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The Historian

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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 can survive it." With these words, a nameless narrator unfolds a story that began 30 years earlier.

Late one night in 1972, as a 16-year-old girl, she discovers a mysterious book and a sheaf of letters in her father's library—a discovery that will have dreadful and far-reaching consequences, and will send her on a journey of mind-boggling danger. While seeking clues to the secrets of her father's past and her mother's puzzling disappearance, she follows a trail from London to Istanbul to Budapest and beyond, and learns that the letters in her possession provide a link to one of the world's darkest and most intoxicating figures. Generation after generation, the legend of Dracula has enticed and eluded both historians and opportunists alike. Now a young girl undertakes the same search that ended in the death and defilement of so many others—in an attempt to save her father from an unspeakable fate.
(Fall 2005 Selection)

642 pages, Hardcover

First published June 14, 2005

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About the author

Elizabeth Kostova

19 books4,395 followers
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 his family name.

Her first novel, The Historian, was published in 2005 and it has become a best-seller.

In May 2007, the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation was created. The Foundation helps support Bulgarian creative writing, the translation of contemporary Bulgarian literature into English, and friendship between Bulgarian authors and American and British authors.

Kostova released her second novel The Swan Thieves on January 12, 2010. Her third novel, The Shadow Land, was released in 2017.

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Profile Image for Meredith Holley.
Author 2 books2,274 followers
August 2, 2009
You know you’ve been in school too long when you write a vampire novel in which Dracula’s ultimate threat is to force his victims to catalog his extensive library of antique books. On the other hand, after finishing The Historian, and its detailed Vlad the Impaler research, I’m willing to consider that threat as akin to impalement. If Kostova’s references to Henry James did not reveal her as an admirer of his, then its sprawling prose, vague plot, and sexually confused characters would have. While imitation of Henry James is not enough in itself to make me wish undeath on an author, it sucked the blood out of this adventure.

Kostova writes The Historian in epistolary form, primarily through letters from a father historian to a daughter (presumably) historian. The greater part of the book, however, focused not on this father-daughter team’s desperate search for family member(s) and Dracula, but on the obscure history of Vlad Tepes, the historical figure who inspired the legend of Dracula, and on the geography of Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey during the Cold War. If the Travel Channel™ was ever looking for someone to host Istanbul on a Budget 1980 or Passport to Monasteries Behind the Iron Curtain, Kostova would be their woman. Whether the history and geography is true or not, the sheer volume of trivia padding this book and the work it had to have taken to put it all together is confounding.

Even with the impressive research, this story is Scooby Doo with no Scooby Snacks. Dracula would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for those pesky historians! Dracula and his henchman, the “evil librarian,” don’t plague society or cause panic. Rather, they make appearances in goofy disguises in libraries and cafes to give books and other clues to especially promising young historians, inspiring the recipients to begin insatiable quests to find out more about this Dracula fellow. Then, Dracula inevitably shows up again to slap people around a little, so that the historians will be too afraid to continue their research. Once, after giving a historian a book to start him on his vampire studies, Dracula disguises himself as “a stranger” and buys that historian a drink called, “whimsically, amnesia.” Bet you can’t guess what that does - all that research down the tubes! Stop the mind games, Dracula! Not to be deterred by Dracula’s or the Evil Librarian’s threats, the historians continue to stalk their prey until the reader would pity Dracula (if he weren’t annoying), because he is ultimately only trying to build a book collection and a gang of faithful research assistants.

In painful detail, Paul, the central historian/vampire slayer, as he tells his daughter the story of his search for Dracula, also tells of falling in love with her “mannish” mother, Helen. The consistent descriptions of our heroine as “manly” only hint at Paul’s sexual confusion, which becomes most apparent when he meets his rival, Helen’s ex-boyfriend, a Soviet spy. Paul describes this meeting to his daughter in chapter 38. “’What a pleasure to meet you,’ [ex-boyfriend] said, giving me a smile that illuminated his fine features. He was taller than I, with thick brown hair and the confident posture of a man who loves his own virility – he would have been magnificent on horseback, riding across the plains with herds of sheep, I thought.” Except for the word “virility,” I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of reading that description. If the author of the quote had been a man, I would encourage him to openly write gay characters rather than making his characters marry to hide their sexuality. From the author’s picture on the dust jacket, I see that she is Madame Bovary, so the description fits.

It is true that because of the vagueness of the plot and the epistolary structure, entire chapters and characters could be cut from this book without losing any story. Beyond its rambling descriptions, however, The Historian flounders as a vampire story. Psychological conflict adds complexity to most vampire stories, as in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, when Mina, formerly a protagonist, becomes bloodthirsty. Thirst is the most basic human experience, and all vampires started as humans. Theoretically, thirst (or, more broadly, desire) could become evil in anyone; and, therefore, of all monsters we most easily identify with vampires. In The Historian, however, I am left with the impression that if those historians left poor Dracula alone, he would have just kept collecting books. It was ultimately the research and study, not Dracula himself, that took the historians away from their loved ones and almost destroyed them. From where I’m reading, The Historian is solid evidence of what most high school kids could tell you: too much study is both boring and potentially bad for your health.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Martha.
13 reviews4 followers
August 9, 2008
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 to just put it down or read one of the one-star spoiler reviews on Amazon and be done with it. Or better yet, ignore the book entirely.

What bothered me most? I'll try to make a list of my top issues:

-- Coincidences. *Everything* in this book happens by some remarkable coincidences. One here or there would be fine, even interesting, but it's as if the author decided 'here's how the plot should go', and couldn't be bothered to come up with realistic reasons for characters to do things and just wanted to move them from one point to another. One of the characters even ends up with amnesia. Amnesia! Like from a bad soap opera! I mean, are you kidding? So stuff just happens. For no reason. Which leads me to...

