Author: Erin Bowman
Series: Taken, #1
Release date: April 16th 2013
Hardcover, 352 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository
There are no men in Claysoot. There are boys—but every one of them vanishes at midnight on his eighteenth birthday. The ground shakes, the wind howls, a blinding light descends…and he’s gone.They call it the Heist.Gray Weathersby’s eighteenth birthday is mere months away, and he’s prepared to meet his fate–until he finds a strange note from his mother and starts to question everything he’s been raised to accept: the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. The Heist itself. And what lies beyond the Wall that surrounds Claysoot–a structure that no one can cross and survive.Climbing the Wall is suicide, but what comes after the Heist could be worse. Should he sit back and wait to be taken–or risk everything on the hope of the other side?
It took me over a month to read Taken, which must be some kind of a record for me. I don’t usually do that – I either finish the book right away, or I just give up. Taken didn’t grab me as it should have, but at the same time, I felt that abandoning it would be unjustified since there was nothing technically wrong with it. In the end, I managed to talk myself into finishing it, but aside from a few gripping moments, my effort brought me no reward. I should have saved myself the trouble.
On the surface, nothing seems to be wrong with Taken. It’s a tightly-paced dystopian story full of surprises and excitement. Gray escapes one walled society, only to find himself in the second and then the third, each with its own set of rules. That, in itself, was part of the problem. Bowman tried to do too much, changed the course far too often, and ended up with a crammed plot and incomplete worldbuilding. In her desire to be original, she took on too much. A messy and unsatisfying story was the result.
Her protagonist(s) didn’t help matters much. I disliked Gray from the very first page, and not a single one of his emotions felt genuine at first. With the progression of the story, he became slightly more acceptable, but I never warmed up to him as much as I should have. For years Gray has been in love with Emma, but their circumstances, the rules of their society made him think that a future together would be impossible. And then suddenly, they got paired up to procreate (which was very creepy in itself) and even though Emma practically despised him until that point, he changed her mind with no more than two sentences. Instalove (and it was instalove on her part) makes me so very uncomfortable, and it didn’t help that Emma herself was very plain and weak.
To make matters much worse, this instalove was followed by another trope I utterly despise. Love triangles seem to be out of fashion, and while this would normally make me ecstatic, the fact that they were replaced by love rectangles drives me to despair instead. I am tired of unnecessary romantic complications and I want to read a story in which a couple faces troubles coming from the outside. I think that would be far more interesting. With the exception of Bree, all the participants in this love mess (Gray, Emma and that guy whose name I don’t remember) deserve to be alone for all eternity. The words obnoxious, selfish and clueless accurately describe them all.
If there is one thing going for Taken, it’s that it doesn’t end with a cliffhanger. Although many things were left unresolved, the last chapter still gave me a satisfactory conclusion. Gray’s complicated and tentative relationship with his father is another thing I wanted to highlight. It gave his character some much needed vulnerability and it made at least some of his actions seem more understandable, if not entirely acceptable.
All in all, there’s no denying that Erin Bowman’s debut is a thrill ride and should be taken as such. Characters are everything to me and if I can’t sympathize with them, I’m not likely to enjoy any book, but if you’re looking for an exciting read with a whole lot of twists and turns, then this is a very good choice for you.