. I’m sure many people have picked it up and assumed straight away that it would be about vampires – that is the latest craze these days after all, is it not? Luckily, we can all thankAlmafor writing something a little more original, and definitely unexpected, for there are no vampires to be seen.

The novel has many different layers, starting with the present day where Dr Luke Findley meets his new patient, Lanore McIlvrae, who has been brought in by the police for killing a man, a man she claims to have loved. But everything is not quite as it seems. Luke slowly learns that Lanore has been alive since the very early 1800s. She is immortal. We are then taken back to her life in a small village in Maine, in the year 1809, the year she fell in love with Jonathan, and her life would never be the same again.

Lanore and Jonathan’s relationship is a very complicated one. Lanore has loved Jonathan since her childhood. He is the son of the founder of the village, and the most handsome man around for many miles. All the girls want to be with him, and many of them get their chance, for Jonathan can hardly say no. But few hold the close friendship with him that Lanore does. She is the one Jonathan confides in and trusts, the only problem is he just doesn’t love her in the same way that she loves him. Their relationship is very frustrating throughout the whole novel, but what I do like is the way both Lanore and Jonathan are ultimately very flawed people. Lanore loves Jonathan so deeply that she can’t bear to part with him, or see him in the arms of another woman. Lanore makes endless selfish decisions that set ripples in motion for hundreds of years. Jonathan on the other hand, is often conflicted in his feelings. He gets caught up in his lust for her many times, but then realises that he cannot return the love she feels for him. At times I was rooting for them to be together and for Jonathan to forget the other women and just be with Lanore. But other times, I hated both characters and wanted them to be out of each others lives for good. I have to commend Almafor writing such compelling and believable characters, characters that are ultimately human. Their emotions and actions aren’t always clear and clean-cut. They make bad choices, they make love together then they hurt each other, they are selfish and greedy, but all these things make this novel such a joy to read because they feel real. This isn’t some soppy little romance novel where two people have found that special someone they are meant to be with, because when does it ever work out like that? Rarely. This is an honest novel about love and all its doubts and uncertainties.

Lanny leaves Maine and decides to start a new life for herself in Boston, where upon she meets three strangers, including Count Adair, who will change Lanny’s life forever, literally. This is where the story’s third layer evolves, as we get transported back even further to Fourteenth Century Hungary, where Adair’s life slowly unravels and dark secrets of alchemy and magic are revealed. The time in Hungary was probably my most favourite part of the novel, as the question of immortality begins to come to the forefront and we find out where the story is ultimately heading. You know as soon as you pick up this book that it is a story of immortal love, but Alma keeps you guessing for a very long time just how this will come into play and how Lanny will become immortal. I still had vampires at the back of my mind, and at times it felt very similar, but I was always grateful toAlmafor not going in that direction and for creating something that wasn’t so cliché.

I don’t want to give too much of the story away, so I’m not going to go into much more detail about the plot. In the end this novel is about a woman who loves a man so much she cannot bear to live her life without him and must suffer the consequences. But the question always at the back of your mind when reading this novel is what made Lanny kill Jonathan in the end?  And trust me; you will be turning the pages as quickly as possible to find out!

Alma’s strength definitely lies in the writing of her characters and the brilliant historical settings she has created. If I could criticise it in any way it would be that the modern day storyline, with Lanore and Luke, isn’t half as compelling as the historical flashbacks. Luckily, these passages are fairly short, and I can understand Alma’s reason for including a modern day strand to her novel, but it didn’t have the same level of excitement. I found Luke to be a fairly dull character, and found their romance not quite so believable.

Many people have likened this novel to the Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice. I’m not sure I’d say they are a perfect match but I can see why people would suggest it. The Taker does make you think about what it would really be like to live forever, the same way that Louis does in Interview with the Vampire for example. But I’d be hesitant to compare it to a vampire novel because that’s not what this is. It’s ultimately a love story, and one that spans hundreds of years. I can’t imagine how awful it would be to love someone forever, who can’t return your feelings. Can you?

The Taker is out now, published by Arrow Books, part of the Random House Group. A massive thank you to Alma for getting in touch with me and asking me if I’d be willing to review the book for her, and of course to Arrow Books for sending me a copy!

Rating: 

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 21, 2011 20:29

    Emma, thank you so much for taking the time to read The Taker, and for the wonderful review. The characters were meant to be complex and, hopefully, realistic (if one can say that about a book that is part fantasy!) and I’m so happy to see that you enjoyed this aspect of the book. I was wondering if you can think of a novel that would be a better comparison than Interview with the Vampire? I’ve been trying to come up with one and having no luck.
    best,
    Alma

    • November 22, 2011 09:10

      No problem at all, Alma! 🙂 Glad you like the review! I’ll see if I can think of a good comparison….though maybe you should take joy in the fact that it can’t be compared to something else 🙂 But I’ll let you know if I think of anything! Thanks for leaving a comment!

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