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Book Review: My Soul to Take

Terri Schichenmeyer | 9/21/2011, 5 p.m.

People say that summer colds are the worst, but that's not entirely true.

A cold stinks no matter when you catch it.

The sneezing, the stuffiness, the raw throat and hacking cough are no fun at any time, and they always seem to arrive just when you least need them. But what if the virus was targeted directly at you? What if someone--or something--meant for you to sicken and die? In the new novel "My Soul to Take" by Tananarive Due (2011, Washington Square Press, $13.00 / $15.00 Canada, 418 pages), a centuries-old conflict could annihilate humanity, one by one.

Phoenix Harris never planned on returning to the stage. Once an award-winning singer-songwriter, she was enjoying retirement and motherhood, her son Marcus now the center of her life.

That is, until John Wright turned up on her driveway.

Wright represented Clarion, the makers of Glow, a substance banned in the U.S. Phoenix knew Glow was dangerous, but she also heard that it saved lives. With recent deadly plagues dotting the planet, how could she refuse one more show?

Fana Wolde listened to Phoenix's voice, and it made her want to perform healings. Though so many of the Immortal were disdainful of them, Fana was sympathetic to human vulnerability.

Mortals fell ill, they suffered, and they didn't live very long at all; Fana knew this because her own mother was once mortal.

But the freedom to heal wouldn't last. Fana was betrothed to Michel, leader of another branch of the family, and he could be cruel. His interpretation of The Letter, the foundation of their beliefs, was that ritual Cleansing of humanity needed to be performed on a regular basis. Fana knew how much he relished Cleansing, and the screams that accompanied it.

So many of her Life Brothers were against the betrothal, but it had been prophesied. The best Fana could do was to merge with Michel and hope for a compromise. Perhaps this marriage could temper his cruelty. Fana was willing to sacrifice herself for it.

But others weren't so eager to let her...

"My Soul to Take" starts out gangbusters, then suddenly drops into confusion. Readers unfamiliar with either of author Tananarive Due's other books will wonder who these people are, but Due quickly quashes the lack of clarity with a little back-story before she continues. When that happens, hang onto your seat.

From Washington to Ethiopia, Texas to Mexico, Due doesn't give her readers one second to catch their breaths as her characters move easily from one world to another in a scheme to save humanity or to ruin it. I was surprised by how easy it was to follow such complexity in this story. I also appreciated that Due allows us to sympathize with even the most reprehensible of her characters, which makes them seem more human. Or not, as the case may be.

If you need to immerse yourself in another sphere for the weekend, or if you're up for a good Armageddon novel, "My Soul to Take" won't disappoint you. Missing this book, in fact, may leave you cold.