Required Reading: ‘The Taker’ by Alma Katsu
If I said that Alma Katsu’s debut novel, The Taker, was a paranormal romance, that would technically be correct. But in an age where “paranormal romance” carries with it the connotations of sparkly vampires and teenage melodrama, I’m afraid this wouldn’t be fair to the rich, complex, and thoroughly engrossing story of The Taker. Somehow Katsu manages to take tired literary subjects like mysterious supernatural beings and unrequited love, and make them into something completely unique. The Taker combines elements of Gothic literature, romance, supernatural folklore, horror, and more, creating a world of intrigue and introspection.
The Taker is epic in every sense of the word, spanning centuries and continents, with enough rich back-story to merit a few prequels. The central character, Lanny, is an immortal being of unspecified supernatural ilk who enlists the help of Luke, an everyman doctor, in escaping from the police. Lanny’s story unfolds through intermittent flashbacks which cover her early life in Maine in the 1800s, the events that led to her transformation, and how she came to be wanted by the police. Although she is incredibly flawed and not always likable, Lanny is the heart of the story. For a character who’s more mystic than mortal, her motivations and her actions are heartbreakingly human. Her unyielding passion, her piercing regret, and her fierce love for her beloved Jonathan make her the most human character in the book, and you can’t help but feel for her, even when she’s being cruel or selfish. Lanny’s centuries of experience give her a unique voice through which the reader feels the full of the weight of her past mistakes and everything she has lost, the pain of which an immortal such as herself can never escape, nor forget.
Yes, The Taker is rooted in the paranormal, and, yes, it involves a good deal of romance, but The Taker is unlike any of the other supernatural romance stories that have flooded the media in the past few years. Katsu weaves a story that is both elegant and well-constructed, so that every chapter pulls you deeper into its dark, luscious web of mystery and mythology. The Taker is at once gruesome and opulent, disturbing and enthralling, bitter and poignant. But most of all, it is utterly unforgettable.
*This review was originally published on my private blog “Diary of an Anomaly” when the book was first published last year