The Descent, which is book three of The Taker series by Alma Katsu completes the tale of Lanore McIlvare, the young beautiful farm girl bestowed with the gift of immortality. In this final chapter Lanore is in mourning from burying her mortal lover Luke when she is tortured with dreams of her first love Jonathan, whom she turned into an immortal herself and then killed to release him. Jonathan is trapped in the underworld, a kind of purgatory, where he is being beaten and brutalized. Lanore knows she must save him and the only person who can help her do so is her maker, Adair.
The relationship between Lanore and Adair has always been a turbulent one. From his dominance and keeping of her to her sealing him in a brick tomb for decades. But only Adair possesses the ability to send Lanore into the Underworld to help Jonathan and then have the power to bring her back.
What Katsu does so well in these novels, and is so powerful here in the third book, is probe the relationship her immortal characters have not with one another, but with themselves. With their own immortality.
“…It seemed the immortality-rather than make me more sensitive to the pain of losing a loved one-had robbed me of the ability to feel real emotion in the face of death. When my lovers and friends died, my feelings were always muted and distant. I’m not sure why this was. It might have been to protect me from being swamped by grief, so I wouldn’t relive the sadness I’d felt for each of the people I’d lost over the course of my life. Or maybe it was because I knew from experience that, soon enough, another person would come along and-if not take Luke’s place, not exactly-at least distract me form missing him. Because I had no choice but to live on and on…”
Lanore finds Adair on his hidden island but Adair is different. Subdued. No longer the arrogant and powerful being who had given her an eternal life but someone else. More man than monster now. The attraction between them is great and at first Adair is reluctant to help Lanore out, but after extracting her promise to return, he relents.
In the Underworld Lanore finds more than she was prepared for. Past friends and companions each serving a sentence of pain and regret to the Queen of the Underworld.
“…Sophia, is that your baby?” I asked carefully, my stomach tightening.
“Yes, a girl,” she said but offered no name.
“May I hold her?”
She shot me a contemptuous look but, tentatively, she held the child out to me. She was still in my arms and too heavy for her size, like a sodden bundle of wash. With trepidation, I lifted the corner of blanket covering the baby’s face, steeled for something horrific. There was a neatly swaddled infant inside, but whether she was alive or dead was impossible to tell. The baby didn’t seem to breathe and yet here was a whisper of animation to her, a pulse behind the eyelids, a slight tremor at the corner of her mouth. Her skin was the strangest color, a pale gray-blue as though she had stopped breathing-or because she had never breathed.
Poor Sophia. This had been her punishment for taking her life while her unborn child was still inside her: to carry the baby with her for eternity and never to see it wake up. She could not put her down, she couldn’t bury her and be done with it. She was doomed to be forever hopeful that the baby might open her eyes and look at her, but to know in her heart that she never would…”
In the Underworld she learns the secrets behind Adair and the lie that Jonathan is. She learns that the one love left in her is for the immortal she feared and hated most at one time. And the one she loved as well.
Adair and Lanore, are they able to become as Hades and Persephone before them?
The Descent moves smoothly, but unlike the two prior books in the Taker series, the Descent is much more of a love story and it is the love story that is realized between Adair and Lanore that is center to the novel.