The Descent (The Taker #3) by Alma Katsu
Genre: Adult Paranormal
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release date: January 7 2014
Source: ARC from author
In a word: A mysterious island setting, a visit to the Underworld, described in lush prose that made me feel as if I were there, and a worthy finale to a dangerous and intriguing series.
Without saying a word or even thinking about it too strenuously, he made the temperature begin to fall. A frosty veil of white started to blossom over the black rocks. Plumes of breath rose over the sleeping goats. Where the sea met rock, a ring of ice began to form, then spread out to the sea, until the island was encircled by a huge disk of thick ice. Adair tried not to be surprised, because he knew that—in some way that wasn’t clear to him but was nonetheless undeniable—he’d willed this change to happen.
**Alma has a fantastic giveaway that will start on January 7th, The Descent‘s release day! I’ll be posting about it then, so don’t forget to stop by and enter!
**Mild spoilers ahead for The Taker and The Reckoning.
Lanore and Adair have had quite the rocky relationship. While Lanore spent most of the last book (The Reckoning) running away from and trying to stay one step ahead of Adair, in The Descent she realizes that Adair is the only person in the world who possesses the ability to help her, and so she desperately tries to find him. The dreamlike quality of The Descent felt much different than the previous two books, where the character of Adair is portrayed as a very dangerous man who wields control over his “companions,” as he calls those people fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on how you see it) enough to have been granted immortality by Adair. But I enjoyed this difference and once more was swept up in Katsu’s storytelling, never quite sure what she had in store for her readers. Newbies take note: if you haven’t read the first two books, you may be out of your element if you start The Descent first. This isn’t a stand-alone story, and the series is best enjoyed by starting at the beginning.
When the story opens, Lanore has been having nightmares about her former lover Jonathan, a man who has been dead for some time. In her dreams, Jonathan is being imprisoned and tortured in the underworld, and Lanore is sure the dreams are real. With no other options, she decides to seek out Adair, a man with the power to send Lanore herself to the underworld to rescue Jonathan. She finds Adair on a tiny, secluded island off the coast of Italy, but convincing him to help her may be impossible. A spark of jealousy flares when Lanore realizes that Adair is playing host to two young women named Terry and Robin, tourists who are holing up with Adair and sharing his bed at night. When she finally convinces him to help her, Lanore is not prepared for the trials that await her, and Adair is not prepared for the feelings he still has for Lanore, feelings he thought were gone for good after Lanore betrayed him. Can Adair get Lanore back, or will she be forced to stay in the underworld forever?
One of Katsu’s talents is creating vivid worlds that feel utterly foreign, yet once you experience them, you can’t imagine the story written any other way. My absolute favorite parts of The Descent were the scenes that took place on the secluded island where Adair is hiding. The fact that Lanore has a hard time even finding this place sets the reader up for a very surreal experience once she gets there. Adair’s immense house is built nearly on the edge of a cliff, and access to it is limited, which made me feel as if the island itself were a living thing, trying to keep Lanore away. When she finally gets inside, the interior appears larger than the outside, and she gets lost in its winding and dark hallways more than once. The strangeness of the girls who are staying with Adair also added to the otherworldly feeling of unease swirling around the house.
When Lanore gets to the underworld—and she does eventually—Katsu again creates a magical yet unsettling world where doorways lead to unexpected places, and past and present seem to exist at the same time.
The other thing I loved about this book were the glimpses into Adair’s past. As Adair stands watch over Lanore’s body while her soul visits the underworld, he dreams of his life before he was an immortal being, when he was fifteen years old in 1262 Venice. As a boy, Adair is desperate to learn as much as he can about alchemy, and this passion drives him to become the Adair we know from the first two books. These flashback scenes were some of my favorites, and I enjoyed seeing Adair’s vulnerable side.
The Descent is oddly light on action, as much of the story is told in a static dream state. This didn’t bother me too much, but I think it did have an effect on the overall pace of the story, which felt a bit uneven. As I neared the end of the story, I was wondering how Katsu was going to wrap things up with only pages left to go. The ending did feel rushed, and several surprises at the end felt just a little too convenient to me. I wanted more—more pages, more explanations, and more character development. I thought that Terry and Robin had terrific potential, but their few tantalizing scenes weren’t enough for me to get a complete feeling for their characters.
But this series is still one of my favorites, even if I’m not sure I like the way it ended. Katsu has created unique characters in Adair and Lanore, and after all they’ve been through, it was nice to see their relationship come to a satisfying close. Their epic tale continues to linger in my mind, and I’m dying to see what Katsu does next.
Many thanks to the author for supplying a review copy. The above quote was taken from an uncorrected proof, and may differ from the finished book.
Don’t miss the first two books in the series!
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Have you read this series? I’d love to know what you think!