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The Taker

September 1, 2011

The Taker
Alma Katsu
Simon and Schuster- review copy from Book Expo
September 2011, $25.00 448 pages

This dark historical fiction, laced with magic, was not what I was expecting from the first scenes in a hospital in rural Maine. Not sure what I was expecting, as a young doctor meets a woman who reveals herself to be immortal. Outtakes from Highlander? A sleek, modern mystery?

The story veers from its beginnings into supernatural historical fiction, blending romance and erotica into flashbacks of the past.

The young woman, Lanny, tells her story of growing up in a rural Maine town, a Puritanical and stifling place in the 1800s. Her first love is Jonathan, a love that ends in the scandal of an unwanted child Lanny is sent away to have. And that’s when the story careens into the above-mentioned erotica, as Lanny is appropriated, swept into a decadent life.

Appropriated is the only word for it. Alone and desperate, Lanny is trying to escape her fate. Enter Adair, making promises, offering decadent escape, only hinting at its price. To someone who’s read a solid amount of supernatural fiction, it’s easy to wonder if Adair and his crowd are vampires. The heavy decadence of Adair’s house, ageless partygoers with heightened senses and easy morals in a repressive time of history, certainly seem to set up a vampire reference.

Katsu seems more interested in the psychological aspects of the mystical longevity. The way Adair and his cohorts bring Lanny in, how she reconciles her feelings for Jonathan, and the position she’s in, anchored to present-day Maine and telling her story to a doctor. That’s where The Taker starts to work for me best, as an exploration of the psychological factors of a vampiric-seeming life.

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