The Reckoning by Alma Katsu

Book Review
Title: The Reckoning
Author: Alma Katsu
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
Release: June 2012
Pages: 352 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1-4516-5180-5
Stars: 4.0

The Reckoning by Alma Katsu picks up where the first book in her supernatural, gothic trilogy, The Taker, ends.  Katsu describes The Taker as “a story about desire, obsession and the dark things we sometimes do for love.”  It’s also about the curse of immortality and the price paid by its victims.

I didn’t realize that The Taker was part of a trilogy when I read and reviewed it for Simon & Schuster Canada, but now that I’ve read the second book, I can’t wait for the final piece of this extraordinarily compelling puzzle which is currently known as The Descent.  This trilogy is a Twilight for adults (R-rated) although its main characters are not vampires.  While I found The Taker to be quite melancholy because of its focus on an unrequited love story, The Reckoning, is more visceral and suspenseful in the way it expresses Lanny’s terror in being reunited with her maker, Adair, which is her worst nightmare made manifest.

The Reckoning opens with main character, Lanore “Lanny” McIlvrae, a 200 year old immortal, living with her latest human lover, Dr. Luke Findley in London, England.  Lanny has just donated a collection of lost 19th century artifacts to the Victoria and Albert Museum, the featured treasure being a fan autographed to her by the poet, Lord Byron that had been given to her by the love her life: the astonishingly beautiful Jonathan St. Andrew.  We learn more about why Jonathan begged Lanny to release him from the chains of immortality, why she agreed, and the ultimate price she has to pay for her actions.

Near the end of The Taker, we discover that Lanny and Jonathan have sealed their maker, Adair (the Count cel Rau from Romania), in the walls of his Boston home, but two centuries later, the house is demolished and Adair is free to seek revenge on his imprisoners.  Only Lanny knows the horrors that Adair is capable of inflicting and she realizes that she can’t allow Luke to stay with her and continue to live as a fugitive when it’s only a matter of time before Adair catches up with them and unleashes his vengeance.  The narrative unfolds primarily between London and Boston with pit stops in ancient Venice, Casablanca, Marquette, Michigan, Maine, Barcelona, Pisa, Aspen, Colorado and Lake Garda, Italy as Lanny tries to keep as much distance as possible between herself and Adair.

Adair’s minions, the greedy Jude, the fiendish Tilde (who is exquisitely demonic!) and the deceptive Alejandro are back in this volume, and we meet two other immortals bound to Adair: the long-suffering Savva and his newest convert, Pendleton.  These secondary characters are integral to the story and are tremendously entertaining, but it is Adair who you will never forget.  He’s a 21st century Lestat, only far less charming and much more vicious.

The Reckoning is Adair’s story and it’s the tale of an immortal man who has existed for almost 1,000 years in a body that doesn’t belong to him. He’s a man who is so morally bankrupt and inherently evil that everyone who knows him fears him for the monster that he is.  What makes him truly captivating is that although Adair essentially still possesses a human soul, his is a soul who might just be the only soul in all creation who has never been loved.  This is the story of a soul whose battle is against his desire to change and his inability to overcome his intrinsic nature.

Could a person like that change?  I didn’t want to be uncharitable; I wanted to believe everyone is capable of change, of acting selflessly, of becoming a better person.  The longer we live, the more we understand and develop empathy for our fellow man, and are moved to change our selfish ways.  I would hate to meet the person who was forever inured to the misery of others.

Adair, who is well-practiced in the art of alchemy, is so powerful that not only is he capable of astral travel and lighting fires with his mind, but he can raise the dead.  And he just might have to spend all of eternity engaged in penitence for his sins.  Even though he’s a rapist and a murderer, Katsu writes him with such complexity and compassion that we can find empathy for him as he endures his own torture.

By the end of The Reckoning, we realize that Lanny, who on the outside appears as a kidnapping victim suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, is bound to Adair for eternity, no matter where she goes, what she does, or who she loves, and therein lies her fate.

I love a good paranormal mystery/romance and this trilogy by Alma Katsu will fit perfectly between my collection of Anne Rice, Clive Barker and Stephenie Meyer novels.  I see movies of these books being made and envision Rufus Sewell as Adair and Mia Wasilkowska as Lanny, but I can’t yet imagine what actor could be considered beautiful enough to play Jonathan.  Johnny Depp is unfortunately now too old for the part.

I feel privileged to have been able to read an advanced reader’s edition of The Reckoning and will be a die-hard fan of Katsu’s for as long as she continues to write.

Chronicles of the Undead by A. F. Stewart

Book Review
Title: Chronicles Of The Undead
Author:  A.F. Stewart
Publisher: Lulu.com
Released: July 2009
Pages: 168
ISBN 10 – 0557026709
ISBN 13 – 978-0557026708
Stars:  2.5

Chronicles of the Undead by Nova Scotia author A. F. Stewart is a captivating, quick to read horror novella that pays homage to the master of all vampire tales, Bram Stoker, and will also immediately bring to mind the author of The Vampire Chronicles, Anne Rice.

Set in London, England at the end of the 18th century and in the first quarter of the 19th, A. F. Stewart has chosen the diary format and writes with no dialogue, in the first person of her main characters, Samuel Harrington, his son, Edmund Harrington, and granddaughter, Charlotte Harrington with an authentic voice for the time period.

Chronicles of the Undead begins with the diary (1793-1795) of Samuel Harrington. Harrington is a stock broker who has just met his new neighbours; the mysterious Henri Forain and his beautiful cousin, Eleanor de Burgh. He embarks upon a close knit friendship with Henri based on their mutual common interests which include carousing in the local brothel, drinking and gambling, much to Harrington’s wife Eliza’s dismay.

Harrington soon reveals that he is not happy in his marriage to a disapproving wife and yearns for the life he led in his wilder youth. Indulging in his new found hedonistic delight, Samuel spends his days working on his financial interests and his nights with Henri at Dame Montague’s brothel.

The estranged Eliza complains frequently about Samuel’s vices and his friendship with Henri, so Harrington takes to giving her sound thrashings, and she becomes very meek and amiable which pleases her awful husband. Shortly after, Harrington discovers that his dear friend and partner in hedonism is a vampire!

Will Harrington ever be the same? Will he allow Henri to make him a vampire? What is the exact nature of Henri’s new found relationship with Harrington’s teenage daughter, Flora?

I won’t give away all of the plot, but these are old-fashioned, nasty bloodsuckers who feed on human blood with no remorse.

Stewart’s story continues in part two with the diaries of Harrington’s son Edmund (1795-1797), and concludes in part three with those of his granddaughter, Charlotte (1825-1826).

“Chronicles of the Undead is an intimate portrayal of family, weakness, the lure of evil, and how one selfish act can have horrific consequences.” Although it is not terribly unique, it is a satisfying read that ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, although one can figure out the ending for him/herself. The book has been poorly edited for grammar and punctuation but other than that, it is a fine effort from Ms. Stewart, who has a wonderful imagination and whose main writing focus is in the fantasy and poetry genres.