The Taker has been on my to-read list since it came out last September, but I only recently found time to fit it into my reading schedule. I’m so glad I did, because this is a book that should not be missed. Although the cover design is lovely, it didn’t really prepare me for the lush, sweeping story of Lanore, Adair, and Jonathan.
The story begins in the fictional town of St. Andrew, Maine, during the coldest time of the year. Luke, a young doctor, is working the night shift one evening when a beautiful young woman is brought into the hospital by the police. She is covered in blood, but it isn’t hers. Her name is Lanore, and she confesses to Luke that she has just killed a man in the woods. While the officers leave her in Luke’s care to search for the body, Lanore begins to tell her story, a story that spans over two hundred years. She tells Luke that she grew up in St. Andrew long ago, and as a young girl, fell desperately in love with a boy named Jonathan, a heart-achingly beautiful man who would never be able to love her completely. When she becomes (not surprisingly) pregnant after carrying on with Jonathan in secret, her father sends her away to Boston to have the baby, but upon arrival Lanore runs away from her chaperone and finds herself lost and alone in the unfamiliar streets of the city.
Here is where her story truly begins, as she is picked up by a group of exotic and mysterious men and women and taken to their home, where they drug and rape her. Lanore wakes up ill and confused, and before long she meets the man who will change her life forever: Adair, the leader of this odd group. Lanore doesn’t know it, but her days as a mortal are numbered. As her condition worsens, Adair uses alchemy to make Lanore immortal, and she unwittingly becomes part of their strange and dangerous family, and bonded to Adair forever.
The Taker is a filled with sensual details that immediately reminded me of the early works of Anne Rice, in particular, Interview With the Vampire. The structure is similar in that a character is relating her life’s story, and we jump back and forth between the past and the present. Katsu delves deeper, however, when Adair tells Lanore his awful story, and the book becomes something more than just a tale, for the reader is suddenly caught up in a web of a story within a story within a story, like a set of Russian nesting dolls. Easy to get lost, yes, but impossible to resist.
As Luke listens to Lanore’s unbelievable story, he himself falls under her spell, and by the end he has become just as wrapped up in her dark and lurid life as the rest of the characters. Katsu’s deft handling of the tale’s circuitous path as she hops between the present and past gives the story a dream-like quality, and I often felt as if I myself were emerging from a dream. Her writing is flawlessly beautiful and authentically gothic, right down to her use of words such as “swive” and “catamite,” and the characters all have an air of arcane mystery that draws the reader in, despite their cruelty. Jonathan eventually re-enters the story, which brings the tale full circle.
You should know up front that The Taker is the first in a trilogy, which means the story is left unfinished. There are also periods of time in Lanore’s life that are not accounted for, and it left me wondering if these gaps will be filled in during future installments. (In fact they will. Keep reading and I’ll tell you more!) I encourage you, reader, to give in to the lure of the storyteller. Katsu’s erotic and atmospheric story will leave you enthralled.
What happens next for Lanore, and how does Luke fit into all this? The second book, The Reckoning, comes out this June, but in the meantime, Alma has also released an e-book only format short story that takes place somewhere in between. I’ll bet this answers some of my burning questions about those missing years. Goodreads describes The Devil’s Scribe as:
After decades of running from her past, Lanore McIlvrae returns to America for the first time in 20 years to confront the source of her fear. The year is 1846 and Lanore—Lanny—has just landed in Baltimore after a long transatlantic crossing. That very night, she meets an “unattractive man with a high forehead and sunken eyes, and a tiny, pinched mouth like a parrot’s beak” who claims to write stories so dark and unsettling that he could be the Devil’s Scribe. His name? Edgar Allan Poe. Has Lanny finally met her match in this macabre man…or is it the other way around?