-- Stuff just happens. For no reason. Such as characters getting together romantically, well, just because. No build up, no logic, they just do because I guess they're both there and they have nothing better to do. Which leads me to...

-- The characters themselves. Completely non-existent. One reviewer on amazon said that if you take any random section of dialogue from the book, it is impossible to tell which character it came from. So true! The author is completely incapable of creating realistic, breathing characters that are different from each other. Instead they all talk the same, they all have the same reactions, the same motives, hook up randomly in the same way, etc. There is *nothing* believable about these people. And for some reason, they all write unbelievably detailed letters. Which leads me to...

-- Unbelievably detailed letters! Now I have read a number of great books that use the format of letter writing to convey the plot. But this? Ridiculous. Not only are these letters insanely long, but they are insanely detailed as well, creating yet another reason why the book and the characters are completely unbelievable. If that's how the author wanted to write this, why did she do the letter thing at all? Which brings me to my final big gripe (I've leaving the small ones out)...

-- The ending. OMG if you value your sanity, do not, I repeat DO NOT finish this book. Because if you are sane, you will get to the ending and go, 'What? What?? Are you f-n kidding me?? That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard!' No joke. The ending, especially after 600 pages, has got to be the biggest let down of any major novel in recent years. I won't spoil it here (however badly I want to vent about it), but I swear to you: it will cause you physical agony when you read it.

In short: bad book, promises a lot and delivers none of it. Ignore it, read something else.
January 5, 2014
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 are older, as you begin to read critically, you will learn to appreciate a good book, and you will be able to identify literary bullshit when you see it.

That's all this book is. Literary bullshit.

This book is dramatic rubbish, artistic gibberish. It is nothing more than a glorified travel brochure.

Seriously, younger Khanh, what the fuck were you thinking when you enjoyed this book? You thought it was sweet, you thought it was romantic, you thought the writing was beautiful. Really? Really?

Between 2006 and 2014, you will be able to identify purple prose when you see it. You will realize that flowery prose is not good writing. Correlation does not imply causation, and good writing does not necessarily encompass a good plot.

You will be able to recognize a deus ex fucking machina when you see it. Oh, I know that you learned about deus ex machina in AP English. You learned a lot of things in English class. You learned about symbolism, foreshadowing, all that good shit, but really, it does you no fucking good unless you are able to identify it when you see it. And clearly, you did not see the tremendous, horrifying, abominable (that's a hyperbole) overuse of deus ex fucking machina upon your first perusal of this book.

You will realize that a good epistolary book involving several different characters should have the characters be actually fucking distinct. Did you seriously think this book was realistic in any way, when you cannot distinguish between the narrative of an old man, an older man, and that of a girl as she grows from her early teens?

Did you ever for a moment think upon the complete absurdity of the letters and the storytelling, particularly when said letters and spoken stories were told in excruciating minutiae. Is that realistic in any way? In your letters, have you ever once mentioned the trivialities of your evening routine, particularly when it made absolutely no relevance whatsoever to whatever point you were trying to make?
While I waited I poked up the fire, added another log, set out two glasses, and surveyed my desk. My study also served me for a sitting room, and I made sure it was kept as orderly and comfortable as the solidity of its nineteenth-century furnishings demanded. I had completed a great deal of work that afternoon, supped off a plate brought up to me at six o’clock, and then cleared the last of my papers.
When you tell a story to your friends, have you ever once mentioned the drumming of your fingertips when you're trying to tell a story of---supposedly---the utmost importance?
I drummed my fingers on the desktop. The clock in my study seemed to be ticking unusually loudly tonight, and the urban half darkness seemed too still behind my venetian blinds.
I know you are young and stupid, but you are not that stupid. Please don't tell me that this book fooled you in any way. Did you seriously buy into the letters and the "stories?"

Fucking letters. Fucking stories. Bullshit attempts at letters and storytelling and an epistolary timeline that is everything overwrought, all that is overdramatic and completely devoid of sense and rationality. I would beg for a little bit of sensationalism over sense, because overall, the plot of this story is entirely lacking in anything remotely resembling fascination, anything that would captivate and hold the imagination rather than lulls it to sleep.

You endured over 700 pages of this balderdash for a story that doesn't even bring any sense of excitement. Vlad Tepes holds no danger. He is the equivalent of a grown-up high school bully. Once powerful, he no longer holds any amount of thrall. The only remnants of his power are the few close hangers on, the few douchebags foolish enough to cling onto the remains of a long-diminished power. That high school bully might scare a few odd child here and there, with his posturing, with his scowls. You, as an adult, are no longer afraid. You, as an adult, should know better than to buy into this book's aesthetically pleasing, inconsequential claptrap.

Reluctantly yours,

An older, a more erudite, a considerably more critical

- Khanh
Profile Image for J.
1,387 reviews158 followers
May 19, 2008
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 is less concerned with torn pulsing arteries than with the minutiae of historical research. And much like Dracula, to which Kostova’ novel The Historian owes an incalculable debt (more so than many another vampire novel), the novel is constructed as a story within a story within a story.

One of the novel’s central conceits is how much of the story is told in the form of letters written by the young female narrator’s father. As this sum surpasses well over 300 pages in type, obvious plausibility considerations of scale arise, but only if you stop to think about it long enough. In the middle of the father Paul’s letters, he is handed a parcel of letters written by his mentor, Bartolomeo Rossi which are also substantially sized documents.

As their stories take them further and further into Eastern and Central Europe, the texts begin to shelter one inside the other inside the other like Russian nesting dolls. As the narrator reads the letters of her father, Paul tells of visiting a Bulgarian scholar who reads to him from a manuscript which includes in its history yet another person’s lengthy transcription of in fact one more person’s reminisces about Vlad Tepes. This kind of layered story is most definitely part of Kostova’s novel’s sensibility, and it’s rather an amusing in-joke.

