The Taker (Taker Trilogy #1)

The Taker (Taker Trilogy #1)

by Alma Katsu


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From the author of The Hunger—hailed by Stephen King as “deeply, deeply disturbing, hard to put down”—comes a hauntingly atmospheric tale replete with alchemy, lust, and betrayal.

True love can last an eternity...but immortality comes at a price...

On the midnight shift at a hospital in rural Maine, Dr. Luke Findley is expecting another quiet evening of frostbite and the occasional domestic dispute. But the minute Lanore McIlvrae—Lanny—walks into his ER, she changes his life forever. A mysterious woman with a past and plenty of dark secrets, Lanny is unlike anyone Luke has ever met. He is inexplicably drawn to her...despite the fact that she is a murder suspect with a police escort. And as she begins to tell her story, a story of enduring love and consummate betrayal that transcends time and mortality, Luke finds himself utterly captivated.

Her impassioned account begins at the turn of the nineteenth century in the same small town of St. Andrew, Maine, back when it was a Puritan settlement. Consumed as a child by her love for the son of the town’s founder, Lanny will do anything to be with him forever. But the price she pays is steep—an immortal bond that chains her to a terrible fate for all eternity. And now, two centuries later, the key to her healing and her salvation lies with Dr. Luke Findley.

Part historical novel, part supernatural page-turner, The Taker is an unforgettable tale about the power of unrequited love not only to elevate and sustain, but also to blind and ultimately destroy, and how each of us is responsible for finding our own path to redemption.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439197066
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: 03/27/2012
Series: Taker Trilogy , #1
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 606,043
Product dimensions: 5.42(w) x 8.08(h) x 1.18(d)

About the Author

Alma Katsu was born in Alaska and raised near Concord, Massachusetts. She has a BA in writing from Brandeis University and an MA from the Johns Hopkins Writing Program. She is the author of the Taker trilogy (The Taker, The Reckoning, and The Descent) and The Hunger. She lives with her husband in Virginia. Visit her on Twitter @AlmaKatsu.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Taker includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Alma Katsu. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


This hauntingly atmospheric love story opens in the northernmost corner of Maine, when a distraught young woman is brought into the emergency room, and treated by a doctor who is strangely drawn to her—even though she has just admitted to killing a man and leaving him in the frozen North woods. The woman has an enchanting story to tell—the sweeping story of a love affair from 200 years before. Full of immortality, alchemy, sensuality, and betrayal, The Taker is a tale of love across time that will not soon be forgotten.


  1. Why does Luke leave his home to follow Lanny? Is his willingness to leave his life behind a sign of strength or of weakness? What would you have done if you were in Luke’s position?
  2. Do you think it was fair of Jonathan to ask Lanore to end his suffering? Did Lanore owe it to him? Do her actions in Maine absolve her of her long life of transgressions?
  3. What separated Lanore from the other immortal members of Adair’s court? Consider Alejandro, Tilde, Dona, Uzra, and their various stories of origin.
  4. Discuss the evolution of Lanny’s character, from a coy, young girl from the backwoods of Maine to a world-traveled, immortal hedonist. Is Luke destined to be just another fling, or is there something deeper to their budding love?
  5. Do you believe that Lanny ever loved Adair? Why do you think she was so drawn to a scheming madman?
  6. How did you react to the violent tendencies of the members of Adair’s household? Consider Lanny’s first night in the mansion, the abductions of the local Bostonians, and the bizarre sexual proclivities of the immortal house-goers. Do you believe there might have been a secret society of hedonists living in Boston during this period?
  7. The traveling priest, later revealed to be a member of Adair’s flock, recognizes a spiritual unease and some inherent wildness deep within Lanore’s soul. Do you think he was right? Was Lanny, to some extent, wicked? How do you explain her actions in the chambers in Boston, or her initial involvement in Sophia’s death? Are her choices that of someone trying to take control of her life or someone losing control of herself?
  8. On her return trip to St. Andrew, Lanore encounters Magda, the town whore. Magda warns Lanore, “…don’t fall in love with your gentleman. We women make our worst decisions when we are in love.” Do you believe this to be true? Could Lanore have been saved from her complicated fate if she wasn’t so in love with Jonathan? Why do you think Lanore was drawn to Magda in the first place?
  9. Do you think Luke made the right decision in leaving St. Andrew behind for a life with Lanny in Paris? What of his obligations to his family? Do you agree with his decision regarding the fabled vial?
  10. Were you surprised by Adair’s true identity? Do you believe Lanny’s plan to trap the physic worked?
  11. After everything Lanny had told Luke about the fantastical and magical, do you think there was some greater significance to the vision of his mother momentarily rising from the dead?
  12. The story’s narrative unfolds in three different time periods, following three distinct characters. Which of the three was your favorite to read, and why? Who did you feel the most sympathy for?
  13. Why do you think the author chose to title this book, The Taker? Are there multiple “takers” in the story? If so, who are they? What does Lanny take from Adair, Jonathan, and Luke? What does she give them?
  14. Did Jonathan ever truly love Lanore? Did he have such a capacity? How would you characterize Lanny’s feelings for Jonathan? Is it love or obsession?
  15. At the heart of The Taker is a fairytale about a woman coming into her own. As Lanny eventually explains, alchemy is an effort to transform the person into something more pure, self-assured, and strong. Compare Lanny’s story to other well-known fables, like Pinocchio, Snow White, Cinderella, or any of Aesop’s valued lessons. What similarities do you see? What sort of classic temptations are placed before Lanore, and what is it that she ultimately takes away from her endless trial of self?


