I was in quite a state when I finished Alma Katsu's "The Taker", the first installment of a trilogy. What WAS this book? It was dark and twisted and seductive...and terrifying. Seriously, I had nightmares about what was lying in wait for me, out there in a dark cold cellar, in the second installment. The anticipation about drove me mad.
Then I met Alma, who is the most down-to-earth, likable human being you will ever encounter. What kind of demons was she hiding beneath this normal exterior that she could create such hideous characters? Well, I don't know and I don't rightly care. She is simply one talented story-teller, and as I made my way (gleefully, like a kid at Christmas) through "The Reckoning", I started to suspect that she exorcised most of those demons in her first novel and now we are getting a peek at her inner heart.
SPOILER WARNING FOR "THE TAKER": I didn't say much about the plot of "The Taker" in my review because the book is best consumed blind. In my ramblings below, there will be some small spoilers of its plot.
Synopsis: Picking up right where we left off at the end of "The Taker", Lanore McIlvrae is enjoying her life with her new mortal lover Luke. Then she feels a vibration in her soul that can only mean that Adair, her creator and sadistic master, has escaped the tomb that held him captive for two hundred years. It was Lanore that entrapped him in order to escape his torture and manipulation, and she knows that now there is going to be hell to pay. Not only is she in danger, but so is Luke and his children. She launches a search for Adair's now-scattered minions, trying to get their help.
In alternating narratives, we accompany Lanore in her quest to avoid Adair's wrath while recruiting alliances to destroy him. We also enter the mind of Adair as he attempts to understand his feelings for Lanore and navigates through a world completely foreign to him, filled with motor vehicles and Internet. Large gaps in Lanore and Adair's stories are filled in as well, taking us from France, to London, to Central Asia and covering a millennium of time. There is even some elbow-rubbing with Lord Byron! It all leads to the inevitable showdown between the forces of love and evil.
My thoughts: Nine times out of ten, the middle book of a trilogy is the means to an end. It exists to fill the gaps, to do a little character-building, to bide time and build anticipation for the final whammy. This beauty did NOT fall into the middle book malaise. It swept me away.
First of all, that damned Adair that haunted my sleep? He speaks! We get his side of things, his thoughts and motivations. Not only does it lift the blanket of mystery that surrounds him in the first book, but it enriches his character tenfold. Not completely sure I completely trust the guy yet...he did some damage to me and my nerves that can't be undone. But instead of being this scary, black, soulless demon from hell, he has taken on some dimension and color. I found my eyebrows raising, and going "hmmmmm".
In my review of "The Taker", I snorted at the idea that this was anything close to a love story. A love story spawned in Hades maybe! But things take on a different attitude in "The Reckoning", and love does start to stick its head in the door. It doesn't cross the threshold, mind you, but the presence is there right around the corner.
Alma hasn't gone completely soft though. She introduces one particular "action", taken by Adair, that made my skin crawl. It gives you some pause. I sat there for a few minutes with my mouth hanging open, muttering "oh he did NOT just do that". It is the stuff of Stephen King.
We leave this installment in a different mindset than the first. Instead of wanting to hide in my closet in a fetal position, I finished with a smile, with my heart swelling. At the same time, there is a lot of meat still on this bone and many different directions the plot could take. Some of them pretty exciting and a little scary. I will wait anxiously for the final installment, "The Descent", coming in 2013.
4.5 out of 5 stars