Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Reckoning by Alma Katsu #review

Title: The Reckoning, The Taker Trilogy book #2
Author: Alma Katsu
Publisher: Gallery Books, 2013

The Reckoning picks up exactly where book one of the trilogy, The Taker, leaves off, with the immortal Lanore in the company of her mortal lover, Luke. All seems as well as it could be, considering that Lanore has just granted the man she truly loves his eternal rest – as he’d requested – when the unthinkable happens.

Adair, the chief villain and alchemist responsible for Lanore’s present deathless state, has escaped from his prison of two hundred years. In fear of her previous master’s vengeance, Lanore seeks out the other immortals Adair made, in the hope that she might find a more permanent solution to her situation, and perhaps even a cure for the curse of her immortality. The last thing she wants is to fall under Adair’s sway again, for he is the only being who holds the power of life and death over her.

What follows is a tangled, sensuous web of betrayal and obsession, as author Alma Katsu allows tantalising glimpses into the pasts of her tragic creations. None of her characters are wholly good or evil; all of them have some sort of dark past. Some are irredeemably sadistic, and gleefully set about finding new ways to express their cruelty to those they manipulate.

Lanore suffers for her unrequited love, yet she cannot return the affections of the two men who’d do anything for her. Her fear cripples her as she tries to stay ahead of her erstwhile master. Plainly put, Adair is a monster, an individual whose obsession with the one woman who outsmarted him blinds him to all reason. He will stop at nothing to get Lanore back. There is no such thing as true love, according to Katsu. At best, her characters stumble from one joyless predicament to another, forever – such is the curse of their unnaturally long lives – grasping after an idealised love they can never attain.

Throughout this, they damage the ones close to them, sometimes wilfully or, in the case of Lanore, they hurt unintentionally through their selfish actions. The picture Katsu paints is bleak and filled with much violence as her characters thrash about in their self-created mires. Yet at the same time, and in much of the same way that gothic novels such as Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles are so engaging, one cannot help but be drawn into their world, and wonder how characters will torment each other next. Because as soon as readers assume they have an idea of where the story is headed, Katsu pulls the metaphorical rug from under their feet.

Though the title suggests it, there is no closure by the time The Reckoning ends. Katsu introduces further mysteries that suggest some sort of catastrophic outcome in book three; there really are a lot of plot threads that need convenient tying off by the end of book two. But be warned – some characters behave in a most deplorable fashion which might shock sensitive folks. Yet, despite the characters’ actions, I found myself unable to stop reading and look forward to book three with great anticipation. Because, hell, I absolutely have to find out what happens next.

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