  1. List and discuss the things that you would see or accomplish if you were granted immortal life. Would endless time eventually wear on you, as it did Lanny and Jonathan, or is it something that would provide endless stimulation and inspiration?
  2. Visit to learn more about the author, and read of her colonial American influences, her ancestry, the origin of her name, and more about her upcoming book, The Taker.
  3. Adair sketches his immortal followers, creating stunning images of Uzra and an incomplete portrait of Jonathan. Try your hand at drawing during your next book club meeting. As a group, select an object, an image, or even someone from your book club to sketch!
  4. There is a cinematic quality to The Taker, as the narrative spans states, continents, and centuries. Discuss with your book club who you would cast for Adair, Jonathan, and Lanny in a film version of the story.


Where did you find the inspiration for The Taker? In its own way, The Taker is an alchemy of genres—mixing romance, the paranormal, colonial drama, with a touch of post-modernism. Did you draw from many sources for the book?

It wasn’t until after I’d written The Taker that I realized it combined many influences on my life. I never thought I was that big a fan of the American Colonial period, but when you grow up near Concord, Massachusetts you’re steeped in it. For instance, I think it might actually be a law that schoolchildren must watch the movie Johnny Tremaine every year until high school. I think the paranormal influence goes back to childhood, too. Maybe it was that we lived in ancient houses that creaked with every passing breeze or the fact that there were five cemeteries in my tiny hometown (two funeral homes within a block from my home!), but as a child I seemed predisposed to believe in the spooky and supernatural. And of course, that’s what children do, indulge in magical thinking as a way of coping with their inherent powerlessness.

Science, religion, and magic seem to be at odds throughout the story, with Lanny’s transformation never fully explained or understood. Was this your intention? Where do you stand on the confluence of science, magic, and faith?

That Lanny’s changed circumstances are not fully explained is intentional, although it is revealed in the third book. Hopefully, readers will be surprised and delighted by what is revealed. Also, though, the mystery was meant to mirror what we experience in real life: We think we know the answer to a question, but it later turns out that we don’t. At one time we believed the Earth was the center of the cosmos, with all the heavenly bodies revolving around it. It was touted as a fact (a matter of science, to stretch a point) but was also part of theologians’ explanation of God’s universe, so it was a matter of religion, too. So when this was disproved, did it mean religion was “wrong”? Is “bad” religion nothing more than superstition, or magic? Magic, faith, and science seem to me to be part of a continuum of understanding—different ways of looking at the same thing. And you can be blindly faithful to your point of view from any of these three perspectives.

You grew up in a small town in Massachusetts, near the historic town of Concord. How did your background play a role in writing The Taker?

I find things from my childhood, small and large, have crept in throughout The Taker. The crypt in which Sophia’s body is stored is taken from one of the five cemeteries in my hometown, a strange vault covered with sod and grass, with padlocked iron gates barring the doors. (How could you not, as a child, think those gates were there to keep the dead from getting out at night?) The description of the attic space in which Uzra hides from Adair is a ringer for the unfinished attic in my childhood home. There was not, however, a boy like Jonathan for whom all the girls pined.

What would you hope to accomplish with an endless eternity of life?

I’m in the camp that would not wish for eternity, I’m afraid. It is the knowledge that we will die that defines our lives. That’s why Lanny and the others are at a loss. They don’t know what to make of life, and partly because they’re ne’er-do-wells, it doesn’t occur to them to apply themselves to something useful. Jonathan figures this out, redeems himself, and because of this, Lanny can’t refuse him his wish.

Do you believe that Lanny has a soul mate? Is Luke her chance for redemption, or just another bump in a very, very long road?

Life is a mystery to Lanny, as it is for many of us when we’re young. We want to grow up, we’re in a hurry to grow up, but we’re not really sure what that means. We have our parents’ examples, the example of some of our friends or siblings, but what if none of them are satisfactory? What if you want more out of life but not only are you not sure how to get it, you’re not even sure what it is you want, exactly? What she wanted was experience, and she got more than she expected. She makes bad choices, but let’s not fool ourselves: Many people make bad choices in their youth. They divorce, remarry, change career fields, move to a new continent—or do none of these things, and remain in a state of desperation. No one is born with the answers and we have only this one life to find fulfillment, or happiness.

Oh dear, I really got on a soapbox there. To address the part about Luke, that very question is answered in book two. It is Lanny’s dilemma, a major test on her way to becoming a thoughtful, caring person deserving of being truly, completely loved.

How did you handle writing the different perspectives and time periods? Did you create them individually, or weave in and out of telling each story as the book is presented?

The book underwent many revisions, but from the very beginning it had the present day story threaded through what is essentially Lanny’s life story. The story-within-a-story—Adair telling his tale—came afterwards. I had originally pictured an entire book devoted to Adair, so that big chunk was carved out of that book. All those difficult structural elements—the shifts in time, POV, even verb tense—are what made writing the book so challenging. It’s sort of a case study of what not to do when writing your first novel.

The immortals of Adair’s court are all deeply flawed in their own way. Is there something to be said about the type of people that are given such magical gifts? Were you at all tempted to tell a story about incredibly decent and altruistic immortals? Is that what Jonathan ultimately represents to you, especially with his dedication to his tribes as a bush doctor?

You’re coming close to the answer to the mystery, which is explained at the end of the series. Redemption is at the heart of the story. We all make mistakes in youth, behave foolishly, selfishly, do things we regret deeply as adults, so in that way, I think the story will resonate (to a degree) with most people.

I see the “magical gifts” a bit differently. The gift these flawed people are given is immortality, but it must be spent in servitude to Adair, with his hellish disposition. He is their jailer, and they have little hope of pardon. It is a kind of inescapable hell on earth. They have no choice but to accept it.

The long arc of time established in the story, and the hints of Adair’s released minions speak to an entire world and slew of characters that we have yet to meet. Do you have plans to continue to tell stories in this established world, possibly as a series?

Absolutely. Readers will meet new minions from Adair’s past in the next book, tentatively titled The Reckoning. You’ll see them contrasted with the ones you know, Tilde, Alejandro, Dona, and struggle with this question of redemption. Some of them will earn redemption at great personal cost.

