By Alma Katsu
Book Two in The Taker Trilogy
By the summer of 1830, Jonathan and I had ended up in Fez, taking a suite at a hotel frequented by Europeans and Americans doing what was known at the time as the Grand Tour, the trip taken by young adults from moneyed families to give them some knowledge of the world. The hotel was fancy enough to please wealthy clients but practical enough to maintain a row of rooms and suites along the back of the property for another class of travelers. These rooms were meant for the lost and the drifters, and that was where we found ourselves after wandering for seven years, little wiser and much poorer, still ill prepared for what lay ahead for us.
It was here that I awoke in a double bed with sheets that hadn’t been changed in a week (we scrimped on maid service to save money) to find Jonathan’s note telling me he’d gone. Forgive me. This is for the best. Promise me you won’t come looking for me. If I change my mind, I will find you. Please honor my wish. Your dearest, J. I reread the note twenty, thirty times, the words making less sense with each reading, and remained in bed for another hour, uncomprehending. He’s mad at me for something, I told myself. He’s upset over something I said or did, something I don’t even remember, and has stormed out. He’ll be back. If I wait here patiently, he’ll be back.
When I finally got to my feet, I found that his clothing was gone, along with his suitcase and the journal he’d gotten into the habit of keeping. He hadn’t taken any of our money and could have no cash but whatever small amount he had on him. He’d also left behind the small pistol he carried, a sign that I was now responsible for my own protection.
He’ll be back after sunset—that was the next thing I told myself, mostly in an attempt to remain calm. I sat in the shaded rooms, smoking cigarette after cigarette, wondering what had caused him to leave. Things had deteriorated between us, certainly, but every couple went through bad times, periods when they argued more and found less pleasure in each other’s company. Arguments, sullen evenings . . . these things would pass. Jonathan had no choice but to return to me. In our peculiar situation, there was no one else he could trust. I started to wonder if there wasn’t an outsider to blame, if perhaps Jonathan had been persuaded by one of the adventurers who trekked through Morocco seemingly on weekly basis—a strong-willed woman, one with a fortune and an independent streak—to join her on the road. Maybe my worse fear had come to pass and he had finally fallen in love with someone else.
What’s been the most rewarding part of writing THE TAKER books?
For me, the most fun has been the freedom to write a series that is not locked into an established mythos. I wanted to create the kind of book that I love to read: dark, twisty tales filled with characters you can’t forget and a story that haunts you for days after you’ve finished the last page. It has magic—because deep down, everyone wants to believe in magic—and danger, and men you want to fall in love with but who are tragically flawed. Unfortunately, the uniqueness of The Taker books has also been the biggest challenge: the fact that it’s doesn’t fit neatly into one genre or another sometimes makes it tough to convince readers to give it a try. I hope I don’t sound immodest if I repeat what countless readers have told me: “Why did I wait so long to read this book? It was amazing.”
With your background in intelligence and the spy business, how did you end up writing fantasy?
You’d think that with 30 years in the intelligence business, writing spy novels would be a no-brainer. Maybe that means I don’t have a brain . . . But really, the truth is that the last thing I wanted to do after a long day at work was come home and wrestle with an espionage caper. It was simultaneously both too much like work and crazily unlike work: what you see in a James Bond movie or in the pages of a spy thriller is not like real intelligence work, but you probably guessed that already. Whereas with fantasy, you have carte blanche to escape from reality, to mark everything larger-than-life in order to reveal truths about life. I felt constrained trying to write spy fiction, whereas I feel totally free writing fantasy.
What’s been the most surprising part of being published?
Connecting with readers and other writers. It is mind-blowing to see the range of books being written these days. There are books for every taste, and there are an amazing number of readers who read widely and can turn you on to a new author or new favorite book you might otherwise have never heard of. And without fail, the authors I’ve met have been friendly, open, and so supportive, ready to share their experience or even lend a shoulder for you to cry on. Everyone is in it for the love of story. It’s a pretty wonderful community to be part of.
We’re celebrating release of THE RECKONING [http://www.almakatsu.com/reckoning.php], the second book in Alma Katsu’s [http://www.almakatsu.com] haunting paranormal trilogy, in trade paperback by giving away copies of BOTH books in this acclaimed series.
The Taker opens on the midnight shift at a hospital in rural Maine, where Dr. Luke Findley is expecting another quiet evening of frostbite and the occasional domestic dispute. But the minute Lanore McIlvrae—Lanny—walks into his ER, she changes his life forever. A mysterious woman with a past and plenty of dark secrets, Lanny is unlike anyone Luke has ever met. He is inexplicably drawn to her . . . despite the fact that she is a murder suspect with a police escort. And as she begins to tell her story, a story of enduring love and consummate betrayal that transcends time and mortality, Luke finds himself utterly captivated.
Her impassioned account begins at the turn of the nineteenth century in the same small town of St. Andrew, Maine, back when it was a settlement in the wilderness. Consumed as a child by her love for Jonathan, son of the town’s founder, Lanny will do anything to be with him forever. But when Jonathan fails her in her time of need and she’s exiled from town, Lanny is taken in by a man with mysterious, otherworldly powers named Adair. He uses his powers to give her eternal life, but Lanore learns too late that there is a price for this gift: to spend eternity with him. And though he is handsome and charming, behind Adair’s seductive facade is the stuff of nightmares. He is a monster in the flesh, and he wants Lanore to love him for all of time. And all she wants is Jonathan. She steals Adair’s magic to bind Jonathan to her so they can spend eternity together, learning too late that she’s doomed them both to a terrible fate for all eternity. It’s up to Lanny to figure out how to stop Adair and save them both—though she seems condemned to pay for her betrayal of Jonathan for the rest of her life.
In the second book in the trilogy, The Reckoning, Lanny believes she’s finally free of both Adair and her hopeless love for Jonathan. She’s trying to atone for her sins by giving away the treasures she’s collected over her many lifetimes in order, purging her past and clearing the way for a future with her new lover, Luke Findley. But, while viewing these items at an exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Lanore suddenly is aware that the thing she’s been dreading for two hundred years has caught up to her: Adair has escaped from his prison. He’s free— and he will come looking for her. And she has no idea how she will save herself a second time from a man who is truly unstoppable.With the stunningly imaginative storytelling and rich characterizations that fascinated readers worldwide and made The Taker a singular and memorable literary debut and an international sensation, Alma Katsu once again delivers “a powerful evocation of the dark side of romantic love” (Publishers Weekly) in her breathtaking new novel.
Win signed copies of both THE TAKER and THE RECKONING by Alma Katsu