Book Review: "The Taker" Is A Wonderfully Seductive Read
At first, the novel might appear to be a simple story about a young girl’s unrequited love, but the author complicates the story by adding immortality and dark magic. Along with a cast of alluringly deceptive characters, it’s easy to see that Katsu drew much of her inspiration from her CIA background.
The novel jumps between past and present, and is told from the point of view of three main characters: Lanore Malvrae, Dr. Luke Findley and a mysterious man named Adair. In the 19th century, a young Lanore is hopelessly enamored by a rich boy named Jonathan St. Andrew, and as all great love stories go, he is high above her humble station in society making a happy ending very unlikely. Adding to that, Jonathan is a serial playboy that toys with Lanore's feelings like a yo-yo.
Lanore’s misguided obsession ultimately leads her to a series of interesting characters who introduce her into a life of lust and pleasure. In a life threatening circumstance, she eventually becomes immortal and finds that this unwarranted gift comes with terrible consequences.
Certainly, this isn’t the first book that has tackled young love and the ills of immortality, but Katsu elegantly weaves a complex plot in a patient and enticing way. It's sexy, seductive and magical.
Even with that triple threat, “The Taker” at times seemed sluggish for a book with so many twists and turns and I felt the drag of flipping through the first couple chapters. However, there seems to be something ironically pleasant about a novel that forces the reader to slow down and enjoy the intricacies at hand.
One of these many intricacies is the author's beautiful writing style that paints a vivid picture of Lanore's inner turmoil:
“Love can be a cheap emotion, lightly given, though it didn’t seem so to me at the time. Looking back, I know we were only filling in the holes in our souls, the way the tide rushes sand to fill in the crevices of a rocky shore….but eventually the tide draws out what it has swept in.”
And while some of the initial details in the novel might seem tedious, the reader has to be a little forgiving as “The Taker” is part of a trilogy and usually the first book of a series offers the most hidden treasures. After all, in the instant noodle society we find ourselves in now, it’s important to be patient enough to enjoy details and wait on the cliff hangers.
Katsu’s debut novel definitely leaves the reader wanting more, especially from the characters. Just when you think a character is blameless, justified, or dangerous, the author pulls you back with diversion after diversion to the point where the reader isn’t sure who to believe or which character to trust. No one is entirely innocent, yet no one is entirely guilty and it makes for an intriguing read.
It will be interesting to see where the next two novels go, as Katsu has proven herself to be an entirely different kind of author that can take typical themes and transform them with her mystical intrigues. There is absoultely nothing predictable about "The Taker" and the reader shouldn't expect anything less from the coming books.
In an interview with Katsu, she reveals a little bit about what’s ahead in the series, as well as how she grappled with developing The Taker Trilogy.
All the characters in the novel are very complex and multifaceted. Where did you draw inspiration in developing them?
I wanted to create characters that would seem real to readers, despite all the fantastical elements in the novel. Characters so real and interesting that you’d wish you could meet them in real life.
I wanted Lanny, the heroine, to be someone most readers could identify with: not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but a woman of desires trying to make her way in a world in which women are second-class citizens. I went for broke with the two male leads, Jonathan and Adair. I wanted them to be everything I like in a male character: handsome, diabolical, too clever for their own good, oozing with charm and sex appeal. Not what you’d want, necessarily, in a spouse but good for a 450-page fling.
Some of the ways I look at characters—and people—undoubtedly comes from my long career in intelligence (CIA, the National Security Agency—that kind of intelligence). An editor at Simon & Schuster pointed this one to me. In the intelligence business, you’re always trying to figure out what’s going on behind what the other person is telling you. You’re always peeling back layers of subterfuge and misdirection. You get to see the complexity of human behavior. I hate cardboard characters—there are no cardboard characters in real life.
How did you come to decide to write a trilogy?
The Taker was originally a standalone novel. It took me ten years to write and after it was sold, I started to miss the characters. I thought of this rather ambitious continuation of the story and to my surprise my agent sold it to both publishers (Simon & Schuster in North America, Random House UK for English worldwide). Writing the next two books has been incredibly challenging. I’m feeling a little like a magician, myself.
The novel jumps back and forth between the past and the present, and also between characters. Did you have any particular struggles constructing the storyline?
That’s why it took ten years to write! It was really hard to put the novel together in a way in which the reader would never feel lost in time or place. There was a lot of trial and error, writing chapters and then ripping them out. I kept thinking of one of the trials posed in a favorite fairy tale, where the princess is made to untangle a pile of cobwebs and wrap them in a neat ball. It seemed just as hard to keep magic alive in a story I’d rewritten a hundred times as it would be to keep cobwebs from dissolving at the slightest touch.
What can readers expect in the next two novels?
"The Taker" is the darkest of the three books. The next two get progressively more magical and romantic. The second novel, "The Reckoning," takes up where "The Taker" left off: Adair is freed from his prison of two hundred years and goes after Lanny, seeking revenge. But in the process he learns that he really wants something entirely different than what he thought he wanted. Similarly, Lanny comes to see that she’s been chasing the wrong dream, but even now that she understands herself better, she cannot accept her heart’s true desires.
In "The Descent," the final book, we address all the unanswered questions: where do Adair’s magical powers really come from? Will Lanny ever find the love she’s looking for? And hopefully, we answer them in a way that will surprise and amaze readers.