Who do you see yourself in the most? Lanny, Luke, or Adair?

I didn’t think so but writing is a journey of self-discovery, as cliché as that might sound. Your characters behave a certain way and you, the author, struggle to understand why, and in the process of figuring it out you come to see it’s a recurring problem in your own life, one you haven’t solved. I came to see parts of myself in Lanny. In understanding Jonathan, I realized that he was drawn from maddeningly aloof and emotionally detached men I have known. I think most women have known a Jonathan or two in their lives!

Who are your literary influences?

I have so many it will sound a bit crowded. What comes through most strongly to me, in this book, is The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Fanny Hill by John Cleland. As you noted, there’s probably the influence of the post-modernists in there, too, as I was mad for them for a spell, most notably John Barth, Vladimir Nabokov. I think The Taker owes a lot to fairy tales, too. It puts the reader in the funny spot, where on one hand, you’re close to stories from childhood—there’s magical thinking, and the bloody-mindedness of old fairy tales. One interesting thing about fairy tales is that the morality of an individual’s behavior is clear-cut enough so that children are comfortable with their judgments: It’s fairly easy to tell who is right and who is wrong. I think in The Taker, there are some characters about whom you can make these distinctions easily, but with others—Lanny in particular—the story is a bit more complicated. The story is about redemption, but the whole question of what is a transgression is left up to the reader.

Are you working on another novel? If so, will it be in the same style as The Taker, mixing romantic realism and fantastic supernaturalism?

I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters in The Taker, and luckily Gallery Books is fairly smitten with them, too, so I get to continue their story in the next two books. If all goes to plan, the next book will be slightly different from The Taker in that it’s a bit more plot-driven, and the third book is different again in that it’s more fantastical. Hopefully the trio will make for an enjoyable story that never gets stale and always takes the reader to new places.

