Alma Katsu's debut novel, and the first in The Taker Trilogy, opens with a mysterious woman in an emergency room in northern Maine, handcuffed and accused of murder, while telling wild stories to the ER doctor about being an immortal who is over two hundred years old. The recipient of her tale, the doctor who eventually helps her escape from the police, is immediately transfixed and longs to hear the rest of her story, even if parts of it are disturbing, improbable, and interfere with everything he was supposed to be doing that night. I felt exactly the same way.
Parts of The Taker ARE disturbing. It is written with the language of longing, desire and sexual fantasy, but there are scenes that are so horrifyingly violent that I wanted to scream at the character of Lanny that she didn't need a doctor or an immortal boyfriend to save her, she needed a Fairy Feminist Godmother! I wanted to stop reading in places because I could not resolve in my head how the main character could endure so much sexual violence and still find sympathy with her attackers. It was less like Secretary and more like Saturday Night Fever (you know, where the girl gets gang raped and then forgives them all in the end for no apparent reason? Sorry if I ruined that movie for you.). At the same time, there is something addicting and seductive about The Taker. It is beautifully written and the compelling writing urges me along even past the most disturbing scenes. I just couldn't put it down.
I read the second in this series, The Reckoning, first (because I received an advance copy from the publisher) and I found it to be an excellent read, even as a stand alone novel. Likewise, I found I was able to enjoy The Taker even though I already knew what happened in the second book. They aren't so much linear tales as they are different pieces of the puzzle of these characters' lives. I learned more about Lanny and her captor/creator/hunter Adair in each of the two novels, but I didn't necessarily need to read them in sequence. In fact, in some ways I'm glad I read The Reckoning first because I wonder if the violence of The Taker would have put me off the series if I wasn't already hooked.