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The author of The Hunger delivers a vivid and stunning conclusion to her critically acclaimed Taker trilogy, bringing Lanore McIlvrae to a final encounter with Adair, her powerful nemesis.

Dismayed by Adair’s otherworldly powers and afraid of his passionate temper, Lanore has run from him across time, even imprisoning him behind a wall for two centuries to save Jonathan, her eternal love. But instead of punishing her for her betrayal, Adair declared his love for Lanore once more and set her free.

Now, Lanore has tracked Adair to his mystical island home to ask for one last favor. The Queen of the Underworld is keeping Jonathan as her consort, and Lanore wants Adair to send her to the hereafter so that she may beg for his release. Will she honor her promise to return to Adair? Or is her true intention to be reunited with Jonathan at any cost?

This reading group guide for The Descent includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Introduction

For Lanore McIlvrae, immortality has been more of a curse than a blessing. It has distanced her from the rest of humanity and left her lonely and unhappy. Too, she has been haunted by guilt for the things she’s done in order to survive. She’s especially haunted by what she did to Jonathan, the first man she ever loved.

After being desired, scorned, and widowed throughout the hundreds of years of her life, the one thing she desires more than anything—to feel loved—has eluded her. In the conclusion to The Taker Trilogy, Lanore sets out on an epic mission to release Jonathan from the prison of the underworld. Just like immortality, the mission turns out to be more than she bargained for, and the powers of darkness threaten to snuff out her chances for true love once and for all.  

Topics & Questions for Discussion 

1. As the book opens, Lanny is haunted by dreams of Jonathan being tortured, and she determines to go to help him. Given the history of their relationship, what do you think compelled Lanny to pursue this mission? Would you have been willing to make the same choice?
 
2. Lanny convinces the captain of the boat she’s hired to leave her on an island off the coast of Sardegna (Sardinia) where she hopes to find Adair. What does this decision reveal about Lanny and how she feels toward Adair? What did you feel as she got out of the boat and signaled the captain to leave? Would you want to be left on a seemingly barren island without any plan for an exit? Why or why not?
 
3. Why do you think Adair allowed Terry and Robin to stay on the island with him in spite of his suspicions about them? What role do they play in the story? What does it say about Adair that he was willing to risk their companionship?
 
4. In part, The Descent is an exploration of one of the great mysteries of life: what happens when we die? On page 37, Lanore describes the process of being with Luke during his final days. How did she respond to his imminent death? Have you been with someone at the moment of death? Do you agree with Lanny’s observation that “they’re afraid of what’s coming, afraid and confused”? How do you feel about death? Have you contemplated your own mortality?
 
5. Lanny confesses that “Immortality had made me less human” and “robbed me of the ability to feel real emotion in the face of death.” How do you feel about this tradeoff? Would you be willing to trade being fully human for the “gift” of immortality? Why or why not? Do you think people would behave differently if they knew they would never die?
 
6. At the point where Lanny asks Adair for his help to accomplish her mission of going to Jonathan, she realized that “Adair had truly changed.” Do you agree? Describe. Had Lanny changed? Describe.
 
7. How does Adair’s island home foreshadow his identity? What role does the weather on the island play in the story?
 
8. When Lanny arrives in the underworld, she initially is transported to various experiences and relationships from her past. What purpose did these travels serve in her journey? If you could travel to a prior time and place, what would it be and why?
 
9. During Savva’s visit with Lanny, he says about Adair: “We’re rarely attracted for the reasons we think...There was something in him that we were looking for, each of us in our way.” What do you think Lanny was looking for in her relationship with Adair? Did she find it?
 
10. Describe some of the qualities of Adair during his youth in Venice studying under the bishop and ultimately Cosimo. What was the main desire that fueled his hunger to learn alchemy? How was the profession of alchemy ultimately a cover for his true identity?
 
11. During Lanny’s reunion with Luke in the underworld, she reflects that “being alone was what I feared most.” Why do you think someone who was immortal would be afraid of being alone? What was her strategy to avoid aloneness? Is fear of being alone universal? Do you resonate with this fear? If so, what is your strategy to avoid it?
 
12. When Lanny finally meets Jonathan in the underworld, how is their reunion different from what she imagined? How does her journey to help him turn out to be ironic?
 
13. Do you think Lanny and Adair are capable of true love and fidelity to each other? Why or why not?
 
14. What was your response to the end of the story? How did it compare or contrast with your imagined ending?
 
15. What was your favorite scene or chapter in the book? Explain.

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Visit www.AlmaKatsu.com to learn more about the author and listen to an interview with her.
 
2. The author calls The Taker series “anti-romance” in that it reveals the dark side of love. Make a list of examples from the book that connect various characters’ evil/dark actions to a corresponding desire to be loved. Discuss your lists at your next book club meeting. What do you learn or observe from this exercise about the human heart? How do the experiences of the characters in the story compare and contrast with your own experiences with love, or the experiences of people you know?
 
3. The Descent describes Eternity as a breaking apart and disintegration into absolute emptiness. Is this view of man’s place in the cosmos similar to, or different from, that of religions with which you are familiar? Read The Universe Next Door by James Sire and contrast the various views of eternity presented. Which view most closely resembles your own? Discuss.
 