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The Taker 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 124 reviews.
Shanella More than 1 year ago
This novel is not for the faint of heart. The Taker is the first in a trilogy by Alma Katsu. Well written, well researched, descriptive and a little frightening, Alma tells the story of Lanny, a young girl from the 1800s, who is in love with the town founder's handsome son Jonathan, and what she does to keep him. Luke - a present day doctor from the town that Lanny once grew up in - plays the role of the listener, and I'd venture to say that he's inconsequential to the story; though I'm sure in the remainder of the trilogy he will become important. I was not a fan of Lanny, she was obsessed with Jonathan - who has very few redeeming qualities, other than his face - and mislabels her feelings for him as love. Her character seemed a bit creepy and self-serving. Her world resolves around Jonathan - who was promiscuous and hardly courageous - and she would do just about anything to have him. I'm not entirely sure what anyone in the town saw in him, other than his good looks. Adair, the villan of the story, is quite intriguing. Upon meeting him, the story takes a turn for the disturbing. For fear of giving away spoilers, I wouldn't delve into the mystery around Adair, however, reading his storyline was probably the most engrossing part of the novel for me. The thing that irked me the most was the improper use of love and sex among the characters. Though I believe this is on purpose, obsession was labeled as love and sex was used as a terrible weapon. It was a disturbing theme that ran though the entire story and not quite my cup of tea. I think the mystery of the book and Lanny's quick thinking will appeal to a number of readers. The story has a strong conclusion, while still leaving it open for future books.
AngelaCarr More than 1 year ago
Call me a masochist if need be, but I loved this heartbreaking story. Alma Katsu is a wonderful storyteller. I have to admit that this story is dark and depressing to the point where I wanted to stop reading the book but the Ms. Katsu’s left and right twists of the story kept me flipping the pages non-stop. Lanny finds herself in the ER in shock of what she had just done. She confides in the local doctor and convinces him to help her with her troubles. In their journey, she talks about decades of misfortune and misery. Her love for Jonathan (her first and only love) has no bounds. She would do anything and everything for him. And same goes for Adair (her lover & the one who gave her immortality), but not to a point of love and obsession just means to an end. Unfortunately, these men brought her nothing but heartache after heartache. How she moved on with this immortal life, I have no idea. But then again, how did I keep on reading each heart-wrenching tale she tells? Let me tell you, it is the hope of finding any scrap of happiness for Lenore. This book captured my feelings of lost, regret and made me appreciate my simple mortal life. It goes back and forth from past to future which made the feelings of regrets more intense. I have to warn you, it is a story full of hardships and it is hell on earth. You will either love it or hate it. I don't consider this anything like the Fifty Shades trilogy at all but a class on its own. *Review copy provided by author
gabook More than 1 year ago
I found myself hooked. I definitely wanted to know what was going to happen next. Having said that, I was so frustrated with the main character, Lanny. She is obsessed with Jonathan and repeatedly makes one horrible decision after another because of this obsession. It did grow weary after a while. She is a forward thinker for her time. She knows her place in society and doesn't like it, but her decisions made me want to scream. Her story is at times amusing, dark, scary and romantic. Be forewarned, this book is violent and sex is used as a weapon. There is one scene that really disturbed me and I'm glad the author made it short. I gave this book a high rating because it evoked so much emotion from me. Isn't that what a book is supposed to do?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Over all as I said it was extremely easy to read. I generally read about a chapter a night I was about 14 in before I put it down. I did think it was going to go a different way. The story takes a detour and thought it would just be a hiccup. But this small conflict that I thought would only take a few chapters to get out of ended up being the whole story. Not sure that I liked that but I buy and read it all so I guess it worked. Oh some discriptions I saw talk about what a good love story it is.. Nope. If you're into the whole onesided, he can't be faithful b/c he's so beautiful and women love him so I have to be okay with the short end of the stick type thing then you'll love this. But it is a good book. Dark sometimes but good.
sand7s More than 1 year ago
Very good book. I loved the characters and was sorry to see it end.
Sandy-thereadingcafe More than 1 year ago
3.75 dark and disturbing stars:  THE TAKER can best be described as a novel of mixed genre.  It is a historical fantasy that spans the past to the present with sci-fi undertones, gothic horror and there is a definite love story, of sorts. Some reviewers have labeled The Taker as a romance story that crosses the centuries, but for everything I have read, this is definitely not a romance novel.  The Taker is well written, thought provoking and eerily depressing.  The novel spans two centuries in the life of Lanore (Lanny) McIlvrae and is told through flashbacks and flash forwards using three different and varying points of view.  My biggest concern is that the novel left me depressed yet wanting more.  Apparently I am a reading-masochist at heart because I want to know what happens next and I know I will regret both-not reading and reading more. The novel is divided into three parts and three stories. There are overlapping stories (between the parts) where flashbacks are required to explain the significance to the current day drama and within the parts-the story is told from two different points of view and the current day is narration.  Some readers may find the back and forth confusing, but the individual storytellers recount the circumstances of how they came to be. Lanny and Jonathan is a story of unrequited love.  Lanny has loved Jonathan all of her life and the fact that she has lived more than 200 years, has never eased the longing and memories.  But the heartache grows deeper and the sorrow of loss and pain becomes almost unbearable with every bitter story of conquest and denial.  Jonathan’s history of womanizing will eventually catch up and it will be Lanny who will make the decision between life and death. Lanny and Adair is another story of love, power and control.  But as her Master, Adair demands things from those he has brought into his life, and his demands are hard, especially on Lanny.  Adair believes he is unlovable, a man who has lived 100s if not 1000s of years, but with each incarnation, he becomes more despondent and bored.  His need for Lanny can only be explained as a necessary evil.  Is it because he knows she will never love him the way she have loved Jonathan, or does it go much deeper than a maker to his charge? Lanny and Luke’s relationship is the overlapping narration throughout the story.  On the run from the authorities, Luke aids Lanny in her cross country and cross continent trek searching for the answers as to who and what is Lanny McIlvrae. Their adventure is the storyline.  Lanny recounts her story to Luke, flashing back to the time of her making and allowing Adair’s point of view to flash us back even further. It is this particular part of the storyline that is the apex of the story.  All other storylines are told throughout Lanny and Luke’s adventures. The Taker is a well-written novel. It is not a story of vampires and blood. It is dark, mysterious, depressing and passionate. The storyline will haunt and anger.  There is grief for the loss of a love, of a child and a life once shared. But in all honesty when I finished the novel, I felt depressed.  There was only loneliness and misery, sorrow and pain.  There is no HEA.  But this is only Book ONE.  OK….*looking around for some Xanax and a couch*….on to The Reckoning July 2012 (Book TWO ) and The Devil’s Scribe (e-novella)