What’s impressive about all this is how Kostova weaves three sizable narratives together, alternating time and place and narrative voice. We first are in Amsterdam of 1972 as our young narrator, a sixteen year old school girl, tells of discovering a mysterious volume in her diplomat father’s office and later of her journey to France. Part of what sends her out are the letters she is reading left to her by her father after he vanishes, telling of his travels and investigations into the Dracula legend in the 1950s Eastern Bloc. He is launched across the Soviet empire as well as through the byzantine mazes of Istanbul’s streets and libraries trying to discover what became of his missing mentor. Along the way as we try to find Rossi, we are told of his 1930s investigations into the Dracula legend in Romania.

On top of that, there are vast stores of erudition on fifteenth century monasteries, the cultural divide betwixt Romanians and Transylvanians, the Walechian court, medieval church politics, central European folk songs, Bulgarian religious rituals based around old pagan traditions, historian cataloging and research methodology, and the overlapping history of Central Europe with its shifting rulers of Ottomans, the Orthodox church and its tiny fiefdoms, and the Soviet Union. For, thinking about it as an historian, the undead would have lived through an impressive array of eras.

Consider this rather late passage:

The “Chronicle” of Zacharias is known through two manuscripts, Athos 1480 and R.VII.132; the latter is also referred to as the “Patriarchal Version.” Athos 1480, a quarto manuscript in a single semiunical hand, is house in the library at Rila Monastery in Bulgaria, where it was discovered in 1923…This original manuscript was probably housed in the Zographou library until at least 1814, since it is mentioned by title in a bibliography of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century manuscripts at Zographou dating from that year. It resurfaced in Bulgaria in 1923, when the Bulgarian historian Atanas Angelov discovered it hidden in the cover of an eighteenth-century folio treatise on the life of Saint George (Georgi 1364.21) in the library at Rila Monastery….The second and only other known copy or version of the Zacharias “Chronicle” — R.VII.132 or the “Patriarchal Version” — is housed at the library of the Oecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople and has been paleographically dated to the mid- or late sixteenth century.

Not your average vampire book, eh?

And that’s one of the funny things about reading this novel. At times, you have to remind yourself that this is a book about vampires. Not that Kostova won’t remind you at some point along the way herself, but that there is so much enjoyable writing throughout, so much fun detective work, that at times the supernatural element seems almost decidedly secondary.

Kostova knows well enough to keep the monsters off the stage as long as possible, merely make suggestive shadows lurk here and there on the periphery and affect a rather creepy atmosphere. After a point there are a hair too many overt murders that sap some of the menace, surprisingly, as they make the gathering darkness all too palpably concrete. Then there are a number of vampire staples that might turn up normally anyway. A bat flitters across a night sky. In the woods near a ruin, a wolf approaches the edge of the firelight. After sitting for some time near a railing cobby with webs, Helen Rossi, daughter of Paul’s mentor and mother to the unnamed young narrator, ends up with an enormous spider on her back. These stand-ins for the vampire are pleasantly unsettling without being accompanied by shrieking violins.

What propels each of the main characters, the young girl (whose name we never discover), her father Paul, and his mentor, Rossi, is the discovery of a mysterious old book among their own, a book with one printed page, that of a dragon with a banner reading “Drakulya” while the rest of the pages are blank. Throughout the novel we find that each character who has become obsessed with the legend of Vlad Tepes possesses a similar book that came to them under curious circumstances. Why and how these volumes keep turning up is one of the novel's mysteries an it's one of Kostova's rather clever conclusions in her own well-thought out realization of the character of Dracula. And there is throughout the book an enormous cast of characters, not merely just historical personages, but various researchers and students and librarians and bureaucrats and all of them are well-drawn, interesting, and fully fleshed.

We know, of course, from the very beginning, before the narrator even informs us, that when her father Paul speaks of a young beauty named Helen who he meets while trying to track down his missing mentor, that this will be the overtly absent mother of the young narrator. And, of course, since she is absent, we know there is a reason for that, and of course, as this is a horror novel, we know she is dead — or worse. Kostova manages to keep even that particularly familiar angle surprising. The author is at least a thorough-going plotter and she paces everything beautifully, setting up revelations with periodic sparks. All three story lines converge some hundred pages out from the novel’s end and from there the story picks up and aims squarely toward its conclusion.

The actual climax of the novel as our heroes close in on Dracula and his daytime resting place seems rather rushed, ending just all abruptly as if Kostova had opted just to skip overt dramatics, which feels a bit of a cheat, though she does make up for this lack of action with a final pages reversal that is as unsettling as it is quiet.
Profile Image for Michelle.
271 reviews15 followers
June 23, 2007
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 do with Dracula, I would pick a much smaller book. However, I just love history and research (duh, I work in a library) so it was right up my alley. Actually, I'm doing a little research on it myself. I did read some of the comments on Amazon.com and wasn't exactly surprised by the comments. It was either a "love it" or "hate it" book. That is why I throw my caution out there. Basically, people who didn't enjoy it were out for a Dracula story and thought the history was "a drag". I'm really into history so I thought it was pretty damn good. I will say I did discover a few historical inaccuracies, but I think I'll let them fly for now. ;) All in all, a good read, especially for a rainy day.
Profile Image for Matt.
936 reviews28.6k followers
May 22, 2020
“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 human being my own, perhaps unbelievable, experience of evil. Why I myself inherited it I don’t know, but I hope to discover that fact, eventually – perhaps in the course of writing to you or perhaps in the course of further events…”
- Elizabeth Kostova, The Historian

I would have enjoyed being at the pitch meeting for Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian.

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, she would have continued. All the action takes place in libraries, and consists of primary source research. Yes, primary source research. As in, looking at really old writings, and then discussing them, a lot.

She would have paused for breath, at this moment.

Also, it is over 600 pages long.

Clearly, that meeting went well.

