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The Historian

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  227,254 ratings  ·  15,346 reviews
Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to "My dear and unfortunate successor". Her discovery plunges her into a world she never dreamed of – a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an evil hidden in the depths of history.
Paperback, 704 pages
Published 2005 by Time Warner Books
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Fiona For heavens sake, this isn't really historical fiction! The title is misleading some of you out there. It's a beautifully and cleverly written work of…moreFor heavens sake, this isn't really historical fiction! The title is misleading some of you out there. It's a beautifully and cleverly written work of fantasy loosely inspired by an old Eastern European vampire folk tale. I don't usually read this sort of fiction because ever since reading Anne Rice's over-rated Interview with the Vampire, and the subsequent over-reaction to what was in essence a pretty mediocre book, I was totally put off by the modern versions of this genre. The Historian has changed all that. A really good piece of intelligent fantasy, vividly written.(less)
Primerofin I finished the book - but it frequently slowed down.

I liked the concept and details of this book.

However, I thought the style/structure made the story…more
I finished the book - but it frequently slowed down.

I liked the concept and details of this book.

However, I thought the style/structure made the story too slow and boring.

The book is nearly entirely told via people reading something - letters, post cards, ridiculously detailed notes that people seem to have time and effort and skill to write even when in danger.

This approach was a creative idea - but ultimately it turned all 'action' into 'history'. I guess that's why its called the historian and I guess that's why many people find history boring. It's not the content that is boring it's the style of story telling.

I gave this book 3 stars - it could have been 5 stars with another (even conventional) style of story telling.(less)
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Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.78  · 
Rating details
 ·  227,254 ratings  ·  15,346 reviews


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Meredith Holley
Jul 15, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Henry James Fans
Recommended to Meredith by: Laura Rice said not to read it. She was right.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Martha
Jul 06, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: compulsive letter writers and dull historians
This has got to be one of the most disappointing books I've read in a long time. Although the descriptions of the various eastern European cities are often pretty and atmospheric, my frustration with this book won't let me mark it above one star.

It starts out well; very interesting and suspenseful for about the first 100 pages or so. But as you read it, the book just gets more and more ridiculous. It's about 600 900(!) pages long (which is way, way too long) and I urge anyone reading this book t
...more
Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies
January 3, 2014

Dear Khanh of 2006,

I am your older, wiser self. Many things will happen in the years that have elapsed before you become the me of today. You will fall in love. You will break hearts. You will get your heart broken (karma's a bitch). You will change jobs. You will graduate from college.

Most importantly, you will become more intelligent, you will learn the art of advanced thinking because really, all college teaches you is how to get good grades by regurgitating textbooks. When you
...more
J
May 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
This novel is better than I had any anticipation of it being. I’d seen it among a friend’s luggage then later saw it at the library. Having just come off three weeks of nineteenth century novelists, I thought, Oh, something light would be a nice change. After all, I thought. Vampires. The book is about vampires. And not just any vampire, but the mack daddy himself, Dracula, the real Vlad the Impaler, who turns out to be the undead.

Light reading. Sure. Six hundred and fifty pages of vampires that
...more
Michelle
Jun 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: bookclub
This is actually the second time I've read this book. For a first novel, it is outstanding. I was completely engrossed in the story. I really love history and the whole Dracula lore. I thought it was a great mix of both. It added a lot of suspense that made me read it with the lights on. I think I read it in about four days, I just couldn't put it down. I will say this though, if you are not really into history or researching, I would skip it. If you are wanting to read it just because it has to ...more
Elizabeth
Oct 07, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: insomniacs and very bored librarians
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Josh
May 28, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Torturers, both medieval and contemporary
Tentatively, my hand crept towards the mouse. What dark and unholy specter could be contained in other people's reviews of Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian?

I was filled with passive-voiced dread as the link was clicked by me. I was horrified to read:

xdragonlady's review:
"My main problem with the book being that the author told the tale from so many different points of view, but that they were each told in first person without giving the reader any notice as to who was telling the tale. [...] I
...more
Arah-Lynda
Jul 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-said, top, 2011
This book is impossible to resist. It has fairly leapt to the top shelf, where it's nestled down deep with my all time favourites. I confess to being initially reluctant to delve into this story, I mean who really needs another campy, vampire tale? Lucky for me I put these feelings aside long enough to read the first chapter after which there was no looking back.