kimba88 More than 1 year ago
It had elements I expected and some that made me squeamish. Overall I enjoyed this strange and dark tale. Katsu is a talented writer and her writing style captivated me. Some of the subject matter made me uncomfortable and I found myself skimming through those scenes. Ordinarily I would have stopped reading, but I had this overwhelm need to know Lanore’s story.- that is the beauty of Katsu’s writing. The tale begins at a rural hospital in Maine. Dr. Luke Findley is just beginning his shift and is told the local police are bringing in a murder suspect and need him to check her over. When Lanore McIlvrae walks in, he is shocked that this tiny, beautiful blonde, with cork-screw curls and blue eyes is involved in a murder. She is covered in blood and won’t speak. The police leave a guard and head out to the woods to find the body of the man she confessed to killing. Once inside an exam room, Lanore (Lanny as she prefers), asks Findley to help her escape. She claims that she only helped a friend die at his request and that there are things he cannot understand. Not easily duped he proceeds to examine her, removing Lanny’s bloody clothing and looking for injuries. It is then that Lanny grabs a scalpel and shows Findley something he won’t soon forget. She then proceeds to tell him her story….the tale that unfolds is romantic, dark, gritty and spans nearly two hundred years. Lanore shares her life story with us. She begins her tale in 1809 set against the Maine Territory. The author skillful takes us from the present to the past. Lanore tells the past, and Findley the present. This was clever because Findley could clarify things by asking questions about what we had just read. The tale that Lanore share’s with us is so unbelievable that it had a ring of truth to it. It is a one-sided love story about her and a man named Jonathan. It is filled with obsession, alchemy, and magic. Some of the events that occur in Boston, supernatural elements aside, are probably based in truth, but nevertheless made this reader uncomfortable. There are two sides to Lanore and I found her to be complex and interesting. When it came to Jonathan and her feelings for him, she was a naïve, love sick child. Then the author shows us the darker side of Lanore and I was entranced. At times I questioned her feelings for Jonathan, especially after his selfish acts. Findley is captivated and horrified by Lanore and her story. Yet he is unable to resist hearing it to its conclusion. Lanore’s story contains lots of sex, some implied and others graphic. It contains all forms of sexual encounters and may offend some readers. Think of an opium house and you will get the idea. Katsu offers us an intriguing look at unrequited love. While some of the subject matter was dark, I ultimately enjoyed the Taker. Days after reading it, I find myself thinking about Lanore and Jonathan.
Mother_Gamer_Writer More than 1 year ago
There is NOT one perfect word to describe this novel. Matter of fact, there is not one perfect sentence to describe this novel. To express what The Taker is you must live the experience, every word, every laugh, and every despicable act that transpired. When I thought I had the heart story figured out, Katsu changed it up and made it into something else entirely. It was an intensely dark tale of unrelenting love and the struggle one woman went through to keep it in her possession. I also had the pleasure of interviewing Alma Katsu on my blog and it was absolutely wonderful! She is a delight and there is more than meets the eye with her characters.
Icecream18 More than 1 year ago
Lanore is one of the main characters in this book and she is the quality of the book that really draws the reader in. She's a bit of an enigma; Luke, another main character, does not know what to make of her. He meets her under odd circumstances...she is a possible suspect in a brutal murder case. She begins to tell her tale to him as a way of getting him to open up to her and maybe believe her. Where she lived, women were thought of as fixtures in a house, meant for the "women's tasks" and not much else. There were fairly rigid rules. Jonathan comes along and really shakes her up. Their relationship grows from friends to "something more" and then goes a step further-she discovers she is pregnant with his child. She is sent away from home to give birth, shamed. She is supposed to return without the child, she cannot keep her own baby. However, she is apprehended and taken by an evil man called Adair...her tale gets more and more sordid and horrible from here, the story really takes off. The plot is interesting and, in part, horrifying. The reader will be captivated by some of the more lengthy descriptions of Lanore's experiences. She is a sympathetic character who is likable and the reader will have no trouble enjoying her character. The secondary characters vary widely; some are nice, some are cruel, and other are more..."eh." This novel is, if nothing, interesting and worth a read. This book would be great for adult readers who enjoy mystery and drama.
harstan More than 1 year ago
At Aroostook County Hospital in St. Andrew, Maine, Dr. Luke Findley works the ER graveyard shift. Sheriff Duchesne brings in a handcuffed young person covered with blood and wearing no coat on a freezing night. The sheriff believes Lanore McIlvrae murdered Jonathan. In the ER with only Luke present, Lanny insists she is innocent. She explains her family exiled her to Boston to give birth to an illegitimate child in 1817. There she met ancient alchemist Count Adair and his retinue. The Count saved her life when he gave her an immortality potion but at the cost of her becoming his mistress. Lanny accepted what her savior expected of her until now when he went after her true love Jonathan. The merger of alchemy and love in Maine makes for a strong rural fantasy. The story line starts a bit slow as the key players are introduced directly and indirectly in the present and the past; once done the plot accelerates as skeptical readers and a doubting Luke become hooked believers. The key to The Taker is that the audience accepts as true Lanny's Faustian cautionary tale of evil's eternal energy to remain alive at all costs to others. Harriet Klausner
laphroaig on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"The Taker" is a book steeped in melodrama. Its plot spans two hundred years, its characters are a collection of spiteful, pretty things with blood on their hands and history in their veins. Surrounded by the aristocratic, hedonistic and sadistic, our heroine, Lanore McIlvrae, charts the time she spends as an immortal in the lives of these people and ponders her own dubious morality. This is not a plot on a small scale.It would be easy to dismiss Alma Katsu's brash narrative as a Twilight derivative. It often lacks subtlety; from an excellent noir-ish beginning her co-lead, Doctor Luke Findlay, quickly decscends into a twitchy neurotic (I get it, he's broken) and Lanny, his two-hundred year old companion, is, bizarrely, more believable but still not interesting enough. Yet although the character and narrative may not get the author a nomination for the booker, the plot does keep the book going: I kept reading.It may not be at the top of the literary charts, but for the fantasy reader this is a novel of self-indulgence. Not exactly my cup of tea and, I am sure, not to the tastes of many, but on sheer energy and plot alone it will keep its target readership happy.