The Historian was the “it” book of 2005. It came with a huge advance and big expectations and a national promotional tour. From the start it was a bestseller, capitalizing on the success of The Da Vinci Code, with which is shares more than a few similarities.

I purchased The Historian back in 2005, and it has sat on my bookshelf ever since. A lot of time has passed since then. I was young, and single, and childless, and I hadn’t even heard of Game of Thrones. Now I’m not so young, single, or childless, and at times I wish I’d never heard of Game of Thrones. All that time sitting has been rough on The Historian. It now looks as old and worn as one of the ancient documents fondled so lovingly by the characters who populate the novel. I’m not sure what persuaded me to finally read it, other than a gnawing guilt that I paid cover price for it twelve years ago.

While The Historian’s premise is simple, the plot is hopelessly convoluted. Like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, this is an epistolary novel, with large chunks of it coming in the form of “letters” written by various characters.

The story unfolds in three different time periods. The central thread is set in the 1970s and is narrated by the unnamed daughter of a historian-turned-diplomat named Paul. The daughter stumbles upon an old book that, like the VHS tape in The Ring, brings nothing but trouble to the reader. Paul eventually leaves his daughter to embark on some unfinished business; the daughter, needless to say, pursues him.

The second timeline is set in the 1950s. These portions are comprised of letters written by Paul to his daughter. They detail his pursuit – along with a companion named Helen – of both Dracula, and his mentor, Professor Bartholomew Rossi, who has gone missing.

Finally, there is a briefer arc set in the 1930s, made up by letters written by Rossi himself.

The plot contrivances and temporal leaps are not inherently difficult to follow. However, the aesthetics of The Historian lead to confusion. I didn't have any problem with the Rossi letters set in the 1930s. Kostova makes clear that we’re reading a letter by providing a dateline, and setting the letter in italics. The Paul letters, on the other hand, are given only quotation marks. In other words, huge chunks of the novel (the Paul-Helen-1950s thread is the book’s lengthiest) consist of a nested narrative, ala Joseph Conrad. This means quotation marks. A lot of quotation marks. You have to pay close attention to shifts between the unnamed daughter’s story and Paul’s story. Both are told in first person, with little use of proper nouns. The only indicator – as I’ve indicated – are quotation marks. This not only causes uncertainty, but annoyance. I had to keep rereading sentences to separate narration from dialogue. At one point, the Paul letters decide to get a little meta, so that there is a letter within a letter. You know what that means, right? Quotation marks on top of quotation marks. Just quotation marks all the way down!

(It’s a taste thing, but I hate nested narrative. For this reason, I don’t have a great relationship with Joseph Conrad).

One of the interesting things about The Historian is its languorous pacing. Things don’t really snap into gear and start moving until around 200 pages in. Those first couple hundred pages were more like a European travel guide than a historical thriller. Paul and his daughter travel around, seeing cool sights, eating various biscuits, and having long conversations. Despite the lack of inertia, these pages were my favorite. Kostova’s great gift is in description. She is excellent at breathing life into a place, whether that’s a sunny afternoon on the Piazza San Marco in Venice, a glimpse at the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, or a foreboding monastery in Communist-run Bulgaria. My wife and I had our third child not too long ago, so the only traveling we’re doing is the midnight journey into madness. It’s nice, then, to visit exotic locales, if only in the mind. Kostova also has a Tolkien-esque thing for food and drink. The reader is treated to many vicarious meals as the characters hopscotch around the globe. Even when Kostova’s creations are in gravest danger, they are never too near death to have a pleasant cup of tea.

Even as the plot gradually tightens, there is never much action. Sure, there are bursts of movement. Mostly, though, The Historian takes on a predictable pattern. Paul and Helen go to various countries, find an old monastery/church/library, and speak with someone who is either totally helpful or totally against them (one of their nemeses is the “evil librarian”; not kidding, that’s what he’s called). They learn a clue, make their plans, and then head to the next destination. One is tempted to say that The Historian attempts to do for historians what Indiana Jones did for archaeologists. Except that isn’t entirely true. The historians in this novel really act a lot like real historians, except on meth. Paul and Helen visit archives, peruse old-timey documents, and attempt to decipher the past. This is rather typical for a researcher, save for the part about being stalked by the undead.

Neat tourist locales and sumptuous repasts cannot entirely hide the fact that everything else is thin gruel. The characters are props, not people. Nobody has any personality, or depth, or even a quirk. Well – that’s not entirely true. Paul’s quirk is that he keeps “groaning.” Seriously. His only reaction is to groan, or to stifle a groan. Jeez, Paul, grow up! You aren’t six anymore. The putative main character – the daughter/overall narrator – doesn’t even have a name. There isn’t a believable interaction in 642 pages. Paul sets out to find Rossi, his mentor, because…Why? To drive the story. We are told that Paul “loves” Rossi, but the key word is told. The book tells us how to feel, instead of convinces us with rich characterizations. There are, in fact, enormous spans of time in which Paul doesn’t think about Rossi at all, though he remembers to describe every meal he eats in his “letters”.

(A brief rant about epistolary novels. In short: they are such a silly conceit. It just takes me out of the novel’s world. Am I really supposed to believe that a character would write a letter hundreds of pages long? Or that this letter would be structured as a novel, replete with withheld information, reams of dialogue, internal monologues, telling details, and cliffhangers? It’s actually dumb. There’s a reason Paul can’t catch Dracula. He’s too damn busy writing his War and Peace-length letter to his daughter.)

The characters are not helped by the leaden dialogue. Just about everything spoken is exposition. I don’t necessarily expect Aaron Sorkin-like exchanges, but still, it’d be nice to have one evocative conversation.

This is a summertime read, so I grade it on that curve. It’s not bad by any means. Certainly, it wasn’t a chore to finish. But I’m also not going to give it an entirely free pass just because it’s a literary “guilty pleasure” (or whatever the term is to describe a book you’re reading when you should be finishing Dickens).