4. Make a list of the things you would do, risks you would take, places you would visit if you knew you were immortal. How is this list similar to or different from your actual bucket list?
© Alma Katsu

Alma Katsu was born in Alaska and raised near Concord, Massachusetts. She has a BA in writing from Brandeis University and an MA from the Johns Hopkins Writing Program. She is the author of the Taker trilogy (The TakerThe Reckoning, and The Descent) and The Hunger. She lives with her husband in Virginia. Visit her on Twitter @AlmaKatsu.

“This is ultimately what makes Lanore such a compelling heroine, and what makes this series so indelible: While her journey is set in an extraordinary world, her need to love and be loved is fundamental.Her passions are our passions, her weaknesses are our weaknesses, and her quest for a perfect love is every woman’s quest for a satisfied heart.”

– Jamie Brenner, Heroes & Heartbreakers

“This isn’t a vampire trilogy; it’s something entirely new. It’s smart, sophisticated, and utterly shocking; if you have delicate sensibilities, you may prefer not to pick up these books. But if you’re an adventurous reader and enjoy beautiful writing and characters you can’t even imagine, Katsu’s trilogy is an absolute must read.”

– S. Krishna's Books

“Beautifully written with fleshed out characters and an engaging conclusion… Katsu has created the most unusual and dark characters yet she managed to make me fall in love with them all… The Descent was decadent, and all of the questions and puzzle pieces fell into place… The Descent was a brilliant, well crafted ending to this dark trilogy.”

– Caffeinated Book Reviewer

“While the ending wasn’t one I would have wanted in the first book, by the time it happened, I LOVED it. I thought it was absolutely perfect and helped me put the series away in my mind, it was the definition of closure… I cannot recommend this series more highly for those who love strange, gritty, dark books that will shock you but keep you riveted to the pages. The Descent was the perfect end to a great series.”

– Book Addiction

“Alma Katsu’s The Descent is one of my most anticipated read since reading The Reckoning in 2012. This novel is the last of The Taker Trilogy, and I must say, Ms. Katsu did an AMAZING job.”

– Under the Covers

"Throw away everything that you thought you knew about this series. I don’t believe there is a reader who could have foreseen the culmination of this trilogy… I loved The Descent and adored this series. It’s the kind of series you pass along to your friends…"

– Vampire Book Club

"[The Descent] will blow readers away with its creativity, nuance, and multilayered story. Book series tend to taper off for readers in terms of depth of story and the ability to surprise, but Katsu’s Taker series has transcended levels with each installment… Peers behind the veil between the human and spiritual world… A stunning end to a brilliant trilogy.”

– Savvy Verse and Wit

“It’s always difficult to come to the end of a series, especially one that was so good… This is certainly one of the more interesting series to come along in quite a while.”

– Bookreporter

"The Descent is enchantingly magical with unanticipated surprises and fascinating charactersan unforgettable roller-coaster ride, where emotions run the gamut from deep fear to highest elation. The Descent is part of an extraordinary series, where supernatural adventures are memorable while the cast of characters are notably original.”

– Single Titles

“Brilliant series”

– RT Book Reviews

“More than a wee bit dark, and super sexy. . . "

– Cosmopolitan UK

“Beautiful, mesmerizing.”

– Library Journal

“A spellbinding journey through time.”

– New York Times bestselling author Danielle Trussoni

Alma Katsu’s searing tale of otherworldly lovers and eternal obsession will seduce you from page one. . . . The Taker is as irresistible as the hauntingly beautiful, pleasure-seeking immortals who scorch its pages. You have to experience it for yourself!”

– #1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole

“Did you ever pick up a book that changed the way you looked at a certain genre? That's how I felt when I read Alma Katsu's The Taker. Her vivid, imaginative storytelling, and the most unique worldbuilding ever…”

– The Reading Frenzy

“This is a greatbook. And by great, I mean, devastatingly so, like reading The ScarletLetter, while riding a roller coaster, on acid. Seductive, daring, soaring,and ultimately gut-wrenching. . . .”

– New York Times

“Imaginative, wholly original. . . . Mesmerizing.”

– Booklist (starred review)

"This story resonates with spirit, blending myth withreality, tragedy with triumph, the pages oozing with passion into a compellingsaga. Sharp as a broken piece of glass, crisply plotted, way ahead ofanything and everything in the pack."

– Steve Berry

"I was really grabbed by the narrative voice and I was fascinated by the story--what a story!"

– Charlaine Harris, NYT bestselling co-author of graphic novel Cemetery Girl, on Alma Katsu's The Taker

Looking for a good read? Get ready to hear about a time-transcending page turner. Two years ago,having just finished The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice and The Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer, I was still hungry for more of the supernatural. My only hesitation was that I wanted something a little more plausible than blood-sucking vampires. As fate would have it, I stumbled upon The Taker by Alma Katsu. Dutifully, I checked reviews before purchasing the book. How I hadn’t heard of it prior to then is beyond me, as the book was insanely well-received and only growing in popularity. I took the novel home and was blown away by the captivating story of an impressionable young woman, the “Adonis” who she falls in love with and the “monster” who falls in love with her. Lanore, Jonathan and Adair had me spellbound like no other characters have. The Taker satiated my need for the supernatural, but was unique in it’s portrayal of everlasting love and unrelenting obsession, both of which know no boundaries for these characters. The second installment, The Reckoning, was equally fascinating—the never-ending love chase propelling the jump between several different time periods and beautiful locations all over the world. Finally, the end of this twisted tale will come to an end with Katsu’s final installment, The Descent.

– Jennifer Castro, Cliche Magazine

More books from this author: Alma Katsu