The Taker by Alma Katsu

I miss Anne Rice. Not the new Rice who writes about a rather famous young man these days, but the old Rice–the original–the one who wrote about beautiful immortals who, for all their worldly experience are just as flawed and human (really) as we are. While her prose may have been sensual and lush to the point of eye-rolling in some cases, she–at least in the early days–really mastered the art of a good modern-day/historical/supernatural novel with fluid prose, an excellent plot, and compelling characters. The same can be said for Alma Katsu’s novel The Taker. What Katsu lacks in sensual, lush prose (no one compares to Rice there), she compensates for with a familiar but original take on immortal life and with her dedication to theme, that of unrequited love. Ah, the misery of unrequited love and how it has the power to haunt one throughout the years—just imagine if you couldn’t die AND were haunted by such unreturned feelings!
Let’s get one thing straight right away: these characters are not vampires. I read a review in an online newsletter I respect that referred to the characters as vampires. Either the reviewer did not understand the book, did not read the book, or her definition of vampire is different from mine. In The Taker, the immortals are created by reaching the point of death and then ingesting an alchemical mixture. These immortals do not drink blood, they eat food, they have copious amounts of sex (often a no-go in modern vampire tales, but not the teen vampire tales out in the past few years), they can freely move about in dark and daylight, and although they heal fast, they can still be killed. Katsu carefully refers to them as immortals. They are not vampires. I’m not sure what the other reviewer was referencing in her conclusion that this is a story about vampires.
The main character, Lanore, or Lanny, is in love with Jonathan, but he is interested in sleeping with everyone else. The basis for their relationship is not readily apparent, but certainly, as the most desirable man in town, Lanny would be hard-pressed not to find a reason to become infatuated with him. He’s handsome, beautiful, charming, young, rich. So often the object of such intense devotion abuses the admirer by taking advantage or being cruel, but Jonathan treats Lanny with kindness and seems to want to return her feelings and feels bad that he does not. (Another theme of this book is that we cannot choose whom we love.)
The primary antagonist is really Jonathan who cannot love Lanny the way she wants to be loved, but there is a secondary antagonist who is dealt with a very Lestat-like fashion. I expected another twist, a very specific event the author seemed to be telegraphing when the two primary antagonists are left alone together at a crucial moment, but I turned out to be wrong and disappointed–what a twist it would have been! (If you read it and wonder what I mean I am happy to share!)
The ending of The Taker is quiet and thoughtful. As with so many contemporary/historical stories I find the historical portion so much more compelling. Overall The Taker is a great supernatural story without the usual love story.

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