Step into the pages and begin an eerie, haunted, hypnotic adventure thoroughly saturated in ancient history and wondrous, exotic, old
...more
Matt
I would have enjoyed being at the pitch meeting for Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian. It had to have gone something like this: Well, most people think Dracula isn’t real, Kostova must have explained. What this book supposes is that not only is he real, but he’s still alive, and wreaking havoc on the world. She must have paused here, expecting, perhaps, to be thrown from the room. Allowed to remain, she plunged forward. My main character is a historian. All the action takes place in libraries, a ...more
Morgannah
Sep 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite book of ALL time from any genre!

At its core this is a book about Drakulya, about his history and his impact on those that knew him and those that have hunted the truth about him for centuries.

The novel opens with an unnamed female voice informing the reader in the year 2008 that she's about to tell the story of what happened to her thirty years before. The story is mostly about her father Paul, a historian turned diplomat, and his search for Dracula, Vlad the Impaler. This n
...more
Sabrina
Oct 18, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
Wow, was I ever disappointed in this one! I initially read the dust jacket on one of my many excursions to the book store and was very excited. It had been a long time since I read a really good scary story with vampires. The dust jacket alluded to sleepless nights filled with suspense and horror. I eagerly bought my very own copy and returned home to crawl into bed and begin reading this tale of terror.

Okay, so sometimes books have to start slow. You've got to get the setting right, introduce
...more
Paula Kalin
Apr 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: historical fiction fans that don't mind going thru 700 pages
What a wonderfully well researched book for historical fictions fans. Elizabeth Kostova sure knows storytelling and did a terrific job interweaving the search for Dracula (The Impaler) and Eastern European history. The author takes you through ancient castles, churches, and libraries looking through documents for clues to the whereabouts of the historical Dracula.

The book is entrancing, but a bit slow at times when progressing through over 22 CD's. My biggest complaint is I didn't care for the q
...more
Stacey
It has been some time since I read this, so my recollections may not be that accurate. I tend to make these decisions (do I like or not like a book?) viscerally, rather than by formula. But I figured that any book that merited my little used "pissed me off" category, deserved an explanation.


The Historian:
Kostova sets her book partly in the 70s, partly in history, and she tries to write in a flowery language, like the great masters of novel from the 19th century- but to me, she really just comes
...more
Shovelmonkey1
Apr 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who enjoy a liquid lunch
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: charity shop ubiquitousness
Hmmm.
I read this at work and one of the builders in the break room looked over the top of his copy of the Daily Star and asked if this was some sort of "how to" book (he understood that I was an archaeologist and thus interpreted The Historian to be some sort of quick guide to well, being a historian). And I sighed my deepest sigh yet, as another tiny particle of my soul curled up, died and flaked off and floated away into the ether.

Obviously if I was a vampire I wouldn't have to worry about the
...more
Olivier Delaye
Jun 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Fourth time for me to read this gothic novel about Dracula (both the historical figure and the vampire) and those hunting him, and boy does it still amaze me! And so despite all its happy coincidences, Dracula’s somewhat lackluster motivation to do what it is he does (won’t elaborate; no spoilers) and a few small plot holes here and there, I’ve decided to upgrade it to 5 stars.

This novel is so well written and so riveting that I can well turn a blind eye to its flaws and just let myself be blown
...more
Mutasim Billah
Apr 29, 2018 rated it liked it
What I really enjoyed about this book was the strong, vivid descriptions of the gothic architecture and all these sights around the world. I also enjoyed the folklore and mystery surrounding Vlad III of Wallachia which subsequently gave rise to the Dracula story. However, all that did was try to make up for a very thin and shallow plot that didn't really interest me as much. I'd recommend it more for updating your TripAdvisor as opposed to reading it for the fiction.
Lara
Jul 07, 2007 rated it really liked it
This book reminded me of the DaVinci code in some ways, but was much more interesting and better written. All of the research and historical documents were fascinating. I was especially interested in the subject matter, because it was about Vlad Ţepeş, the Wallachian (Romanian) prince, who Bram Stoker popularized as Dracula. (Not because I'm interested in vampires, but because I served my mission in Romania and was interested in Vlad himself. Evil and terrible as he was, the Romanians actually a ...more
Glenn Sumi
A plodding, contrived, poorly written mess of a book about three generations of historians researching the Dracula legend. It spans centuries, countries and strains all credulity.

The multi-narrative structure is ambitious (and, of course, is a nod to Stoker's classic novel), but Kostova doesn't pull it off. All her characters - unless they have an obvious accent - sound alike and there's far too much exposition and repetition.

