Friday, February 1, 2013

First Read Friday: The Taker by Alma Katsu


     Title: The Taker (Book One of The Taker Trilogy) 
     Author: Alma Katsu
     Publisher: Gallery Books
     Published: September 6, 2011
     Number of Pages: 464 
     Genre(s): Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Historical Romance
     Date Read: February 1, 2012
     Acquired: Wal-Mart

Luke is working what starts off as a quiet night shift in the ER of a small town Hospital in rural Maine. That quiet relaxing shift ends when the Deputy shows up with a murderess; an ethereal waif with a mass of blonde curls, slight, beautiful, and covered in blood. Luke is immediately and inexplicable intrigued by this girl, but not because she is a murderer, he can't pinpoint why, and then she starts to tell him her story. The story starts with an admission that, yes, she did kill her companion, but it wasn't murder, he had asked her to do it. He being Jonathan St. Andrew, Luke doesn't believe that it is a coincidence that the man shared his name with the town they are in.

Lanny, that's the name of the beautiful killer, convinces Luke to help her escape the hospital by beguiling him with her sordid tale. With her story she takes him back over 200 years, to her birth and early life with Jonathan as the children of the founding generation of St. Andrew, Maine. How she loved him all of her life, and he never loved her back; the multitude of ways they hurt each other until she was sent to Boston. In Boston Lanny finds herself ensnared by a hedonistic group led by a charming, sado-masochistic, madman who falls in lust with Lanny's beauty and capacity for "perfect love". As they run for the Maine-Quebec border crossing Lanny's story changes to Lanny's story about this man, Adair's story, and from then on the three tales are interwoven. Lanny is trapped with Adair, forced to entrap Jonathan; has she trapped Luke the same way 200 years later after killing Jonathan?

What drew me to this book first was the striking cover; every time I went into the store it sat there on the shelf calling to me. Finally I caved and picked it up to read the summary on the back. My first thought was "Oh another vampire novel, sounds interesting enough." and with that it was promptly put into the cart and brought home. Where it then sat on the pile for a month or so calling to me as I read other books. I was in the process of trying to read The Thirteen Hallows, but I was having trouble keeping engaged, and I realised the reason was that I REALLY wanted to be reading The Taker, so I gave in and put the Hallows on hold to take it up.

To be honest I wasn't entirely sure how I felt about it as I started reading it, and that uncertainty stayed with me for most of the books. Be warned that this is actually a very dark book, with quite a few morbid parts. It markets itself as a romance, a love story, but I really don't like those labels for this. None of the love in this book is healthy in any way, shape or form. You've got Lanny's obsessive love for a self-centred, arrogant golden boy who takes her for granted and strings her along for her entire life; KNOWS that he is doing it BUT STILL CONTINUES to do because she's his only friend. Then you've got Jonathan, the aforementioned golden boy who claims to love Lanny, but not enough to actually rectify the way he treats her. Adair claims to love Lanny, but I feel like he is completely amoral and incapable of love, he feels covetous of her beauty and her capacity to love, he doesn't love her but he desires her and wants to posses her. She in turn sort of falls for him for a time in what screams to me a clear cut case of Stockholm Syndrome until she rationalises herself out of it. And then there's Luke, who toward the end of the novel fancies himself in love with Lanny, even though he's only known her for a few months and most of the things he knows about her tell her that she's not exactly the delicate damsel in distress she appears to be.She needs him, and he needs her, but again I can't see anything healthy in their relationship and I definitely can't see the type of love that warrants giving this novel the label of romance. The interplay in these relationships is complex and intriguing, definitely keeps you thinking, I just really dislike it when a book tries to present itself as something it is so clearly not.

That all being said it did deliver as promised by the advanced review on the back, even if it couldn't be honest with itself, you can always count on a reviewer to point out the truth, it's a showcase of the dark side of romantic love; that is a statement I can agree with. I don't have any personal experience with the dark side of love, thankfully, but I feel safe in saying that Katsu's relationships in this novel definitely have crossed the boundary into that realm. 

I think it's a bit of a breath of fresh air in that regard. Yes it's dark and twisty (like Meredith Grey always claimed to be!) and I frequently found myself highly disturbed by the fact that I was enjoying the book. Because of the content of the book I keep finding myself saying out loud, "I'm not entirely sure if it's all right to find this interesting or not..." and then I'd have to set the book down and walk away from it for awhile and work through what I'd just read in my head. With the exception of Luke none of the main characters deserve sympathy from the reader, Lanny comes close because of the circumstances and context surrounding her behaviour, but for the most part it's really hard to give her sympathy. What Katsu did amazingly well here was to create characters so utterly undeserving of sympathy that you can't actually help but feel sorry for at certain times and then that leaves you shouting "ACK NO S/HE'S AN ARSE I SHOULD NOT BE FEELING SORRY FOR THEM!!" and banging your head against the desk...or maybe that's just me, I have a tendency to get REALLY into whatever I'm reading...

How do you feel when you find yourself feeling sympathy for a character who you know doesn't deserve it?


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