nbmars on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really wanted to like this book, since it had been highly recommended to me, but I just found the writing below par, with characters ranging from insipid to unsympathetic to repulsive.The story begins in the present day with an awkwardly-wrought third-person narrative focused on the point-of-view of Luke Findley, a divorced and distraught young doctor. It then switches to a tale from the past that begins in 1809, narrated by a young woman, Lanore (¿Lanny¿), who has been brought to the hospital under Luke¿s care for treatment. Lanny¿s narrative is the more compelling; when it switches back to Luke, the author loses confidence, or maybe just interest, since Luke is as dull as dry toast.Lanny¿s story describes how she became immortal and how she managed to kill her not-immortal-anymore ex-boyfriend Jonathan. In order to finish telling her story to Luke, however, she needs him to sneak her out of the hospital and away from the police, who await her treatment for shock in order to take her into custody for the murder. Luke, feeling an inexorable pull towards this woman-who-looks-like-a-child (yet another awful aspect of this book), agrees.Lanny and her story are more interesting, but not in a good way. The characters she describes are pretty close to evil, and obsessed with sex for expressing just about everything but love. Most of the time, it is used for manipulation, or worse still, as a weapon.In addition, in both the past and the present narratives, there is a preoccupation with and overvaluing of physical beauty over inner worth. Maybe that¿s because there isn¿t much inner worth in evidence. The incredibly-beautiful-in-appearance character Jonathan is identified in the book as ¿The Taker,¿ but really, he is far from the only one. Lanny and Luke are supposedly ¿givers,¿ but actually they are more like pathetic enablers with no self-esteem. Nor is there much moral equivocating in the story beyond the occasional twinge over will-I-get-caught. After a while the reader begins to feel as vapid as the characters, simply for not throwing the book out the window.Evaluation: I did not like this book: I loathed the repulsive distortions of sex, love, and commitment evinced by the characters, whom I loathed as well, and I didn¿t respect the writing. The nice twist at the end did not begin to compensate for the rest of it.
Beamis12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting story that I understand is the beginning of the trilogy about a woman who does everything for an unrequited love. Becomes a virtual sex slave to a man in return for immortal life for herself and her love. Not really my type of book but well written.
BookDivasReads on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It isn't easy to describe or categorize The Taker by Alma Katsu. It is a dark tale with gothic elements. It is a love story featuring twisted notions of love and plenty of jealousy. It is also a historical novel, spanning more than 200 years in the life of the main character, Lanore or Lanny. It may not be easy to describe The Taker in terms of genre, but I can say that this was an enticing read from beginning to end.The story begins in present time with Lanny taken into a hospital for evaluation after admitting to killing a man in the woods. Dr. Luke Findley isn't quite sure what is going on with this young woman, but he is quickly beguiled by her tale. Lanny begins to tell Luke about her life in the town of St. Andrews, a life that began more than 200 years earlier. Her story tells of the hard life experienced by her family in the wilds of Maine in the early 1800s, as well as her friendship and then affair with Jonathan St. Andrews, scion of the St. Andrews family, founders of the town. Lanny's tale moves to Boston, where she encounters Adair and his entourage.Lanny's tale is not light and happy but filled with pain, dark and twisted desires, love and jealousy, as well as alchemy and magic. Lanny has become immortal at the hands of Adair and also suffers untold horrors at his hands. She is also exposed to culture and beauty that she had never dreamed possible. Unfortunately her abiding love (or possibly obsession) for Jonathan, as well as her description of his physical beauty and attraction, results in Adair's desire to meet this object of beauty and desire. Lanny does return to St. Andrews but finds that she no longer fits in with her family and worse, Jonathan doesn't want to leave his little fiefdom. Tragedy lends a hand and circumstances force Jonathan to leave Maine for Boston, where Lanny is forced to share Jonathan with Adair and others. Ms. Katsu has woven an intriguing tale about love and relationships. Lanny describes this relationship dance perfectly in the following exchange with Luke:"...One is the giver and one is the taker. The giver wishes the taker would stop.""But the taker never changes," Luke says . . . "Sometimes the giver has to let go, but sometimes you don't. You can't . . . "Love is supposed to be a give and take relationship, but who is really the giver and who is the taker in this tale is up to the reader's imagination. Lanny is far from perfect and must learn to deal with the repercussions of her decisions, decisions that have spanned 200 years and adversely affected many lives. I don't think her story would be so interesting if it were all sweetness and light. It is the darkness, the jealousies, and her willingness to do pretty much anything for love that made The Taker such a wonderful read.
Myckyee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I vowed this summer that I would read at least one good, intoxicatingly fun book. The kind that would make me forget about everything else whenever I picked it up. This book would have to have a little of everything that suits my tastes ¿ a sprinkling of fantasy, intrigue, mystery and some history to top it off. Well, The Taker by Alma Katsu is that book.The main character, Lanore McIlvrae, is written with a lot of heart. She¿s far from perfect and made so many wrong choices it was difficult to feel sorry for her when she ended up in trouble. On the other hand, she showed compassion and empathy in relation to other characters and that made her likeable despite her faults. I also liked that Lanore was written honestly ¿ she¿s self-aware and admitted to herself when she failed.Much of the story is set in the early 1800¿s and takes the reader from St. Andrews, a small and newly settled town in Maine, to Boston with its teeming masses of the well-to-do and the less fortunate. It is between that time and the present that the story unfolds with a short detour to the 1300¿s as the author delves into lineage of Adair, another character vital to the storyline. It was Adair that had me shivering and checking the locks on my doors!I enjoyed this novel for many reasons - one of the main ones being its sense of time and place. Of course, the building excitement was good too! I recommend this The Taker to everyone that enjoys a well-developed and exciting summer read. Also, I just found out that The Taker is book one of a trilogy! I thought while reading it that there would be more to this story! YAY!
bookgirlokc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"It was hopeless to love him and yet it was hopeless not to."I loved this book. A fascinating tale of love, betrayal, and eternal obsession. Enthralling and addictive to the last page. I can't wait to read the follow-up book next year! I have to know what happens next.
BrokenTeepee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the things I most enjoy about reviewing books is the wide range of titles that come before me. Every so often I stray from my comfort zone and choose a book I would not ordinarily read to challenge myself. As I am sure you can tell I adore historical fiction but sometimes it is good to stray a bit. While The Taker has hints of that genre present is is first and foremost a love story. The synopsis fails to describe just how rich and involving this book truly is. I started it reluctantly because I am not generally a fan of this type of book but, BUT once I started reading I simply could not put it down. The story draws you in and you find yourself in a world, well two worlds actually and you don't want to leave either one until you come to the end. But you don't want it to end.Ms. Katsu has that kind of writing style that is so masterful and fluid that you don't feel like you are reading rather that you are just floating along in her world. The characters are all well rounded - none are perfectly good or totally evil. Their development is nice and slow so that your really get to know them and sometimes something one of them does will really shock you. Ms. Katsu keeps you on your reading toes with quite a few surprising twists and turns. My only slight disappointment was the ending - I felt it just felt faded compared to the power of the rest of the tale. This is truly, though one of the best books I have read this year.