The Historian isn’t nearly as fun as its ridiculous foundation implicitly promises. This should be over-the-top goofy. There should be grand guignol violence. There should be sex, or at least half a million double-entendres. (Alas, there is no sex at all, which happens when you structure a novel as a father’s letter to his daughter). There should be a realization that this material is fundamentally lowbrow, then go even lower (but with class). Instead, Kostova handles this with portentous seriousness. This doesn’t contain any of the gonzo amusement that a globetrotting trip around Europe on Dracula’s heels should rightfully entail.
Profile Image for Josh.
32 reviews91 followers
August 15, 2008
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 don't understand why this book is on the bestseller's list."

I was aghast! Could the novel I had just read really have been a confounding multi-tiered multiple first-person narrative with lack-luster voices which the author clearly mistook for a clever attempt at recreating a sense of research?

With much hesitation, I read on.

"I find myself thinking of my mother's comment after she read the Da Vinci Code, that it was ok but she knew many other books that were written much better that should be best sellers. I wish Brien had read the book at the same time as I did, I would liked to have talked to him about it."

Blast! I too wondered what xdragonladyx's mother and friend Brien would have thought! If only she could have included a detailed transcription of their own reviews! I may now never know if either of them viewed The Historian as an attempt to capitalize on the fad of Dan Brown-style mysteries and the vampire genre!

Suddenly, a wayward link caught my eye and I clicked.

Silver's review:
"I think I read some review here on GoodReads that called this a book to be conquered. You know, one where after a time you feel so invested that you MUST finish it, you must defeat the book, you will NOT give up, no matter how much you are suffering. Whoever said that about Kostova's The Historian, I salute you."

As I read this thing about someone reading something else somewhere, I was reminded of my own refusal to allow the dry 600+ page tome to defeat me, and that by the time I had completed the flatulent ending, not only had I conquered it, but impaled it still screaming onto a ten-foot stake. It was dead and without the risk of ever returning to life, so that no one would ever have to read it again.

You're welcome.
Profile Image for Kim Friant.
658 reviews110 followers
March 25, 2020
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 absolutely convinced that this story is real. This book became the gift that I gave to everyone for whatever event called for a gift. I gave a copy to my mother in law, and she loved it! We’re talking about the lady who had never read a single book that even mentioned a vampire in her life! It became a sign of rebellion for her that she reveled in. Whenever her uptight friends came over, she made sure to display The Historian to prove how cool she was! And I haven’t even started talking about the story yet!
I try to read this book once every year. And in between readings, I crave the story like no other. Adventure, intrigue, horror, culture, history, everything is in this book. I learn something new every time I read it. This year, I read it while we were on our cruise, I finished it in 3 days. I recommend this to everyone. I don’t care what kind of book you enjoy reading, everyone will love this book.
I wrote a review for The Historian a while ago, and when I went back to read it over again, I realized just how incomplete it was. Nothing has changed since I wrote the review, it’s still my favorite book, I still start longing to read it again before my year is over, it still holds me enthralled while I read it yet again! In fact, this year’s reading meant a little more because I was reading it while on a train traveling through Italy, and I saw some of the places mentioned in the book! I sat in Saint Marco’s Square at Florian’s drinking a rich, thick hot chocolate!
It still amazes me that a work of fiction can sound so much like history, and that I want to believe it all really happened. Kostova has such a wonderful way of telling stories and then intertwining history and fact, making everything feel so realistic and authentic, like you’re living all the action. I’ve added traveling through the Balkans, by train in the autumn and Budapest and Romania to my list of places that I want to see. The characters are so real that you feel like you’ve made new friends when you finish; when I say to Ivan that I want to visit Istanbul, part of the reason is because I expect to meet Turgut and have him invite us to his house for lunch. You root for them on their search for the Count and the anticipation of “what’s gonna happen next??” glides you through page after page.
My historian soul has so much fun year after year, discovering more details and reveling in the search and research. And this book even satisfies my scare addiction! There are times that it’s just creepy enough to give a shudder but not enough to make you put the book down in fright. (Are y’all impressed with how professional I sound in this review? Ha!) And a huge shout out to Elizabeth Kostova for being such a kind and gracious person! I went to her book signing in the spring and she acted genuinely happy to see me. I geeked out all over her, and her response was to buy me a copy of her newest book, The Shadow Land. I’ve met authors who act like they couldn’t care less about their fans; she is not one of them! This book sparked my imagination in such a way that has me coming back to it over and over again, year after year.
Profile Image for Ella.
Author 1 book1 follower
November 25, 2007
Am I destined for some kind of literary hell if I say I wish Dan Brown would rewrite this story with the spark and intensity of the Da Vinci Code?

I think I read some review here on GoodReads that called this a book to be conquered. You know, one where after a time you feel so invested that you MUST finish it, you must defeat the book, you will NOT give up, no matter how much you are suffering. Whoever said that about Kostova's The Historian, I salute you.

I kept telling my friends I was reading "a book about hunting for Dracula through libraries across Europe," and that it was about as exciting as it sounds. I also needed to conquer this book because I wanted to figure out why so many people, good friends of mine included, loved this book. Maybe the long, hard, snoozy slog, occasionally punctuated by some good old fashioned undead suspense every hundred pages or so, would have a really terrific ending that made it all worth it. Clearly Kostova is very influenced by Gothic and Victorian writers like Stoker, so maybe this book would have a grand payoff of an ending to merit the praise and best-sellerness.

Instead, Dracula is a librarian. Sigh. Just as boring as it sounds.

It wasn't completely terrible - many charicterizations are off the charts for their specificity and originality. The thing about the books with the Drakulya print was really intriguing. Except that's not enough. The Drakulya books, which could be counted as a premise, with the intrinsic map that is hammered on as a significant discovery, amount to nothing. The map doesn't even figure into the conclusion! Not even with a character saying, "we were totally wrong about that map."

