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The Descent

Book Three of the Taker Trilogy

About The Book

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?


The Descent ONE

The sunlight glinting off the Mediterranean that afternoon was bright enough to blind, and the boat bounced hard off the waves like a broken-down carnival ride. I’d come halfway around the world to find someone who was very important to me, and I wouldn’t let a little rough weather keep me from finishing my journey. I squinted against the headwind to the horizon, trying to will a rocky shoreline to appear out of nowhere.

“Is it much farther?” I asked the captain.

“Signorina, until I met you this morning, I never knew this island even existed, and I have lived on Sardegna my entire life.” He was in his fifties if he was a day. “We must wait until we get to the coordinates, and then we will see what we shall see.”

My stomach floated unsteadily, due to nerves and not the waves. I had to trust that the island would be where it was supposed to be. I’d seen strange things in my lifetime—my long lifetime—many of them stranger than the sudden appearance of an island that heretofore had not existed. That would be a relatively minor miracle, on the scale of such things, considering I’d already lived over two hundred years and was destined to live forever. But I was a mere babe compared to the man I was going to see, Adair, the man who had given me—or burdened me, depending on your point of view—with eternal life. His age was inestimable. He could’ve been a thousand years old, or older. He’d given differing stories every time we met, including the occasion of our last parting four years ago. Had he been a student of medicine in medieval times, devoted to science and caught in the thrall of alchemy, intent on discovering new worlds? Or was he a heartless manipulator of lives and souls, a man without a conscience who was interested only in extending his life for the pursuit of pleasure? I didn’t think I’d gotten the truth yet.

We had a tangled history, Adair and I. He had been my lover and my teacher, master to my slave. We had literally been prisoner to each other. Somewhere along the way he fell in love with me, but I was too afraid to love him in return. Afraid of his unexplainable powers, and his furious temper. Afraid of what I knew he was capable of and afraid to learn he was already guilty of committing far worse. I ran away to follow a safer path with a man I could understand. I always knew, however, that my path would one day lead back to Adair.

Which is how I came to be in a small fishing boat, far off the Italian coast. I wrapped my sweater more tightly around my shoulders and rode along with the ship’s rocking, and closed my eyes for a moment’s rest from the glare. I had shown up at the harbor in Olbia looking to hire a boat to take me to an island everyone said didn’t exist. “Name your price,” I said when I’d gotten tired of being ridiculed. Of the boat owners who were suddenly interested, he seemed the kindest.

“Have you been to this area before? Corsica, perhaps?” he asked, trying either to make small talk or to figure out what I expected to find at this empty spot in the Mediterranean Sea.

“Never,” I answered. The wind tossed my blond curls into my face.

“And your friend?” He meant Adair. Whether he was my friend or not, I didn’t know. We’d parted on good terms, but he could be mercurial. There was no telling what mood he’d be in the next time we met.

“I think he’s lived here for a few years,” I answered.

Even though it appeared that I’d piqued the captain’s interest, there was nothing more to say, and so the captain busied himself with the GPS and the ship’s controls, and I went back to staring over the water. We had cleared La Maddalena Island and now faced open sea.

Before long, a black speck appeared on the horizon. “Santa Maria,” the captain muttered under his breath as he checked the GPS again. “I tell you, signorina, I sail through this area every day and I have never seen that”—he pointed at the landmass, growing in size as we approached—“before in my life.”

As we got closer, the island took shape, forming a square rock that jutted up out of the sea like a pedestal. Waves crashed against it on all sides. From the distance, there didn’t appear to be a house on the island, nor any people.

“Where is the dock?” the captain asked me, as though I’d know. “There is no way to put you ashore if there is no dock.”

“Sail all the way around,” I suggested. “Perhaps there’s something on the other side.”

He brought his little boat around and we circled slowly. On the second side was another cliff, and on the third, a steep slope dropped precipitously to a stony and unwelcoming beach. On the fourth side, however, there was a tiny floating dock tethered to a rock outcropping, and a rickety set of sunburnt stairs leading to a stone house.

“Can you get close to the dock?” I shouted into the captain’s ear to be heard above the wind. He gave me an incredulous look, as though only a crazy person would consider climbing onto the floating platform.

“Would you like me to wait for you?” he asked as I prepared to climb over the side of the boat. When I shook my head, he protested, “Signorina, I cannot leave you here! We don’t know if it is safe. The island could be deserted . . .”

“I have faith in my . . . friend. I’ll be fine. Thank you, Captain,” I said, and leapt onto the weatherworn wooden dock, which bucked against the waves. He looked absolutely apoplectic, his eyes bulging as I climbed the staircase, gripping the railing as I struggled against the wind. When I got to the top, I waved to him, signaling that he should go, and watched as his boat turned back the way we had come.

The island was exactly as it had appeared from the sea. It seemed carved from one lump of black stone that had emerged directly from the ocean floor. It had no vegetation except for a stand of scraggy pines and a bright chartreuse carpet of moss spread at their roots. A few goats ran by and seemed to regard me with an amused, knowing air before they scampered out of sight. They had long, silky coats of many colors and one had a frightening pair of twisted horns, wicked-looking enough to be worn by the devil.

I turned to the house, so ancient and solid that it seemed to have grown straight from the bedrock of the island. The house was a curious thing, its stone walls so sandblasted by weather that it was impossible to tell much about it, including when it might’ve been built, though it resembled a fortress—small and compact yet just as imposing. The front door was a big slab of wood that had been thoroughly dried and bleached by the sun. It had elaborate ironwork hinges and was decorated with iron studs in the Moorish style, and gave the impression that it could withstand anything, even a battering ram. I lifted the knocker and brought it down once, twice, three times.

When I heard nothing from the other side of the door, however, I started to wonder if maybe I’d made a mistake. What if the captain had misread his charts and left me on the wrong island—what if Adair had moved back to civilization on the mainland by now? I’d tracked him down through a man named Pendleton who’d acted as Adair’s servant until Adair chose to go into seclusion. While Pendleton wasn’t sure what had caused Adair to withdraw from the world, he gave me coordinates to the island, which he admitted was so small that it appeared on no maps. He warned me there was no easy way to get in touch with Adair, as he didn’t use email and didn’t seem to have a phone. I had no intention of alerting him to my arrival anyway—force of habit made me wary of Adair still, but I also didn’t want to risk being put off or dissuaded from coming.

I knew Adair was somewhere in the area, though, because I felt his presence, the unceasing signal that connected him to each of the people he’d gifted with eternal life. The presence felt like an electronic droning in my consciousness that wouldn’t stop. It would fall off when he was far away—as it had the last four years—or grow stronger when he was close. This was the strongest it had been in a while—and was competing with the butterflies in my stomach in anticipation of seeing him again.

I was distressed to hear that Adair was living by himself, particularly because it was such a remote location. Now that I saw the island, I was more worried still. The house looked as though it had no electricity or running water, not unlike where he might’ve lived in the eighteenth century. I wondered if this return to a way of life that was familiar to him could be a sign that he was overwhelmed by the present and couldn’t cope with the never-ending onslaught of the new. And for our kind, retreating into the past was never good.

I sought out Adair now after four years apart only because I’d been seized by an idea that I wanted to put into action, and I needed his help to make it work. I had no notion, however, if he still cared for me enough to help me, or if his love had dried up when it went unreciprocated.

I knocked again, louder. If worse came to worst, I could find a way into his house and wait for Adair to return. It seemed an arduous trip to make for nothing. Given my immortal condition, it wasn’t as though I needed anything to live on, food or water, or that I couldn’t deal with the cold (though there was split wood stacked against the side of the house and three chimneys, each with multiple lots, visible on the roof). If he didn’t return after a reasonable length of time, I had my cell phone and the harbormaster’s number, though the captain had warned me that reception was nearly impossible to get this far off the coast. If I was lucky, however, I might be able to flag down a passing boat . . .

The door flung back at that instant, and to my surprise, a thin woman with brassy blond hair stood before me. She was in her late twenties, I would guess, and though pretty, she was worn around the edges in a way that made me think she’d worked hard at enjoying life. She had on a wrinkled sundress and sandals, and hoop earrings that were big enough to wear as bracelets. Unsurprisingly, she regarded me with suspicion.

“Oh! I’m sorry—I hope I’m not on the wrong island,” I said, regaining my wits in time to remember to be charming, all the while thinking: In seclusion, my ass, Pendleton. “I’m looking for a man by the name of Adair. I don’t suppose there’s anyone here by that name?”

She cut me off so sharply that I almost didn’t get the last word out. “Is he expecting you?” She spoke with a working-class British accent. Over her shoulder, a second woman stepped into view at the other end of the hall, a full-figured woman with long dark-brown hair. Her skirt came down to her ankles and she wore embroidered Turkish slippers on her feet. Aside from their shared displeasure at seeing me, the pair of young women was physically as dissimilar as two women could be.

“No, he doesn’t know I was coming, but we’re old friends and—”

The two of them crowded the doorway now, shoulder to shoulder, a barricade of crossed arms and frowns set on lipsticked mouths. Up close like this, I could see that they were very pretty. The blonde was like a model, thin and boyish, while the brunette was lush and womanly, and a picture of them in bed with Adair came to my mind unbidden, the three in a tangle of bare arms and legs, heavy breasts and silken flanks. Their lips on his chest and groin, and his head thrown back in pleasure. A wave of hurt passed over me, tinged with that particular sense of belittlement rarely felt out of adolescence. I fought the urge to turn around and flee.

Had I been wrong to come here? No, knowing Adair hadn’t changed and had returned to his sybaritic ways made my task easier. There would be no strings, no possibility of reconciliation. I could forget about everything except asking for Adair’s help.

“Look, girls,” I started, shifting the weight of the knapsack in my hands. “Would you mind if I came inside to get out of this wind before I’m blown off a cliff? And if one of you would be so kind as to let Adair know that he has a visitor? My name is—”

“Lanore.” His voice rang in my ear, rushing to fill a space left empty. And then he appeared at the end of the hall, a shadowy figure backlit by the sun. My heart raced, being in his presence once again. Adair, the man who’d hurt and deceived me, loved and exalted me, brought a man back from the dead for me, given me all of time in the hope I would share it with him. Did he still love me enough to help me?

As I stood in Adair’s magnetic presence, everything that had happened between us rushed back to me in a tumult, all that passion and anger and hurt. The chaos of the strange world I had known when I’d lived with him tugged at me. I stood at his door ready to ask him to take a journey with me—a journey that wasn’t without risk. The bond between us might be ruined forever. Still, I had no choice. No one else could help me.

A new chapter in our history was about to begin.

About The Author

© 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) as well as The Hunger and The Deep. The Hunger was a finalist for the Bram Stoker and Locus magazine award and was selected as one of NPR’s 100 favorite horror stories. She lives with her husband in Virginia. Visit her on Twitter @AlmaKatsu.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Gallery Books (January 7, 2014)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451651829

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Raves and Reviews

“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

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