|Hardback Cover Art|
Series: THE TAKER TRILOGY
Plot Type: Gothic Romantic Horror
Ratings: V5; S5; H1
Publisher and Titles: Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster)
The Taker (Hardback, 9/2011) (Paperback, 3/2012)
The Devil's Scribe (e-novella, 3/2012)
The Reckoning (6/2012)
The Descent (5/2013)
The book is structured as a narrative that alternates among Lannie's first-person voice, Adair's third-person voice, and Luke's third-person voice, with Lannie and Adair getting the most print space. Both Lannie and Adair have a number of flashbacks, with Lannie reminiscing about her adventures over the past 200 years and Adair returning to the Middle Ages to remember how he gathered together his various spells, particularly the spell for immortality.
Almost immediately, Adair locates his old minion, Jude, in Boston and forces him to begin tracking down Lannie and Jonathan. (Neither is at first aware that Jonathan is dead.) On the other side of the Atlantic, Lannie begins searching out other followers of Adair: first, Savva, then Alejandro, and finally Tilde. But first, she dumps Luke, telling herself that he will be safe from Adair if he goes back to his ex-wife and two daughters—as if they'd accept him after he left town with a confessed murderess. Luke, however, fancies himself in love with Lannie, so he doesn't go quietly. As the story moves along, each character tries to achieve his or her own selfish goals without regard to the resulting collateral damage to their friends, acquaintances, minions, and/or lovers. Luke, alone, worries about someone besides himself as he anguishes first about what Adair will do to Lannie and then fears what Adair might do to his wife and daughters. All of the rest are looking out solely for themselves.
Let's examine this "love" that Adair and Luke have for Lannie. Throughout two books, Lannie has proven to be a selfish, narcissistic woman, rationalizing away all of her bad decisions and expecting that the people she has hurt will forgive her without question. She admits that she never really considered the consequences of Adair's imprisonment on his other minions, all of whom were left in the lurch with no money and no knowledge of the location of the master who had controlled every aspect of their lives for centuries. Lannie is fully confident that they will help her hide from Adair, never realizing that they have feelings of resentment—and worse—for her. Lannie does realize that she isn't a very good person, and she believes that is the characteristic that Adair and all of his minions have in common. Here, she muses about the men in her life over the centuries: "But the most frightening realization was that all of them had loved me even though it was not in their best interests to do so, even when they knew they would suffer—a loss of prestige, the forfeiture of wealth, a title, or independence; separation from a respectable wife—each had made the sacrifice in order to be with me." (p. 135) But why, I wonder, did they all love her so much? Lannie really has no redeeming qualities in her character, so why in the world are all of these men so completely taken with her?
Now, let's take a closer look at Luke and Adair: Luke was a respected doctor with a practice filled with people who depended on him and two daughters he has always claimed to love deeply. Here, he summarizes for Lannie what happened to him after he met her: "I thought I loved you. When you told me you needed me, I gave up everything for you...My life is a wreck. My ex-wife...[isn't] sure she can trust me with my own children...I'm a wanted man. I lost my practice, my position at the hospital." (p. 263) Luke and Lannie have only been together for a few months, but he's so in love with her that even when she leaves him stranded in London, he still wants her back. And Adair—what can I say about his feelings for Lannie? She's the one who orchestrated his 200-year imprisonment in a tiny stone-walled cell in utter darkness, and he has spent all of that time imagining what punishments he will put her through, so I understand the depth of his rage when he first breaks out. But what I don't understand is how he can—in a single moment of epiphany—lose all (or most) of that rage and give himself over to an all-consuming love for her. In that moment, he somehow realizes that she is his only true love and he must have her forever. Here he muses about Lannie: "It was time to pay her back...and yet, Adair felt something tugging for consideration at the back of his mind...A plaintive voice reminded him that he missed Lanore. He still remembered how she, and she alone, could make him feel. Why this one woman? It wasn't that he lacked for choice...He was alarmed to realize that only she would satisfy his restlessness." (p. 107) Later, he rapes and kills a woman who looks like Lannie and then realizes that he loves Lannie. Here, Adair summarizes his big epiphanic moment: "[He] loved Lanore, he hated her, but he was unable to take revenge against her....His love for her was sublime, and it was also a bitter curse, running through his veins like an infection. He needed no more proof to see that he was damned, irredeemable and damned, and there was nothing he could do about it." (p. 149)
When Lannie has a similar epiphany and realizes that Adair, not Jonathan (and not poor Luke), is the man she has truly loved all along, I almost quit reading. Here is Lannie's big moment: "The belief I'd held most sacred in life...had been an illusion. Even if I'd had a perfect love with...the others, each had come about because, subconsciously, I'd sought to re-create what I once had with Adair. The truth of this realization fell into place like tumblers aligning in a lock. It had been Adair all this time, not Jonathan. Adair, the monster, was the one I had loved all along." (p. 136) (Believe me, this isn't a spoiler, because both Adair and Lannie are on emotional seesaws as they go back and forth between love and hate for one another all the way to the end of the book.) None of this makes any sense to me, but, unfortunately, it is the linchpin of the plot: Adair veers sharply from rage to love and back, and Lannie tries to figure out a way to escape from him, even though she accepts the fact that she really, really loves him.
