Lolly's Library (Dork Kettle)'s Reviews > The Taken

The Taken by Vicki Pettersson
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Jul 08, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: amazon-vine, paranormal-mys-suspense, paranormal-romance, angelic-host, part-of-a-series
Read from April 01 to 05, 2012 — I own a copy

A cute, mostly forgettable PNR. While the story at the book's heart, the one actually driving the plot, is as dark and twisted as they come, the rest of the book is fairly prosaic. There's the spunky heroine, Katherine "Kit" Craig, this time dressed up as an "I defy you to pigeonhole me" rockabilly Lois Lane, which, I'll grant you, is an interesting twist--I haven't seen too many rockabilly dolls in modern fiction. Then there's the deep and brooding hero, Griffin Shaw, with the requisite dark past, only this particular incarnation of the trope is a not-quite-fallen, more-like-demoted angel, who died in 1960 and has enough baggage to fill one of those brass hotel trolleys. Also shuffling in and out of the story are the other contract players whom we never quite learn much about, but are necessary to fill out the plot: the schmuck of an ex-husband (who is appropriately schmuck-like and, naturally, completely different to Kit's lifestyle, so much so it makes one wonder why the author had Kit married to him in the first place, other than to lay the groundwork for a future dramatic scene); the protective girlfriend (who can also create Kit's killer Bettie Page 'do); and the supportive cop friend (who we have to take on faith as being trustworthy as we're never really introduced to him beyond a superficial intro). Basically, nothing really original, except maybe for the Vegas location and the kitschy retro backdrops.

While I must say I didn't find Kit quite as annoying as many other PNR heroines, I don't feel as though I came away from the novel knowing who she is, what drives her, what's really underneath that rockabilly exterior. (In fact, the most annoying thing I ran into was everyone else's insistence on calling her 'Kitten' or 'Kitty-Cat'. How cute. And how so completely unoriginal.) Griffin Shaw, the angel/P.I., complains constantly about Kit's incessant talking, the fact that she's too cheerful, too stubborn, flighty, contradictory, cavalier, yadda yadda yadda, but we never learn why she's any of those things, most especially when it comes to her indefatigably upbeat nature, or if those mannerisms are merely a cover for deeper issues. (We kind of get a hint that it's the latter, but that hint is never fully explored. Perhaps Pettersson is leaving that for later books.) When it came to the rockabilly part, you can tell Pettersson is fascinated by the phenomenon and respects those who belong to that particular subculture, but it never felt fully integrated into Kit's character. At times, it felt as though she was almost too "kooky" or, as one character called her, "weird," as though she was trying to hard to be insouciant and one-of-a-kind. She wore the clothes, she talked the talk and walked the walk, but it still felt a bit like a little girl playing dress-up. Basically, she seemed...unfinished.

Griffin Shaw is little better, as his main motivation is vengeance. His wife, Evie, was murdered in front of him, just before his own life was taken, and he was set up as the fall guy by whomever committed the murder. Once he returned as a Guardian (an angel responsible for ushering newly departed souls to the Everlast--which is just about the worst name for an afterlife, though highly appropriate for the book's Vegas setting, as every time I saw it mentioned, I thought of boxing equipment), he made it his mission to somehow find out who killed his beloved Evie. Or at least never stop thinking about her and her death. And believe me, for most of the first part of the book, he never does. Evie this and Evie that. It gets a bit tiresome after a while because you began to believe his memories of perfect Evie and their perfect, wedded bliss have become enhanced by the rose-tinted glasses of memory and Griffin's driving need for closure. However, it does make his gradual realization of his feelings for Kit feel a bit more realistic, even if I did want to hit Griffin over the noggin to speed up the process. For all the drama/trauma driving him, there's little more to Griffin's personality. He always acted the complete gentleman and from his actions it was obvious he had a strong moral center, but, like Kit, you never really knew what, if anything, was going on underneath that polite exterior. Once again, the word 'unfinished' comes to mind.

I think the most disappointing feature of the novel is the lack of spark. I'm not talking about romantic chemistry, which you can see between Griffin and Kit. No, I'm talking about a different kind of spark. After all, I figured with a rockabilly heroine and an authentically cool cat angel/P.I. there'd be some snappy dialogue, along the lines of the Howard Hawks/Rosalind Russell/Cary Grant type you see in His Girl Friday (the best movie of all time for that kind of one-liner repartee). Instead, the dialogue was pretty flat and occasionally awkward or forced. The book tries to strike a balance between funny and dramatic, yet usually only achieves jarring results when a scene can't decide which way it wants to lean. It wants to be noir, but can't achieve the necessary hard-boiled snappiness required to be good noir; it wants to be a romantic comedy, but can't achieve the light-hearted snappiness required to be a good romantic comedy. So it ends up being a slightly confused mishmash of all of the above.

