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The Shadow Land

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  12,124 ratings  ·  2,197 reviews
From the #1 bestselling author of The Historian comes an engrossing novel that spans the past and the present and unearths the dark secrets of Bulgaria, a beautiful and haunted country.

A young American woman, Alexandra Boyd, has traveled to Sofia, Bulgaria, hoping that life abroad will salve the wounds left by the loss of her beloved brother. Soon after arriving in this e
Hardcover, 478 pages
Published April 11th 2017 by Ballantine Books
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Sloane For me, The Shadow Land (3 stars) is a slight improvement from The Swan Thieves (does it even deserve a star?), but does not come close to The Histori…moreFor me, The Shadow Land (3 stars) is a slight improvement from The Swan Thieves (does it even deserve a star?), but does not come close to The Historian (5 stars).

I found her writing in Swan Thieves and Shadow Land to be painfully contrived and overwrought. In the latter, however, Kostova has chosen a severely underrepresented topic in literature and, crucially, a forgotten topic in history - communist and post-communist Bulgaria. Because of this, I think Shadow Land carries its own worth and importance, however much I felt like impaling myself with a spoon at some of her metaphors.(less)
Jo Burl
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"A land that looked nearly untouched by history, a Grimms' fairy tale setting in Alexandra's eyes."

And here's where your own eyes come into favor with an Elizabeth Kostova novel. Bring with you an openness that views life, not only in the here and now, but in times past. Our modern vision tends to view most things from a slanted perspective. As if such atrocities never existed. As if humanity did not drink from the cup of indifference. As if Bulgaria and its people did not live, at a time, in th
Always Pouting
Mar 14, 2017 rated it liked it
I really liked this novel, the characters had depth and I got to learn a lot because I didn't know much about Bulgaria. The pacing was good too and I honestly did not know where the story was leading which was nice because I hate reading mysteries and knowing ten pages in what's going to happen. That said I found it kind of awkward the way point of view kept switching, not just from person to person but from first person to third as well. It interrupted the flow and was not needed. Also the way ...more
Diane S ☔
Apr 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Almost from the beginning I found the story problematic, the storyline that leads to the books true purpose struck me as unbelievable. If you visited a foreign country, didn't know the language, stopped to help someone, and found you mistakenly had come to posses the ashes of someone who belongs to the people you helped, would you travel around the country trying to return said ashes? Would you get into a cab, the driver a young man you do not know, and travel back and forth across the country, ...more
Feb 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alexandra Boyd has travelled from America to Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital city.  She chose Bulgaria largely due to her brother’s fascination with the area in a geographical game they used to play as children.  Since Jack is no longer able to make this dream a reality Alexandra has gone in his stead, arranging a teaching post to augment her scant resources.  

Shortly after her arrival at the wrong hotel in Sofia, she reaches out to prevent an older woman from a near fall and in her efforts then to as
Angela M

There are a number of things that I liked about this book and some that didn't work so well for me, leaving me with a rating of 3 stars and an extra half star for the dead man whose ashes and life become the focus of the novel. I found myself very engaged in Alexandra's story initially. The back and forth in time giving us a view of her past, how she came to Bulgaria and the deep loss she feels about losing her brother Jack, was very moving . I was engaged in the search she embarks on with Bobby
Apr 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Barely 3 stars. The Shadow Land felt like two books. One of them was heart wrenching but really good. The other one was long, meandering, pointless and implausible. Alexandra travels from the US to Bulgaria to teach English and get away from some sadness in her life at home. Immediately upon arriving in Bulgaria, she has a chance encounter with a Bulgarian family that leads to a luggage mix up, and she ends up with a bag containing an urn with human ashes. The rest of the book consists of a long ...more

4.5 Stars

This book is a train with many cars, the old kind, moving clumsily along a track at night. One car contains a small supply of coal, which splits out into the passageway when an internal door is opened. You have to step over piles of slippery black grit to get through the corridor. Another car contains grain, shipped for export. One car is full of musicians and instruments and cheap overnight bags, nearly half an orchestra sitting according to their friendships and rivalries in the seats
Mar 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Alexandra’s brother disappears on a family hike when he is 16 and she's 14. As a twenty-six year old, she travels to Sophia, Bulgaria because it was her brother’s desire to have traveled there. She has no sooner arrived that she accidentally picks up a suitcase that contains someone’s ashes. And so it begins. This is a beautifully written, wonderfully detailed book. Kostova paints a picture with each chapter so that you can visually picture everything happening. You feel as much the outsider as ...more
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel is by Elizabeth Kostova, who is, of course, best known for her wonderful novel, “The Historian.” As such, if you are looking for more of the same, you may well be disappointed by this novel, which would be a shame. This is a very different book, but it contains much that is very special indeed and is – as you would expect – beautifully written.