theepicrat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dr. Luke Findley thought he knew the difference between life and death, and he was getting tired of this black-and-white life. When he watches murder suspect Lanny McIlvrae heal instantly before him, suddenly Luke¿s life takes a walk on the gray side. Before he stops to consider the consequences, Luke helps this mysterious young woman escape from the authorities and inexplicably tags along. While on the run, Lanny reveals her story which dates back to the early 1800s. It revolves around an unfortunate and unrequited love that leads to a life of immortality with an evil man and ends with Lanny left alone in the world, unloved but unable to die.The Taker is fantastic love story that is full of tragedy, and Alma Katsu captures the fragile beauty of Lanny¿s emotions and injects it with a dose of Faustian bargrain-making. The narration is absolutely mesmerizing that the pages turned by themselves, and I got lost within the mysterious and terrifying events that surround Lanny¿s past. I did not quite understand the role of Luke. He mostly served as Lanny¿s listening board, but I wished he had more of an impact to how Lanny¿s story ended. Of course, one can argue he DID impact it at the very end ¿ but then again, I also wished the ending had played out differently. It felt a little too tidy and too perfect ¿ and I wanted a little mess beforehand ¿ a dramatic struggle or something ¿ because it felt that Lanny¿s story is not quite over yet.
justabookreader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Taker appeared on my book radar a few months back and I won¿t be shy in saying that I jumped at the chance to review this one. From what I read, it was creepy, indulgent, and worth a weekend spent huddled on the couch. I have to agree, Katsu tells one intriguing tale. Lanore (Lanny) McIlvrae was born to poor farmers in the small town of St. Andrew in the farthest reaches of Maine. The love of her life, Jonathan, is the son of the town¿s founder, Charles St. Andrew, and he stands to not only inherit his father¿s place of honor but all the town¿s burdens as well. Not thrilled with the prospect but refusing to turn from it, Jonathan --- an extremely beautiful and desired person --- copes by taking advantage of almost every woman in town, single and married. Lanny, while a good friend also longs to be on the receiving end of his love. She gets her wish and soon finds herself pregnant while desperately trying to keep her world from falling apart. On the day Lanny tells Jonathan she¿s pregnant, he tells her he can¿t be with her. Minutes later, Jonathan¿s father announces his engagement breaking her heart twice in the same hour. Knowing she cannot remain silent, Lanny tells her family. She¿s promptly sent off to a convent in Boston to have the baby and redeem her soul. Wanting to keep the only tie she has left to her beloved Jonathan, she leaves the boat before the nuns can pick her up from the dock. On a dark residential street, lost and overwhelmed, she meets three individuals who offer her shelter and a warm meal while she figures out what to do. Drugged and used, she realizes soon there is no escape. Unfortunately, the world she fell into only grows more mysterious as time goes on. The longer she stays, the worse it gets. Lanny eventually becomes the courtesan of a man named Adair who shares a secret with her --- he¿s immortal and so is she now. What he wants in return for saving her and giving her eternal life is her beloved Jonathan. The story alternates between Lanny¿s past and the present while she tells, Luke, the emergency room doctor, what happened to her. Even though he doesn¿t necessarily believe her story, the last thing her wants is for her to stop talking. When she convinces him to help her escape, you think it¿s the worst move he can make but he sees it as the only way out of St. Andrews --- away from his sad life, and a reason to live which he hasn¿t been able to summon for some time. While the snippets of the present break the spell of Lanny¿s tale, they¿re a necessary part of the story not only serving to bring us back to reality but also Luke. The two cling to each other while running from small town cops. What they¿re going through seems improbable and sometimes even stupid but it¿s no match for the story Lanny tells. You want her to keep talking just as much as Luke does. Lanny isn¿t a character you feel sorry for even though what she¿s been through is emotionally and physically tortuous. The reason you don¿t feel sympathy is because you¿re too caught up in the story. There¿s something entrancing about her even if she doesn¿t believe it to be true. She¿s learned how to be manipulative; she had to in order to survive. But this stops you from feeling the same way Luke does for her. I like that. It isn¿t something many authors can carry off --- creating an alluring main character without making her completely likable. For a first time author, it¿s a great feat and while not everyone will agree on how likable Lanny is, honestly it¿s all personal preference here, she¿s hardly innocent of anything and even she reminds you of that. Enjoyable though the story is, you have to be comfortable with scant details about how Lanny came to be what she is and her explanation for exactly what she is. She¿s immortal, but not a vampire. She¿s strong and recovers quickly when injured but can die. I wanted more information here and Katsu does do a little distracting with the story itself by letting Lanny leave out some significa
C.Ibarra on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Taker is told in both modern time as well as with the help of flashbacks. There are even flashbacks within the flashbacks. I was initially drawn to this title because of my love of historical novels. Paranormal elements are still so rare in historical novels, and I was excited to see how Alma Katsu used the historical setting and paranormal elements together. I also must admit this book turned out to be not at all like I had expected. After seeing so much about the epic romance it contained, I expected something a little more swoon worthy and was completely surprised by how dark and disturbing a large majority of the story was. This isn¿t to say I didn¿t enjoy The Taker. I did very much so. It just ended up being nothing like I had anticipated when I started reading.This is a tale that will bring on so many emotions and is most definitely not for the faint of heart. Even though I found some parts difficult to read, I still became completely invested in Lanore's story of her past and extremely curious about how Luke would factor into her future. I kept telling myself just one more page as I read deep into the night. I couldn¿t tear myself away. The writing in The Taker flowed so beautifully even when paired with a cast that seemed almost deranged at times. This is unlike anything else I have ever read. I don¿t want to give much away in my review. I feel the synopsis is vague for a reason. This is a book that is meant to be read with only a brief idea of what to expect. Part of the pleasure is uncovering the secrets, scandal and drama while reading. I¿d recommend The Taker, but please keep in mind it does contain violence and sexual situations some may find difficult to read about.
ken1952 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I particularly enjoyed the supernatural strain that Alma Katsu weaves through her dark and brooding novel of obsessive love. Quite mesmerizing, the book was hard to put down. This is the first of three in a series.
