Title: The Taker
Author: Alma Katsu
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: March 2012
Genre: Adult Fiction
Series or Stand Alone: Series, Book One
Synopsis can be found here.
Lanore McIlvrae has been in love with one man her entire life, that of the beautiful and selfish Jonathan. But that was any many years ago, hundreds, and Lanore finds herself bloody and alone, in the cold reaches of Maine, in a hospital and wanted for murder. There, she finds Dr. Luke Findley, who listens as she tells her story of immortality, love, betrayal and hopefully, one day, redemption.
I really don’t want to give anything away.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when my friend Crystal picked this book for book club. The synopsis sounded promising. I was totally blown away by this book. Magic, immortals, evil and sin shake the pages as I read of Lanny and her adventures. It reminds me of a shorter, sexier Discovery of Witches.
It’s romance. It’s historical fiction. Lanny tells her story through flashbacks, from her friendship with Jonathan and the jealousy she feels as he’s courted by every girl in their small Maine town, to the sexual awakening and predatory adventures of her time in Boston with Adair, her immortal maker. The writing is solid and before i knew it was enjoying every twisted rabbit hole the author took me down, including Adair’s past and lies, Jonathan’s side of the story and Lanny’s struggles.
Lanny is a sharp and struggling heroine. She changes so much from the girl in Maine to the seductress in today’s world. Her own selfishness, self discovery and bad choices lead her to the hell she finds herself when the book opens. But Lanny is a sympathetic character, human and complex, making bad decisions and paying for them all.
Adair is my favorite character in this story. His tale is dark, strange and evil, and the man that emerges from that is full of rage, entitlement and ill will. And yet, Adair is like a very bright light in the story, a strong and yet menacing character who haunts every page he’s on. He’s a perfect villain, making me fearful but curious about his real intentions and past. Make no mistake, Adair is not to be liked. He is awful, horrendous, vile being, at least not now. Though I do believe his tale of redemption may come, and it will be a very long ride.
Lanny’s great love, Jonathan, is too washy for me. I feel Lanny’s heartbreak through her narration, but most of the time, I waned to slap Jonathan around. He’s beautiful, rich and wanted. And he knows it. As the book goes on I felt a little warmer towards Jonathan, but I still want to slap Lanny for her unconditional love for him.
I have very little feelings towards Luke, her Dr. savior in modern day as well.
Seriously devoured over two days.
I ran out the next to buy the sequel, The Reckoning. I am biting my nails, waiting for Book Three.
Rating 9: Ridiculously Awesome like Cookies and Ice Cream
Interview with Alma Katsu!
Welcome Alma! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions!
What inspired you to become a writer?
Being an avid reader. I was always a reader and I think at some point most readers want to see if they can write a story themselves, create something like the books that gave them so much pleasure. I started writing in earnest when I was in high school, writing chapters of some silly fantasy story in class instead of paying attention to the teacher. Then some friends of mine would read the chapters in the afternoon after school. That’s probably all it took to get me hooked as a writer: having an audience.
What sparked the idea for The Taker series?
My crazy sense of melodrama, I guess. I wanted to see if I could write a really haunting story, a book you’d read that would stay with you for days. The best stories aren’t necessarily ones where you agree with everything the character does or where you identify completed with the characters, but one that makes you think, that you can’t forget. That’s what I wanted to do with The Taker: tell a story that you couldn’t forget.
Lanny’s hometown of St. Andrew, Maine is rich and vivid. How did you create this fictional town during this time period?
I grew up near Concord, Massachusetts, which is rich in Colonial American history. I was literally surrounded by all the trapping of the time: farmhouses and taverns and inns from the 1700s, museums and historic sites. I guess it all seeped into my bones. However, I needed a location more isolated than Concord for the town of St. Andrew and so I moved it to the northern part of Maine. That required quite a bit of research, because conditions in Maine during that time were quite different from Boston. I was able to use quite a bit of that research to give those sections real flavor, I think.
Jonathan, Lanny and Adair are all deeply flawed, complex characters, each with their own strong personalities. Which one did you enjoy writing the most?
Adair. He is so bad and so different—you don’t meet people like him every day, thank god—that it was quite an experience putting myself in his mindset. And yet as forceful and powerful as he is, he becomes vulnerable when he falls in love, and so you can’t close your heart to him entirely. Jonathan is infuriating but he’s meant to be. He’s patterned after real men I have known, men who are emotionally aloof, who like to keep women guessing. We all meet a man like this at some point in our life, and some women get really hung up on them and never learn to let go—which brings us to Lanny. There are lots of heroines in literature like her—Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina—unwilling to settle for less, unable to get past their own tragic flaw.
I’m glad you said that, because Adair really took over the story. It’s because of him that we have a series! The Taker was supposed to be a standalone but I saw a way to continue the story and in many ways, it’s Adair’s story as much as it is Lanny’s. It’s the two of them who grow and change, and learn to be deserving of love.
What is your favorite thing about Lanny?
I like that she’s real, and she’s real because she’s flawed. She can be headstrong and stubborn. I wouldn’t say that she’s selfish but she’s going to go for what she wants. She’s forced to deal with her fears—the greatest one being the fear of being alone—but she learns that she can live without Jonathan. After everything she goes through to win him, then save him and herself, she loses him and has to go on for decades without him. She becomes a stronger and wiser (if not exactly happier) person for it. Some people—many people—won’t face their greatest fear in their lifetime.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while writing your novels?
The biggest problem is that, because these books aren’t a specific genre, it’s hard to find the right audience. Readers expect to be able to judge a book right away—yes, by it’s cover but also by the blurbs (are they from authors you know and like?) and which shelf it sits on in the bookstore. Many reviewers have said that the books would please just about any reader (we had a great review in the Barnes & Noble book club about this) but that’s made it really hard to market.
How do you like your potato?
Just about any way except raw :)
Do you have a favorite literary character?
I think my favorite characters come and go. Also, I like characters not for themselves but if they’re well-written and fully realized. I don’t care if a character is “likeable” or not, if they’re someone whose actions I agree with or someone I’d want to know in real life. I tend to appreciate characters who are complex but whom the author has expressed well.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Working. I’m a researcher for a think tank and my field is emerging technology, especially communications technology. With all the changes going on right now, it requires a lot of reading to keep up!
Book three of the trilogy is coming soon! Which of the three is your favorite book? Which was the hardest to write?
The Taker, the first book, took 10 years to write but in some ways it’s been the easiest, probably because I had turned the story over and over in my mind and knew exactly what I wanted it to say. The prize for the hardest is now a toss-up between books two and three!
And what is the one question you always wish someone would ask you, but haven’t yet? (Answer too please!)
What kind of car do you drive?
A John Cooper Works 2009 MINI in White Pepper. The John Cooper Works are the factory tuner (read: race car) version of the MINI and I absolutely love it! I wouldn’t mind track racing it one day when it’s no longer my daily driver.