The story begins with a young American woman named Alexandra Boyd, who has travelled to Sofia in Bulgaria, in order to teach and to recover fro
Mar 25, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
The language in this book is beautiful, mesmerising and detailed. If you wish to get lost in the wonder of Bulgaria, then this is the closest you'll get to the experience of being there without actually going. It made me want to pack bag and head off into the unknown, to feel that sense of trepidation and excitement that only happens when you go to a place you've never been before and don't speak the language.

But...that's where the talent lies in this book. The words are perfectly crafted and e
Susan Johnson
Mar 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a love story to the country of Bulgaria. It's a place I can safely say, I have not thought much about before this book. It's always been one of those gray places behind the Iron Curtain to me but I have a different view now. It's a place of history and great beauty and a wonderful place to explore.

Alexandra is still recovering from the sudden and unexpected death of her brother in a tragic accident when she decides to go to Bulgaria, a place he had always wanted to visit. She is going t
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you loved The Historian as much as I did and even if you didn't love The Swan Thieves to the same degree (I loved it in a different way from Elizabeth Kostova's first novel), you will probably love The Shadow Land. In each book, we have a literary writer who also never fails to include mystery, romance and the sense of a thriller while covering parts of history that at least I did not know before.

Alexandra Boyd is similar to other female characters in Ms Kostova's books. At first I found her
Purple Country Girl (Sandy)
I received a copy of The Shadow Land from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


I really wanted to like this one but I struggled with it from almost the beginning. I love historical fiction and I especially love it when there are parallel past and present stories being told. I should have known, however, that it might not work for me as reviews of Elizabeth Kostova’s other novels run the gamut from superb to long and boring.

Unfortunately, in this case, The Shadow Land is slow and very wo
May 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mystery/Literature fans
Recommended to Thomas by: NetGalley
This book takes place entirely in Bulgaria. It starts with an American woman, Alexandra Boyd, dropped off at the wrong hotel by a taxi that is now gone. She is trying to decide how to get another taxi and get to the hostel where she has a reservation when she steps up to stop an elderly woman from falling. The two men with her thank her before they get into their taxi. She asks permission to take their picture and they leave after she takes the picture. Only then does she discover she has mistak ...more
Jan 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.25 stars
some reviewers have compared shadow lands to the historian. where kostavas debut novel was longer in length it was fast paced shadow lands isn't at all fast paced. but the writing is more mature kostova seems surer of herself in her latest novel. the slow pace was frustrating at moments to me because I am a very plot heavy story driven reader. but once i settled into the lush language of this title I relaxed enough to appreciate there are many ways to tell a story.

the plot of this sto
The Shadow Land is Elizabeth Kostova's 2017 standalone novel that falls under multiple genres: mystery/suspense, culture/travel, historical fiction, music, and war. There are two alternating timelines that include a present-day mystery to locate the owners/keepers of an urn and flashbacks in history that follow Stoyan, the man whose ashes now fill the urn. I found the combination of these parallel stories made for a long and slow read in my opinion. Once the historical flashbacks started, I only ...more
Erin Dunn
Jan 09, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf

Thank you to NetGalley for providing a free ebook copy of The Shadow Land By: Elizabeth Kostova in exchange for an honest review.

I was very excited to read The Shadow Land since I loved The Historian by this author so much. The Historian is one of my favorite novels, but this one did not do it for me. The writing in this one killed me from about page two. I feel like unimportant things are described in too much detail. The writing droned on and on. I felt
Dawn Michelle

I do not really know how to write a review about this book; not when I am still in the throes of it and all the emotions that it continually evoked in me. There was just an onslaught of emotion throughout this whole book and to say I have serious book hangover now is really a complete understatement. Maybe in a few days or weeks or months, I will be able to look back at this book and write a review that will do it justice. Maybe. Or maybe I will just tell everyone I know that they MUST read this
Cat Tutt
Mar 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm giving this one 4 stars, however it's pulled up from 3 based on the wealth of historical knowledge written into it. I'm a big fan of historical fiction, particularly when it's deftly done so that a good deal of historical information can be woven in with the story without feeling like a textbook, which Ms Kostova achieved.

But, it was a little slow moving and boring. Her first book, "The Historian", is one of my favorite books of all time. So I was really excited to get my hands on this one,
I received a copy of The Shadow Land from Ballantine Books (NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review. This does not persuade my actual opinion of the novel.

Well, that was lovely.

