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The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
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's review
Jan 11, 08

it was ok
bookshelves: stacks
Read in May, 2006

The Historian

By Elizabeth Kostova

Kostova received two million dollars for this debut novel, an almost unheard of sum for an unknown writer, but I’m sure it went a long way in reimbursing her expenses for the research that would have been required to write The Historian. Make no mistake, this is a lush and beautiful book, each passage is fleshed out in detail reminiscent of the grand medieval cathedrals and libraries in which it takes place. The reader is drawn into the past quickly and presented with the vast knowledge Ms. Kostova has of the Ottoman Empire, Eastern European folklore, and the legend of Dracula.

At it’s heart, The Historian, is the story of a young man led to believe his missing professor has been whisked away by the evil Vlad Tpesch, Dracula. Paul xxxx is drawn into a world where history and myth walk hand in hand. He receives a mysterious book, blank save for the chilling emblem of a dragon at the very center. When he shows this book to his mentor, Professor Rossi, it sets into motion a chain of events that lead him from his university in London, to Constantinople, Romania, Bulgaria and eventually the Transylvania province of Walachia. Along the way he meets a mysterious Romanian woman also searching for Rossi, a noble Turkish Scholar, various priests and numerous villains. His steps are dogged by bureaucrats, as well as the undead, making this a long and complicated search not only for Rossi but for Dracula as well.

Most vampire tales rely on cloaked figures, fangs gleaming, jumping out of dark alleys or taking the shape of a giant bat to prey on their innocent victims. The Historian has none of this melodramatic buildup. It plods along, gathering information about the real Walachian Prince, taunting not only our hero and his female companion but the reader with some menace and a few appearance of an undead librarian but for the most part the real blood sucking is minimal. I’m a history buff so the background information and the search for Dracula is something I find interesting. It has the feel of a research paper, but an intriguing research paper. However, I’m also a fan of vampire stories, so the slow methodical trudge and lack of actual sightings of the fiend are something I find irksome. It drags in too many places, and goes off on historical tangents that a scary story really shouldn’t. I can’t decide it the historical aspects and the amazing depth they provide help or hinder this book. It just seems to me that she could have tightened the whole thing up and gotten to the heart of the matter and the stake through its heart, sooner.

I found The Historian to be rich and luxurious - kind of like a mink coat, unfortunately the pacing and unrelenting narrative make it about as useful as a mink coat in Florida. Still, I wouldn’t mind reading the next novel Ms. Kostova writes, maybe a biography of one of the historical characters in this book because she has a wonderful ability to bring her characters to life. My only hope is that Ms. Kostova spent her two million dollar advance wisely, hopefully not on a mink coat.

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02/05 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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message 1: by Dorothy (new)

Dorothy Iams I've read 20% of the book and I thought the character was a woman. It's very hard to follow what is going on. I don't know why,the father was skittering around to vampirist places. What business was he in? Author writes well and details are lovely...its just the story told at three different eras is very confusing.

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