So while I enjoyed parts of this book, and had many moments when I couldn't put it down (the alternate to finding it incredibly tedious, with no in-between), I think its merits don't outweigh its shortcomings. I wish I'd read an Actual Gothic novel - maybe even by Bram Stoker - instead of wasting way too long on this frustrating book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,538 reviews9,968 followers
September 12, 2021
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 🖤🐶🐺🐾
Profile Image for Arah-Lynda.
337 reviews533 followers
December 18, 2014
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 European churches, monasteries and libraries that are positively brimming with ancient parchment and long, forgotten maps and books. Kostova's historical tracking of the real Vlad Drakulya is flawless and she is able to describe with a chilling, atmospheric eye for detail, the many settings as well as the political climate in which this story unfolds. A full speed ahead rich, historical thriller with enough gothic images, cultural folklore, ancient crypts and creaking stairs that it is sure to raise the hair on the back of your neck and no doubt a compulsive, insatiable interest in this age old tale.

This truly is GREAT fiction!

Profile Image for Rick Riordan.
Author 259 books409k followers
November 8, 2013
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 willing to suspend belief for the whole length of the book. Only afterwards did I feel somewhat cheated. My advice: enjoy it, and don't think about the inconsistencies once you're done.
Profile Image for Debbie W..
763 reviews572 followers
April 27, 2021
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 the plot was taking place (at times) as well as trying to remember and keep some of the characters straight, without losing the general gist of the story.
But, overall, a "good read" and "audio-listen" for fans of Dracula!
Profile Image for Olivier Delaye.
Author 1 book221 followers
January 27, 2023
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 away again and again. Kostova has penned here the perfect armchair traveling book––also known as travelogue––taking us from the States to England, the Netherlands, Greece, France, Turkey, Romania, Hungary, etc., all that using different time frames and POVs and with the ease of a master storyteller who knows exactly when it is time to move the plot forward and when to take it slow and share with us readers bits and pieces of all the research she did to write her book. After all, it’s called The Historian for a reason. And last but not the least, Kostova's prose is absolutely beautiful––at times old-fashioned verging on the purple (but in a good way); at others downright effective and straight to the point. Again, perfect balance equals perfect rhythm. Equals a perfect story. Well, almost perfect...

Anyway, if you're into big fat Gothic books and you fancy yourself an armchair traveler, then don’t hesitate to pick this one up. You won't be disappointed. You're in for a treat!

Author of the SEBASTEN OF ATLANTIS series
The Forgotten Goddess (Sebasten of Atlantis, #1) by Olivier Delaye
Profile Image for Sabrina.
17 reviews6 followers
February 8, 2008
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 the characters, outline the plot.... all of this takes a lot of hard work, and sometimes hours of research. While the research is necessary (especially for a story involving an actual historical figure), it is NOT, I repeat: NOT, a requirement to include every scrap of research as part of the novel itself. Oh, how angry I got when the story finally started getting good, Ms. Kostova would interject a 20-30 page dissertation on the history of the church in the times of Vlad the Impaler! It did nothing to further the plot, and only served to make me feel like I was back in college studying for an exam. Where's the entertainment? Where are the sleepless nights I was promised? When do we get introduced to Dracula?????? Don't worry, he's somewhere in those 686 pages, but if you blink you might miss him!

The research goes so far as to include a number of "fake" source documents. Had these "documents" been merely mentioned and perhaps summarized, I would be all for it. Heck, I AM an archaeologist and historian, remember? But NOOOOO. The author had to create these "documents" and then insert each one WORD-FOR-WORD. One even takes an entire chapter. UGH.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all about well-researched books. In fact, a well-researched and planned book only brings credibility to your story. However, The Historian proved to be nothing more than an over-zealous researcher's attempt to create a story from a subject that she is obviously passionate about. The voluminous research is a real turn-off. I don't want to read a vampire story and have to sit through a hundred "mountainous countryside" descriptions. There are mountians. The Carpathians. I get it. Get on with the story. Unfortunately, she never does.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews44 followers
November 19, 2020
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 Wallachia known as "Vlad the Impaler", and his fictional equivalent Count Dracula together with the story of Paul, a professor; his 16-year-old daughter; and their quest for Vlad's tomb.

The novel ties together three separate narratives using letters and oral accounts: that of Paul's mentor in the 1930's, that of Paul in the 1950's, and that of the narrator herself in the 1970's. The tale is told primarily from the perspective of Paul's daughter, who is never named. ...

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز یازدهم ماه اکتبر سال 2011میلادی

عنوان: مورخ؛ نویسنده: الیزابت کاستووا؛ مترجم: ژاله نوینی؛ تهران کاروان‏‫، 1388؛ در 830ص؛ شابک 9789648497984؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده امریکا - سده 21م‬

دختری جوان، در نیمه‌ های یک شب، در کتابخانه‌ ی پدرش می‌گردد، او کتابی کهن، و بسته‌ ای کاغذ زرد شده، پیدا میکند.؛ این کاغذها، نامه‌ هایی هستند که آغازشان رنگ و بویی منحوس دارد «به وارث عزیز و بداقبالم...»؛ این کشف او را به دنیایی می‌کشاند، که حتی به دورترین رویاهایش هم، خطور نمی‌کرد.؛ هزار تویی از اسرار گذشته‌ ی پدرش، و سرنوشتِ مرمروز مادرش، که علتش نیروی شرّ عظیمی است، که در ژرفای تاریخ نهفته است.؛ در همان لحظات، ناخودآگاه خویش را در آغاز راه جستجویی، برای یافتن پاسخ پرسشهایش، می‌بیند، که آنرا حق خود می‌داند: جستجو برای دانستن حقیقت، در مورد ولاد صلابه‌ گر، حاکم سده های میانی، که فرمانروایی وحشیانه، و سبعانه‌ اش، شالوده‌ ی اسطوره‌ ی «دراکولا» را شکل داد؛

