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The Historian

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  256,576 ratings  ·  17,401 reviews
For centuries, the story of Dracula has captured the imagination of readers and storytellers alike. Kostova's breathtaking first novel, ten years in the writing, is an accomplished retelling of this ancient tale. "The story that follows is one I never intended to commit to paper... As an historian, I have learned that, in fact, not everyone who reaches back into history ca ...more
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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Best Historical Fiction
6,791 books — 26,315 voters
The Name of the Rose by Umberto EcoThe Alienist by Caleb CarrThe Historian by Elizabeth KostovaThe Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz ZafónMistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
Best Historical Mystery
1,797 books — 4,298 voters

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Average rating 3.79  · 
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 ·  256,576 ratings  ·  17,401 reviews

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Meredith Holley
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 06, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
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
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
Jun 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
“It is with regret that I imagine you, whoever you are, reading the account I must put down here. The regret is partly for myself – because I will surely be at least in trouble, maybe dead, or perhaps worse, if this is in your hands. But my regret is also for you, my yet-unknown friend, because only by someone who needs such vile information will this letter someday be read. If you are not my successor in some other sense, you will soon be my heir – and I feel sorrow at bequeathing to another hu ...more
May 28, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Oct 07, 2007 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kim Friant
May 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5 Stars—Favorite. Book. Ever.
I read this for the first time back in college. I found it in Bargain Books at Barnes and Noble and once I opened it, I was hooked. What was most intriguing was the “Note to the Reader” section . . . I sat there literally arguing with myself about whether or not this was fiction or an actual history book. Does the author not understand that she’s writing fiction? Wait, does she think this story is real?? I needed to find out, so I kept reading. 600 pages later, I am
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
4.5 Stars ⭐️

I have the hardback and paperback of this book. I got them for like a dollar or two. I’m going to use the paperback for a project.

I’ve actually listened to one of the audio versions from the library! I love it and I’m going to get this audio version on Audible.

This book has mixed reviews but I love it. I don’t know if the narrator is so good that’s it’s not boring or if I would still love it reading it physically. I’m still keeping my hardback!

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
Jul 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, i-said, top
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
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
If this book was written as strictly nonfiction, I would have given it 5 stars because the research into the spellbinding topic of Vlad the Impaler, aka Dracula, was extremely extensive! However, it is fictional, and although the overall story was deliciously creepy, with a captivating ending, and several characters keeping me on my toes, omitting some of the excessive investigations and details would have cut down several pages/chapters in this novel and helped me be less confused as to where t ...more
Oct 18, 2007 rated it did not like it
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
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
Paula K (on hiatus)
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
Ahmad Sharabiani
The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova

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.

The Historian interweaves the history and folklore of Vlad Țepeș, a 15th-century prince of Wa
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
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
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
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. ...more
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
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.
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
Simona B
Dec 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
“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
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
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
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

Also, considering how long it took me to get through this mammoth, dense history lesson, I'm actually rating it pretty highly. I did enjoy.

However I'm burned out from the effort so I'm reverting to bullet points for a bit.

Good Things
-Lots of pretty places
-Historical Dracula in all his impaling glory
-Fun story that romps all over the world
-Rossi was such a cute old man. Am I allowed to say he was cute? He reminded me of Indiana Jones' dad, but then maybe I'm mentally building
Aug 19, 2008 marked it as did-not-finish
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
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Elizabeth 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 and has taken h ...more

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