About the only thing that makes this novel stand out is the plot line, which is dark, diabolical, and completely reprehensible. It makes you wonder if Pettersson has some issues with men or perhaps just Mormons and this is how she's working them out. While it may not be utterly believable, the plot did make me want to keep reading, just to see the villain get his well-deserved and inevitable comeuppance. However, a dark and disturbing story line does not a good PNR/urban fantasy make; it needs all the other parts to make it whole, which once again brings me to that word 'unfinished'. The book felt as though it was missing that one key ingredient which would've brought the whole mess together and made it into something spectacular.

I'm not sure I'm invested enough in either the premise or the characters to continue reading the series, mainly due to the disappointing execution of the tale. There are other authors out there who can do twisted suspense stories even better and without all the angel falderal (which is the aspect of the novel which really got on my nerves. Yes, yes, before ya'll start foaming at the mouth, I knew the book involved angels and I knew there would be some God talk, but it still seemed a bit heavy-handed at times). I don't know why angels are the new big thing lately in the PNR genre, but I think I'll stay away. They're really not my cup o' tea. And as far as Pettersson, I have the first novel of her Zodiac series sitting in one my bookshelves; I'm still interested in reading it, but I think I'll go into it a bit more reservedly than I would've before reading The Taken.
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by faeriemyst (last edited Jun 29, 2012 02:04PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

faeriemyst Exactly, it felt totally unfinished in every aspect, which is part of the reason it was such a chore to get through. Pettersson was just trying too hard. And the Vegas setting isn't that original seeing as how she used it in her Signs of the Zodiac series (to a much better affect I might add). Now I'm actually afraid to re-read that series in case it doesn't hold up. O_O

message 2: by Lolly's Library (Dork Kettle) (last edited Jun 29, 2012 05:59PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lolly's Library (Dork Kettle) I see you finally managed to finish it--bet you're super-glad about that! ;P Yeah, that's it, she was trying too hard, as though she knew just enough about rockabilly to be interested in writing a story involving it, but not enough to make it really feel true. And the angel stuff... I still stick to my comment about Everlast (which gets more ridiculous every time I see it). ^_^ Well, since I haven't read her Signs of the Zodiac series (I've got the first book but haven't cracked it open yet), I didn't know she'd used Vegas for it as well. I know of a couple of other books set in Vegas, but you don't see it a lot as a location. I suppose you could always not re-read the series and just remember it as-is. ;)

message 3: by faeriemyst (last edited Jul 08, 2012 05:54AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

faeriemyst Partly, but it wasn't until after I finished the review when I really felt the relief! :D Exactly. I felt the same way about Everlast and almost included that in my review, but felt I had gone on long enough so had to sacrifice some of my notes (yes, there was even more I held back on ;D). It didn't help that I had just re-watched Rocky not too long before I started the book. :P I don't think I've come across any other books set in Vegas. But I've never gotten beyond the first two books of the series, which I need to re-read to get to the rest. :| I still like the idea of Signs of the Zodiac with its comic book-like astrological superheroes (and villains). I believe I'll wait until this book fades a bit more from my memory until I reach for the first book again.

P.S. You still have '3.5 stars' at the top of your review.

Lolly's Library (Dork Kettle) Yeah, I get that. ;) Goodness. That was you holding back? Eek! LOL Well, even if you did have to sacrifice some of your notes, you got the point across very well. :) I'm trying to remember--I know I read a book set in Vegas, but the title, even the subject matter is eluding me. Oh, I know: It wasn't a book I've read, but one I was interested in, a PNR; of course, I still can't remember the title. ;P So that's what the Signs of the Zodiac series is about. It's so hard to tell from the blurb on the back. Thankfully, this book is already fading from memory, though I still won't be able to get to the SoZ book anytime soon. :/

I don't know why I didn't take that off. I guess I got so busy updating my review elsewhere that I forgot to do it here, beyond changing the stars. Oh well, it's done now. Thanks for the head's up!

faeriemyst Yup, but I got the main issues out, although one (sorta ridiculous) thing in the book stood out. Kit does an online search for "centurions" and nothing shows up in the search. Really? You've got to be kidding me. Nothing? How is that even possible, they're a part of history! But on her next search she's able to find articles on the rather obscure subject of Evie's murder, with pictures of both her and Grif too! C'mon, that totally stretches the bounds believability. Would High Stakes be the one? Basically that's the gist but it's a whole lot more complicated than that. :P I don't blame you, too bad you didn't start with SotZ first. :/

Always happy to serve. :D

Lolly's Library (Dork Kettle) That's what really matters. Huh, I'd completely forgotten about her not finding anything about centurions online, which is majorly ridiculous, but I do remember how she managed to find all that stuff out about Evie. You're right and that's just poor story work on Petersson's part; as an author, it's up to her to have her characters discover the information they need without insulting the reader's intelligence. Geez. *rolls eyes* :| No, that's not the one, although that sounds like a cute book, maybe a bit too cute. No, the one I was thinking of was Dancing With Werewolves, basically because I remembered the Las Vegas sign right on the cover. I figured it would be more complicated, but that's a lot more information about the series than what I had before; I just reread the blurb on the back and, man, talk about vague! :/ Yeah, too bad. :P

And I appreciate that! ;D

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