افسانه‌ ی «دراکولا» با دنیای امروز، چه ارتباطی دارد؟

پاسخ این پرسش، از مرزها و زمان امروز، فراتر می‌رود، و قهرمان داستان را، از آرشیو کتابخانه‌ ی «آکسفورد»، به «استانبول» و «بوداپست»، و از آنجا به قلب اروپای شرقی می‌کشاند.؛ او نشانه‌ های ظلمانی، و متون پنهانی را، رمزگشایی می‌کند، و رازهایی را می‌بیند، که در روایات، و سنت‌های صومعه‌ های سده های میانی، هستند، و با دشمنانی سهمگین رودررو می‌شود، تا اینکه گام به گام، به بخش‌های پنهان گذشته‌ اش، نزدیک می‌شود، و در نهایت مجبور است، با خود اهریمن روبرو شود.؛

نخستین رمان «الیزابت کاستووا» کتابی است، سرشار از ماجراهای باور نکردنی؛ قصه‌ ای مسحور کننده، که واقعیت و خیال، گذشته و امروز، آدم‌های حقیقی، و خیالی را، چنان قاطعانه در هم می‌آمیزد، که بی‌گمان داستانی تعلیق‌ آمیز، و فراموش‌نشدنی را، در ذهن خوانشگر ثبت خواهد کرد.؛ کتاب تا مدت‌ها در صدر فهرست پرفروش‌های بسیاری از کشورهای جهان قرار گرفت، به 28زبان ترجمه شد، و به سیاق کتاب «راز داوینچی» لقب «راز دراکولا» را، به آن دادند.؛

نقل نمونه از متن: «یادداشتی برای خواننده: هرگز قصد نداشتم داستانی را که در این کتاب میخوانید، روی کاغذ بیاورم.؛ اما اخیراً حادثه ای باعث شد، به گذشته نگاه کنم، به مغشوشترین، و پردردسرترین بخش زندگی خودم، و افرادی که خیلی دوستشان داشتم. این داستان، چگونگی کندوکاو من است، دختری شانزده ساله، به دنبال پدرم، و گذشته ی او، ماجرای جستجوی پدرم، به دنبال استاد راهنمای محبوبش، و تاریخ زندگی او، و ماجرایی که، ما را به تاریکترین اعماق تاریخ کشاند.؛ و همینطور داستان بقای کسانی است، که از این جستجو، جان سالم به در بردند، و آنها که مردند، و دلیل مرگشان.؛

در واقع، در مقام مورخ، فهمیده ام که الزاماً همه ی کسانی که، در اعماق تاریخ، جستجو میکنند، از آن، جان سالم به در نمیبرند، و فقط رسیدن به گذشته نیست، که ما را درگیر خطر میکند؛ گاهی خود تاریخ، سایه ی پنجه هایش را، بیرحمانه بر سرِ ما میاندازد.؛ در سی و شش سالی که از این ماجراها گذشته، زندگیم نسبتاً آرام بوده است.؛ در این مدت، زندگیم را وقف تحقیق و سفرهای بی حادثه کرده بودم، وقف دانشجویان، و دوستانم، وقف نوشتن کتابهای تاریخی، با ماهیتی اصولاً غیرشخصی، و پرداختن به امور دانشگاهی، که سرانجام سایبانم شده بود.؛ در مرور گذشته، خوش شانس بودم، که به مدارک شخصی مزبور، دسترسی داشتم، زیرا همه ی آن منابع، سالها جزو اموال خودم بودند.؛ جاییکه احساس کردم مناسب است، آنها را کنار هم گذاشتم، تا داستانی به هم پیوسته بسازم، داستانی که گاهی از خاطرات خودم، در آن استفاده کرده ام.؛

گرچه ابتدا، داستانهایی را ارائه کرده ام، که پدرم، شفاهاً برایم نقل کرده بود، به نامه های او نیز، به شدت تکیه کردم، نامه هایی که بعضی از آنها، تاثیر داستانهای شفاهی او را، دو برابر کرد.؛ علاوه بر بازآفرینی کلی منابع، در یادآوری و تحقیقاتم، از هر وسیله ی ممکنی، استفاده کرده ام، گاهی دوباره به جایی رفته ام، تا آن فضا را، که در ذهنم کمرنگ شده بود، دوباره به خاطر بیاورم.؛ یکی از بزرگترین لذتهای این تلاش، مصاحبه هایی ــ در بعضی موارد مکاتبه هایی با محققان بود، که به نوعی به این ماجراها مربوط میشدند.؛ خاطرات آنها، پشتبند بسیار گرانبهایی، به سایر منابعم افزود.؛ همچنین از تحقیقات و مشاوره ی محققان جوانتر نیز، در زمینه های متعدد، در این کتاب بهره جسته ام. منبع نهایی، که تنها هنگام ضرورت، از آن استفاده کرده ام، تخیلاتم است.؛

استفاده از تخیلاتم نیز، با دقت، و با وسواس بوده است، چیزهایی را برای خواننده، از تخیلم آورده ام، که میدانستم بسیار محتمل بوده، و حتی در آنموقع هم این نکته را، در نظر داشتم، که باید گمانه زنی آگاهانه ای باشد، تا بتواند در کنار این اسناد، و متناسب با متن قرار بگیرد.؛ هر جا نتوانسته ام، اتفاقات یا انگیزه ها را توضیح دهم، بدون در نظر گرفتن واقعیت پنهانشان، آنها را، بدون توضیح رها کرده ام.؛ تمام تحقیقات، از دورترین زمان تاریخ، که در این کتاب آمده، کاملاًَ براساس تحقیقات دقیق بوده است، به همان دقتی که برای تحقیقات متون دانشگاهی، به کار میبرم. برداشتهای کلی از ادیان، و کشمکشهای اقلیمی، بین شرق اسلامی و غرب مسیحی ـ یهودی، این کتاب به طرز دردناکی، برای خواننده ی دنیای مدرن آشنا خواهد بود.؛