As soon as I started this novel, I knew I was going to love it. The way Elizabeth Kostova's flawless writing paints an image in your mind is absolutely remarkable. Honestly, I enjoyed nearly every moment of this book. I enjoyed the history, the rare but exhilarating thriller scenes, the constant mystery, and even the
Christine Zibas

"Do you like Bulgaria? People say that it is the place where anything will happen. Can happen, he corrected himself."

A young American woman, Alexandra Boyd, lands in Sofia, ready to teach English and explore a country that fascinated her brother as a young child. Really, who among us knows much about Bulgaria? If the descriptions in this book are any indication, many more readers may be setting their sights on this fascinating (if largely unknown) nation.

One of the most profound statements in th
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
***4.5 stars***
I'm completely emotionally drained...there's nothing left...between tears, adrenaline and sheer loss of sleep as my dreams were marred from scenes of this book...this book took everything out of me...and I LOVED IT.

There is a character in this novel, that completely captured my heart; a person that you never meet in the book...and yet I feel that I know him so deeply. I have often been obsessed by the notion of a person so beautiful/pure/kind/radiant that others simply bask in the
Maureen Carden
Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Dorothy's quest to meet The Wizard. As I am writing this, (all proud of my cleverness)I realize there is a character named The Wizard. (Duh) But he actually isn't the THE Wizard.
Our Dorothy, Alexandra, is a young woman newly arrived in Sofia, Bulgaria to teach. Alexandra is also on a pilgrimage of sorts for her brother who died young in a hiking accident. Alexandra is almost destroyed by her burden of guilt. So when by trying to do a good deed for a small little family group, she ends up with c
aPriL does feral sometimes
'The Shadow Land' by Elizabeth Kostova is a good thriller and an even better mystery! It deftly weaves in the real-life past history of the Soviet occupation of Bulgaria after World War II and how the effects of that period linger on. However, the book has a few faults in pacing and character motivations while the protagonists travel around what is obviously a beloved Bulgaria by the author. Also, I see some readers focus in negatively on some implausible coincidences - but I do not. At least, n ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I was curious about this novel after reading both The Historian and The Swan Thieves by this author. I have grown accustomed to complex novels that still move quickly, usually discussing art or literature in some way. I was disappointed by The Shadow Land.

It is very clear that the author has fallen in love with Bulgaria (and a Bulgarian!) and wanted to write a novel that expressed it. So she created this novel as a framework. The first half of the novel contains a lot of movement from place to p
Feb 19, 2017 rated it liked it
The actual rating for this book was 3 1/2 stars.
First I have to thank Netgalley for giving me the chance to review this book that is not coming out till a couple of months from now. One of the main issues I had with this book started as soon as I began to read it , the catalyst that launches the plot of this book is not believable at all and every part that follows from there on is tainted by this lack of cohesion at the begging of the book. That aside, the book gets better from then on but it i
Apr 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Another 5 star book by a wonderful story teller- Elizabeth Kostova. I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of "The Shadow Land".
This is a book that in my opinion must be read slowly, and not rushed through to fully appreciate.
A story that captures a time and era in Bulgaria, that is real, sad and true during a communist period that held many secrets, and affected so many lives and families.
As with "The Historian"I had a hard time putting down and would highly recommend.
This is storytelling a
Althea Ann
Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
I rather enjoyed Kostova's 'The Historian,' but the main reason that I picked up this book is that I recently, and unexpectedly, traveled to Sofia, Bulgaria - and loved it. I was eager to revisit the city with a book set there. Unfortunately, the book didn't live up to my hopes. The perspective on Bulgaria is definitely that of a tourist's brief visit: "I went to that monastery on my trip, so I'm going to make my characters go there too!"

Alexandra is a young American woman who's landed a teachin
Bam cooks the books ;-)
*3.5 stars rounded up!

Elizabeth Kostova obviously wanted to write a story about the horrors that happened in Bulgaria during the Soviet-influenced era of communism after WWII. She does that in this novel through the experiences of one man, a remarkable violinist named Stoyan Lazarov.

But Kostova couches her story of the past in present day Bulgaria, where a young American woman named Alexandra Boyd arrives with a job in hand to teach English. But before she can even check into her hotel, she no
Apr 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“The photos were mainly black-and-white, some brown or yellowish sepia. Several of the images looked very old; these were wedding groups in stiff clothing with something Eastern about it, young people staring transfixed into futures now long past”

The Shadow Land is the third novel by American author, Elizabeth Kostova. In May, 2008, Alexandra Boyd leaves her North Carolina home and her job as a librarian to take up a teaching position at the Central English Institute in Sofia, Bulgaria. But on h
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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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