(Caution: This review contains spoilers for The Taker, the first book in The Taker Trilogy)
Alma Katsu is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I loved her first book, The Taker (you can read my review here), and I was lucky enough to get an advanced reader’s copy of the second book in the trilogy, The Reckoning, which will be released on June 19. Both books are filled with lush and descriptive writing, historical details, and a delightfully agonizing tension that makes them worthy of the description “page turner.” But at the core of the story are Katsu’s characters, enormously flawed individuals that the reader wants to root for, kill or sleep with, often all at the same time.
The Reckoning picks up soon after the ending of The Taker. Our heroine Lanore, who was made immortal by the charismatic and dangerous Adair in The Taker, and then managed to imprison him in the concrete walls of his own mansion, has run away with Luke, the doctor who helped her escape the police after she killed her true love Jonathan. Lanny and Luke are in London visiting the Victoria and Albert museum, where Lanny has anonymously donated her precious collection of objects d’art acquired from her travels over the past two hundred years. By giving away hundreds of objects, she is attempting to distance herself from the past and move on from the devastating loss of Jonathan. But her peace is short-lived. While gazing at her objects behind the museum glass, Lanny feels a terrible and long-forgotten sensation, the tingling approach of a headache that could only mean one thing: Adair has escaped, and will certainly be looking for her to exact revenge.
In alternating chapters, Katsu goes back and forth between Lanny, who manages to ditch Luke while trying to stay one step ahead of Adair, to the monster himself, released from his prison by happenstance and thrust into the modern world without a clue about how to survive in it. Of one thing he is certain, however. Lanny must pay for her treachery no matter how long it takes to find her, and so he uses his powerful connection to the members of his immortal “family” to track down Jude, another immortal who has used his freedom from Adair to build a comfortable life for himself. Jude is shocked to see Adair on his doorstep, but reluctantly agrees to help him adapt to modern life and find Lanny. As Jude searches the internet for clues to Lanny’s whereabouts, the two discover the truth about Jonathan’s death. Adair is sure that Jonathan is the key to locating Lanny, and so he sets out to find his burial-place and attempt to resurrect him from the dead, using his book of magical “recipes” that also contains the secret to immortality. Jonathan does indeed rise from the dead, but he is fundamentally damaged, and to Adair’s dismay, has no lingering respect for or fear of Adair. He tells Adair that he has met “the Queen of the Underworld,” a character that I’m hoping makes an appearance in book three.
As Adair gets closer to tracking down Lanny, she herself has made contact with friends from the past that can help her hide from Adair. But fate is cruel, and from this point on the story is a dizzying game of cat-and-mouse as Lanny realizes she cannot outrun her past. Katsu is brilliant at pacing her story and dropping bits of information about the characters’ pasts in just the right spots to spark the reader’s imagination, but she’s very careful not to give away too much. She takes us from the past to the present and back again, weaving together a story that spans centuries. The characters themselves go through many changes throughout the course of the story. Adair especially surprised me when his cruelty and power over the other characters became something else by the end of the book. Katsu also digs deeper into some of the lesser characters from The Taker, and we discover that Adair is not the only immortal with cruel intentions. But all of the characters seem to have one thing in common: they are all capable of lies and deceit, and the reader is never really sure who to trust.
The Reckoning never loses momentum and unlike many “middle” books, it was even better than The Taker, if that’s possible. The writing is gorgeous and almost visceral, and there was more than one occasion when I marked a lovely passage to go back again read again. Katsu ends the book in a highly satisfying way, but wisely leaves many questions unanswered that she will most likely address in the final installment. A heady mix of intrigue, cruelty, betrayal and enduring love, The Reckoning will leave you breathless and impatient for more.
Many thanks to the author and publisher for supplying a review copy.