kalky on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Alma Katsu's The Taker is an incredibly well-written book that doesn't fit into any specific genre. It is a romance -- if you can consider unrequited, obsessive, and smutty love romantic. But the "romance" is combined with a historical novel that includes a supernatural spin to the storyline (alchemy and immortality) and along the way there are plenty of thrills (if you like your thrills in the form of debauchery, not car chases).The book has many fascinating characters, and one of the few flaws in the novel is that it is hard to find any of them likeable. However, if you are happy to read a book in which a typical hero or heroine never emerges, pick this one up. Once I accepted that there wasn't anyone to root for, it was great to read The Taker as a character study in which most of the characters are pretty darn despicable.Katsu does a wonderful job weaving a story within the story (within the story), and her writing is beautiful -- even when the subject matter is not. I was happy to hear that this was the first of three in a series because things were not tied up neatly at the end.In short, if you like a book with a great story, excellent writing, plenty of naughtiness, and characters that are intriguing but not necessarily likeable, The Taker is the book for you!
arielfl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down. I have to admit that I didn't even really know what it was about when I picked it up. I saw ithat there was a lot of buzz being generated about the book and I was intrigued enough to want to see what everyone was going on about and I certainly was not disappointed. This is an immortal tale of love for the ages.The story picks up when Luke, an ER doctor meets Lenore, nicknamed Lanny who has been brought to the hospital after just having killed a man. Luke is so taken with her and after a little demonstration that she performs, he is willing to give up his life and go on the run with her. As they make their escape, Lenore's story is revealed from the past and inter cut with Luke in the present. I don't want to reveal too much more because I really liked not knowing about the book when I read it. I wasn't sure what to expect and it made the story that much more enjoyable. There is also a twist at the end so you want to want to get busy reading before someone reveals it to you and spoils it. I can't say enough about how enjoyable I found this book. I literally could not put it down once I started reading it and that is pretty rare for me. At the end of Discovery of Witches I was more relieved at finishing it than anything else. Like The Taker it also is the first in a planned trilogy. Discovery didn't leave me with the burning desire to know what happens next like I do for The Taker. I wish I could read the next book in the series right now but I will have to wait in anticipation until summer 2012. In the meantime I will have to be content with a the few teasers Alma is throwing out in discussion groups. HBO or Showtime needs to pick up the rights because The Taker could be as big as True Blood.
Twink on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Taker by Alma Katsu opens in present day Maine at a small rural hospital Dr. Luke Findlay is called upon to examine a young woman named Lanny - a murder suspect - before she is taken to jail. When she slices herself open with a scalpel and the wound begins to heal instantaneously Luke is stunned. She begins to tell him her story - and he is mesmerized. Against all good judgement, he helps her escape and goes on the run with her. And as they drive she continues her story. In 1817 Lanny was sent to Boston to give birth to her illegitimate child. But she never made it as far as the convent. Instead she fell in with Count Adair and his household. Adair is himself a centuries old alchemist with the ability to bind his minions to him for life - never aging and never dying. His lifestyle is depraved - an unrelenting search for the hedonistic.Lanny's story is the tale of her years with Adair and the love she so desperately seeks with the father of her child. Can she reclaim that love? What is love? How far will she go? Will Adair let her have that love?The modern day story of the doctor and Lanny takes a backseat to the pages from the past. I quickly became caught up in Lanny's recounting of her years with the Count. I very much enjoyed the historical detail of the times. Maybe it's my pragmatic nature, but Lanny's obsessiveness with Jonathan, the father of her child, became a bit tiresome after a while.The Taker isn't my usual fare, but Alma Katsu has crafted an addicting tale that's hard to define. It's paranormal, but without the use of creatures - simply immortality. There's history, mystery and yes, romance. Think Twilight for adults. The Taker was a different read, going in directions I hadn't predicted. I was a bit frustrated by the ending, which I found unsatisfying, until I found out that The Taker is the first book in a planned trilogy. I'll definitely be picking up the second book - The Reckoning - to see where those loose ends go.
momgamerwriter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Every day after I completed a section of the book and put it down for the evening, I was always searching for a word to describe what I just read. When friends stared at the cover and quietly asked what the novel was about, I wanted to desperately sum it up with as much accuracy as possible. But unfortunately the words never came and I was often left with a puzzled expression on my face. However, as I read the last page and closed the book with a heavy sigh, I finally had an epiphany.There is NOT one perfect word to describe this novel. Matter-of-fact, there is not one perfect sentence to describe this novel. To express what The Taker is you must live the experience, every word, every laugh, and every despicable act that transpired. When I thought I had the heart of the story figured out, Katsu changed it up and made it into something else entirely. It was an intensely dark tale of unrelenting love and the struggle one woman went through to keep it in her possession.To be honest the only reason I wanted to review this book was because of the cover. Normally I don¿t read books that are considered ¿historical¿. Not to say that those books aren¿t well written, I just typically like my books to be set in the present or future (blame that on my addiction to technology). But when I saw the cover of The Taker, I was immediately intrigued and wanted to know more. Yes I know, never judge a book by the cover, but once you see it for yourself you will understand my instant attraction. The story is woven though centuries, with the bulk of the action taking place in the 1800¿s in a small Puritan town called St. Andrew and the bustling city of Boston. St. Andrew, a small Puritan town in Maine, was comprised of all the attributes of my own small hometown. Secluded, filled with religion and gossip, the town itself was its own living and breathing entity. Katsu¿s vivid imagery propels the reader into a love story without warning or an apology. At first I was surprised by the switch between first and third person. I have seen it attempted by other romance novelist, but only a certain few can pull it off successfully without jarring the reader. Looking back, I actually think switching perspectives and point of view¿s was the best way to convey this star-crossed love affair.The book is comprised of four parts, with each adding more depth and personality than the previous one. The torment constantly afflicted on the main character Lanore McIlvrae will drive you mad to the point of obsession. Her painful struggle of self discovery brought tears to my eyes on many occasions because I wanted, more than anything, for her suffering to end. Lanore, nicknamed Lanny, wanted only one thing: to be loved by her childhood friend Jonathan St. Andrew. Jonathan, an imperfect god of sorts, stole Lanny¿s heart when he was only twelve years old. From the presumptuous moment she stole a kiss in the cloakroom of the church, Lanny knew without a doubt that he was the love of her life. And from that moment on with her unique voice, Katsu spins a tale of monumental proportions as she thrusts Lanny into a world of seduction, violence, disappointment, and heartbreak. I do not want to go into too much detail about this book. As I previously stated you must live the experience to appreciate a story of this caliber. I implore you all to not judge this book based on what you think it might be. Because as you will soon find out, this journey will unexpectedly change your perspective by tugging on one thing that so many authors fail to capture ¿ your heart.Originally Reviewed On: