Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by Sarah Pinborough
Published by Leisure Books
I don’t know how many more books Sarah Pinborough needs to write before she runs out of steam, but maybe she’s just one of those imagination machines who, no matter what else is going on around them, is constantly refining her next story; solidifying the events and shaping the characters in her head so when she finally sits down to write the tale, it’s just a matter of getting it on paper.
Perhaps you think I’ve given her too much praise, but The Taken is one of her best books to date and I believe she’s fully deserving of it. Far from the world-changing apocalypse that was the center of her last novel, Breeding Ground (review), The Taken is a much more withdrawn and personal story of a small town whose small town ways and customs have damned them to a night of hell.
30 years ago in the quaint English village of Somerset, a horrible storm rained down upon the citizens and swept away any trace of a little girl named Melanie Parr. Melanie was not a favorite among either the children or the parents of Somerset, both sets of which feared her for different reasons despite the fact that she was only 10 years old, so when she vanished there was an almost audible sigh of release.
Now, in present day, a young woman named Alex has come to see her aunt Mary after Mary suffers a bad spell in which she believes she sees Melanie Parr, intact and just as she was 30 years prior. What they at first believe to be the beginning stages of some kind of dementia for the old woman are soon manifested all over town, as more and more mysterious children begin to show up in the midst of another big storm that’s steadily building and promising to cut off Somerset from the rest of the world for while. Just long enough for Melanie to enact her revenge on the people she believes to be responsible for her death three decades earlier.
How she accomplishes this revenge and how Alex deals with it all, at the same time coming to grips with the fact that she is also dying a different kind of death, is the mystery at the heart of The Taken, and it’s one explored with great consideration by Pinborough, who has crafted another engaging tale of horror and mayhem befalling characters you will likely be able to relate to within the book’s first few pages. The mythology behind Melanie Parr and the other children is rooted in the fears of all kids but made very, very real for the citizens of Somerset; and even though it seems like a force from the bowels of hell has descending upon them, even that is not all it appears.
Sorry, am I confusing you? Don’t worry, it makes a lot more sense in the context of the novel. Basically nothing in The Taken is what you believe it to be at first, something Pinborough has shown an adeptness for book after book after book.
Though the tale is bogged down a bit by a burgeoning romance, even that doesn’t end the way you will likely imagine it to. Indeed, the only outwardly negative thing I can say about The Taken is that our main character, Alex, has some repetitive thought processes, equating almost every situation she finds herself in, and believe me there are some very strange ones indeed, with what she is personally going through in the story. Though not necessarily unrealistic, we humans to tend to be self-centered, it happens just often enough to take you out of the narrative a few times.
Other than that minor complaint though, The Taken is a fantastic read that you will not likely find the time nor inclination to put down once you’ve snatched it up. That’s the other thing Sarah does so well; she’s able to get the action going quickly and moves it along at a good pace so that there’s barely a lull in which you’ll want to stop reading.
Another solid, terrifying and touching story from a woman who shows absolutely no signs of slowing down no matter how many books she’s got on the way. Once again I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!
4 1/2 out of 5
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