The final quarter (it's a looong book, about as long as Vlad's life) i
...more
Geza Tatrallyay
Oct 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Well written, interesting perspective on Vlad the Impaler. Good research into the history of that part of the world.
Gena
Jan 11, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: stacks
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
...more
Rick Riordan
Nov 08, 2013 rated it liked it
a modern take on the Dracula story. This reminded me of The Da Vinci Code in some ways. The story was a pageturner with lots of atmosphere and exotic settings, danger and romance mixed with the secrets of history. But at the end, I found myself thinking, "What a minute. That plot made no sense." Dracula's motivation is sketchy at best, and the choices the characters make just don't ring true, in my opinion. That's all I can say without giving away the plot. Read it and see what you think. I was ...more
Jason Pettus
May 28, 2008 rated it liked it
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

So first, a disclosure: I actually received a free used copy of Elizabeth Kostova's 2005 modern vampire tale The Historian unexpectedly in the mail one day, from author Akmal Shebl at the same time he sent in his own book Prisoners in Paradise for review, not as a bribe I think but rather an example o
...more
Simona Bartolotta
“Not everyone who reaches back into history can survive it.”

I hope I will have time to write more about this book later, but one thing I need to mention is: what you hear about is true. The denouement is ridiculous and I honestly don't understand why it had to be this why, since it's more than apparent that Kostova's imagination is, to say the least, extraordinarily vivid. Dracula's motive is implausible and unconvincing, but I feel that it holds a symbolic meaning in Kostova's conception of th
...more
Lori
Aug 19, 2008 marked it as did-not-finish
Recommends it for: people who enjoy watching paint dry
I really wanted to like this book but God is it boring as hell. I hate not finishing a book but I just can't waste one more minute reading something akin to watching paint dry. I kept waiting for the story to take off and for something, anything, exciting to happen. This felt like an exercise in cold war geography and a self-indulgent author letting us know how smart she is and how much research she'd done. Who cares?! The premise for this book was really intriguing but the story gets lost in pa ...more
Alex Telander
Nov 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
THE HISTORIAN BY ELIZABETH KOSTOVA: Welcome to a retelling of Dracula for the twenty-first century, only think much better and more interesting; less of the weak and pitiful women and demanding men; more history and research. Elizabeth Kostova, while no doubt being a very well off person who went to the best schools for writing, has nevertheless spent a long time researching and writing The Historian with the resulting book being little about vampires and undead and more about books and history ...more
Eileen
May 20, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: hated-it
If there were negative stars, I would give them to this book. OMG, words fail me.

On second thought..they don't. Let me describe the ways this book sucked.

First off, it sucked because it COULD have been a brilliant book....its IN there...somewhere in the 642 pages. I would venture to say....its about 300 pages too long. At page 201 into the book, it was still plodding along unmercifully.

They way it is written, in first person, is way too choppy. Some chapters are being told by the "dad" characht
...more
``Laurie Henderson
Apr 22, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
Most boring first 15 pages of any book I've ever read.

For revenge, I will attempt to write the shortest review of The Historian :D
Jennifer
The Historian is a standalone historical fiction novel written by Elizabeth Kostova. Yes, it has vampires in it and no, it's not classified as paranormal. Why? Because of Ms. Kostova's attention to historical accuracy, specifically regarding the historical figure of Vlad the Impaler rather than the mythical (and paranormal) Dracula the Vampire. In an online interview, Ms. Kostova stated, “I took a real historical mystery, the question of where Vlad the Impaler is buried–or what became of his rem ...more
Traveller
Jan 13, 2010 rated it really liked it

This novel would have done well to have large parts of the first half culled. Although the first half is pleasant enough as a travelogue, especially the Eastern European scenery and impressions of Budapest that we are treated to, it soon began to feel tedious and I was pretty bored by the time the book began to pick up again.

The last third is the best part of the book, so do try and push through until you get there.

The biggest aspect I found to complain about, is that I'd expected a bit more sol
...more
Shannon
Tale focuses on whether Dracula truly still exists in vampire/undead form.

Most of the tale is told through backstory and letters. In itself, this is quite a feat for a novel.

People who appreciate History as well as a mystery with esoteric/intellectual sprinklings will most likely find this tale appealing. There is a great deal of focus on academic types and their personalities as well, so, be sure you want to spend time with such characters.

I found it quite entertaining, and, even though I sk
...more
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Elizabeth Z. Johnson Kostova was born Elizabeth Z. Johnson in New London, Connecticut and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee where she graduated from the Webb School of Knoxville. She received her undergraduate degree from Yale University and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Michigan, where she won the 2003 Hopwood Award for her Novel-in-Progress. She is married to a Bulgarian scholar.

Her
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“It was good to walk into a library again; it smelled like home.” 868 likes
“When you handle books all day long, every new one is a friend and a temptation.” 470 likes
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