The Taker, a slow turning screw

Thursday’s Bite

a paranormal blog book review

the taker by alma katsuOne of the free books at RWA Nationals was The Taker, by Alma Katsu. Given the fantastic cover you can see why I had to read it first. But it wasn’t what I expected.

The cover, the blurb, it all said paranormal romance. Or maybe urban fantasy with romance being a central theme, but after starting it I knew, this wasn’t a romance. Or at least, it shouldn’t be billed as one. There is a romance throughout, but there is no happy ending. And I pretty much knew there wouldn’t be a happy ever after right from the begining. Rather than saying it’s a romance, I’d say it’s a gothic in the tradition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. And since I’m a Dracula fan, I found the book fascinating.

The Taker jumps from modern day scenes to scenes over two hundred years  in the past, and further back than that. It tells the story of Lanore, a star-crossed lover who desires only one man, and whose intense pre-occupation with achieving her desire leads both of them into a life of eternal debauchery.

Is there a romance?

I don’t think so. Is it romantic to have one person so obsessed by the other that she is willing to do anything to preserve their love? What if her love isn’t returned? To me, romance requires love on both sides, and while Lanore may be deluded into thinking that there is love on Jonathan’s side, he only comes across as selfish and callow.

But despite that, I found myself unable to put the book down. It drew me in with that slow build that a traditional Gothic has. Not a Gothic romance, but a true Gothic, set in a house of horrors with the dark master and the mystic feel. There is a slow build of feeling that something horrible is going to happen, even after the worst has occurred.

One of the very interesting things is how Katsu works in Dracula, without referencing the book, the characters, or even the time period. Katsu uses just enough common themes from the Dracula legend for the reader to know that she means Dracula. The story references a similar area of Europe, there are  scared villagers, and the scary man in the castle. All of these plus the pacing and long drawn out story bring Bram Stoker’s work to mind.

Would I recommend The Taker?

That depends what you are looking for. I love Victorian Gothics. Old horror. Edgar Allen Poe. I also love the slow pacing and implied action that characterize these books. If you love traditional stories of the supernatural, are not looking for romance, and want a very well written book. Then yes, I’d say read The Taker. My only complaint was that I felt the end was less than satisfying. I wanted the  screw to turn and twist. But maybe that’s in the second book.

Do you read Victorian books? What about Gothic romances of any type? Do you love the slow build of The Turn of the Screw? What is your favorite book over one hundred years old?


Filed under Book Trailers, Paranormal Book Review, Thursdays Bite

11 responses to “The Taker, a slow turning screw

  1. Sounds like you’re pumped from the conference, Jessica! Awesome. And interesting take on this book, artfully explained.

    • Thanks Elaine,
      I did have a wonderful time at the conference. I think every RWA member should go, at least once.
      I used to read a lot of gothic fiction, Henry James, Bram Stoker. And authors I can’t even remember. Love that time period, so much to analyze. 🙂

  2. Traditional stories of the supernatural. Jessica, I am in.

  3. I usually like more of the romance plot and haven’t read a lot of gothics. This sounds like an interesting book that you enjoyed!

    • If you like more romance, than Gothic Romances like Jane Eyre, all the way up to the Gothics of the seventies and eighties are good fare to start with. Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney are two authors that I’ve read almost every single book that they’ve written. Love Gothic Romance!

  4. I haven’t read many Gothic romances, but I like the era and the sound of a supernatural twist.

    • If you write paranormal romance, Gothic is at it’s roots. The paranormals of the seventies and eighties were the Gothics. More romance in those than straight Gothics. Lots of creepiness though!

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