For me, this book hits all the wrong notes: too much talk, not enough action, and too many illogical or improbable choices and behaviors by the protagonists. Here's an example of too much superfluous talk that is unrelated to the plot: a 14-page description of Lannie and Jonathan's escapades in 1822 with Lord Byron and his mistress, in which they talk, have sex, and talk some more. Now, here is an example of improbability: the all-too-quick manner in which Adair adjusts to modern life. Adair is desperate to locate his two books of spells, which, after two centuries, could be anywhere in the world, if they are even still intact. But...wonder of wonders, just a few days after his arising he finds them in perfect shape and completely unsecured in a small historical museum in the Boston area. And by the way, he drives himself to the museum, managing to operate a vehicle and locate an address in a major metropolitan area that he hasn't seen since it was a much-smaller town with horse-drawn carriages and cobblestone streets. This modernization of Adair is unbelievable. Within days, he is driving up and down the east coast like he's been behind the wheel forever, and he's using a computer like a pro.
The major problem with this series is that it wants to be a character-driven tale, but the characters are all completely unlikable, unsympathetic, and untrustworthy. They lie, cheat, rape, betray, kill, torture, and desert their loved ones—all for their own narrow purposes. No one but Luke ever takes a single action to help another person, and even he has a selfish side. Even when they claim that they want to change for the better, their only reason for that change is to help them get something—or someone—they want. Lannie wants to get away from Adair, and she wants her true love, whoever it happens to be at the moment. Adair wants Lannie—to punish her and to force her to love her. He doesn't give a second thought to the woman he rapes and kills just because she looks like Lannie. I realize that protagonists can have dark sides. For example, in Glen Duncan's The Last Werewolf, Jake, the titular werewolf, is very pragmatic about the fact that he must kill and eat humans on a regular basis, and he's not averse to using violence to defend himself. But we get a look inside that man; we understand why he acts as he does; and we watch him do good as well as evil. He's not all bad and he's not totally selfish in his actions. And that's the difference between a sympathetic character and a repugnant one. Unfortunately, both Lannie and Adair land on the repugnant side of the equation.
Book 3 is entitled The Descent, which probably means that it will include a character who is mentioned but not seen in The Reckoning. That would be the queen of the underworld, who has apparently taken Jonathan as her consort.
The series also follows a small band of immortals, all created and controlled by Count Adair, a mysterious Hungarian hedonist who indulges in over-the-top sexual escapades and controls his minions with alternating kindness and cruelty. Their powers include self-healing, strength, and speed. Although they live among mortals, they keep their powers hidden as they spend their time socializing and hosting orgies that lead to tragic results for any number of innocents.
BOOK 1: The Taker
|Paperback Cover Art|
The author uses two points of view in this book, with Lannie telling her story in the first person, and Luke's story and Adair's story in the third person. Verb tense is a bit muddled. Both Lannie's and Adair's stories are told in the past tense, but Luke's is told in the present tense, although when he thinks about past events, it shifts to the past tense. The use of the present tense feels awkward (e.g., Luke wakes...Luke knocks...He leads her...She looks over her shoulder) instead of the usual Luke woke up...Luke knocked...He led her...She looked over her shoulder). The lack of harmony in verb tense adds to the feeling of imbalance caused by the divergence in the story lines.
Lannie grew up in grim circumstances on a small farm in the Puritan settlement of St. Andrew, while Jonathan enjoyed a life of wealth and influence. In addition to being rich, Jonathan was also extremely handsome. Here's how Lannie describes him: "He'd grown tall, straight, and broad shouldered, as majestic as the trees on his property. His skin was as flawless as poured cream. He had straight black hair as glossy as a raven's wing and his eyes were dark and bottomless, like the deepest recess of the Allagash [River]. He was simply beautiful to look upon." (p. 22) When Lannie becomes pregnant with Jonathan's child, her family sends her off to Boston to await the birth, but she slips away and is caught up by Adair's entourage. When Adair forces Lannie to bring Jonathan into his fold, Lannie's blind love for Jonathan and her fears for his safety push her to take actions that change all of their lives forever.
I don't want to tell you much more about the plot for fear of spoiling it for you. Suffice it to say Lannie's enduring, and bewildering, love for the womanizing, thoughtless Jonathan causes her to make many reckless decisions, most of which land her in various levels of difficulty. But she never stops loving him, even though he makes it clear from the very beginning that he will never return her love.
The sex scenes—of which there are many—are not presented in graphic detail, but some involve gang rape, torture, humiliation, and extreme pain. None of them involve love in any way, shape, or form. The sad sex scenes between Lannie and Jonathan are painful to read because she keeps believing that their sexual union means that he loves her while he is obviously just using her as a means of easing his sexual frustrations. Click HERE to read the first chapter.
With the second installment of the series (the e-novella) revolving around Edgar Allan Poe, I guess that the author wants us to see this series as Poe-like, but Poe didn't just mix together a bunch of freaky profligates and let them do their thing. In the first place, Poe wrote short stories, not novels, because he believed that a literary work should be able to be read in a single sitting, and he disdained character development. The plots of his short stories are intricately devised, with all events tied to a single effect. If Poe had ever written a novel, it wouldn't be this one, with its lack of a single-focused plot and its emphasis on the joyless depravity and soulless pleasure-seeking of a group of libertines. This writing is not comparable to Poe in any way.
Novella: The Devil's Scribe