برایم بسیار سخت است آنطور که شایسته و درخور است، از آنهایی که به من در این پروژه کمک کردند، تشکر کنم، اما دست کم میخواهم، از چند نفر در اینجا نام ببرم.؛ امتنان و سپاسگزاری عمیقم، نثار افرادی است، که در زیر نام میبرم، و بسیاری دیگر: «دکتر رادو جُرجسکو از موزه ی باستان شناسی دانشگاه بخارست»، «دکتر ایوانکا لازاروا از آکادمی علوم بلغارستان»، «دکتر پتر استویچف»، از کتابداران کتابخانه ی موزه ی «رادرفورد» و کتابخانه ی «فیلادلفیا»، «پدر واسیل از صومعه ی زاگرافو در کوه آتوس» و «دکتر تورگوت بورا از دانشگاه استانبول»؛

امید بزرگم برای انتشار و قرار دادن این کتاب در معرض دید عموم این است، که شاید خواننده ای پیدا شود، که این کتاب را آنچنان که واقعاً هست درک کند: فریادی که از دل بر آمده است؛ تاریخ زندگی ام را تقدیم تو میکنم، به خواننده ی ژرف نگر؛ آکسفورد، انگستان؛ روز 15، ماه ژانویه ی سال 2008میلادی

بخش اول: علت قرار گرفتن این اوراق به این ترتیب، در هنگام خواندن آنها روشن میشود.؛ تمام جزئیات غیرضروری حذف شده است تا تاریخی که تقریباً با احتمالات و باورهای دنیای آینده تفاوت دارد، به شکل حقیقتی ساده باقی بماند.؛ در سراسر آن هیچ گفته ای از وقایع گذشته گنجانده نشده که در آن احتمال اشتباه برود، زیرا همه ی گزارشهای انتخاب شده، دقیقاً معاصر است و از مواضع خاص و از دایره ی دانش گزارش دهندگان برآمده است.؛ برام استوکر، دراکولا، 1897میلادی»؛ پایان نقل

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 28/08/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Paula K .
435 reviews417 followers
April 10, 2016
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 quickly wrapped-up ending. Otherwise, I enjoyed the mix of historical fiction and light horror.

4 out of 5 stars.
Profile Image for Dave Edmunds.
284 reviews82 followers
January 12, 2023


"As a historian, I have learned that, in fact, not everyone who reaches back into history can survive it. And it is not only reaching back that endangers us; sometimes history itself reaches inexorably forward for us with its shadowy claw.”

Initial Thoughts

Happy New Year, Happy New book as they say. Step forward Elizabeth Kostova with
The Historian.

I'm on a mission to burn through a big chunk of the books on my bookshelf (a lot of them on that Kindle electronic bookshelf) before I splurge any cash on new ones. An almost impossible task as all you fellow book horders know. But when someone buys you a fantastic gift in a Secret Santa what's a guy to do? Particularly when you're a die hard fan of the most famous of horror icons...the fangtastic count himself... Dracula!

I've not heard a great deal about the author of The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova, other than she was the author of this book. I did know that it is an investigation of the Dracula and vampire mythos based on historical events, and that is cool with me. Anything other than that sparkly Twilight garbage that is so envogue at the minute. It pains me to see what Stephanie Meyer has done to my beloved bloodsucking fiends. If you like that kind of stuff I make no apologies, I'm not a teenage girl after all.

Anyway, on with the review.

The Story

Although the premise is simple, uncovering the true history of Dracula (AKA Vlad "the Impaler" Tepes) and the location of his tomb, the narrative is anything but. Theres multiple timelines going on as the story follows three generations of historians investigating the mythos who have received mysterious books that bear the mark of "Drakulya"

The story is told from the perspective of the young unamed daughter of a diplomat, living in Amsterdam. When her father goes missing and she discovers a collection of letters in her father's study after he mysteriously leaves her during a trip to England. I know we all dream of ditching our kids sometimes but this guy actually goes and does it. What a hero! And daughter soon discovers that uncovering the truth behind Dracula is somewhat of a life or death obsession for father, and in order to find him she is going to have to uncover the truth behind the legend.

This is where we get the bulk of the story that takes place over twenty years prior. The letters detail the travels of her father, Paul, and his love interest and fellow academic Helen Rossi through Turkey and Eastern Europe searching for his adviser, Professor Bartholomew Rossi, who mysteriously disappeared. This then leads to a further story within a story as we get the backstory behind how Professor Rossi became entangled in this most dangerous of webs. Yes, he was someone else digging about in the whereabouts of the body of Vlad Tepes. It is rivetting stuff, but that's as much as you're getting out of me.

The Writing

The Historian is a big ass book with a lot of detail and a pretty complex plot. It is not easy Sunday reading and requires a good bit of investment to get the rewards from it. It's pretty slow, particularly in the first half, but beautifully written. Kostova's skill at creating mood and atmosphere is certainly impressive and her knowledge on the vampire mythos and medieval history surrounding it is outstanding.

It adopts a style that is very reminiscent of the original Dracula by Bram Stoker with the letters and personal accounts, and this was something I really appreciated as it complements it so well. It began to feel like I was someone investigating events that had really taken place, digging through recently discovered documents. I was fully immersed in this fantastically woven narrative and this is the novels real strength in how authentic it is. You can really begin to feel that this is something that just could have happened.

In terms of the horror, there are some very creepy and atmospheric scenes but these are scattered throughout this huge narrative. So don't be expecting a shock to the system every other page. It's more about the history and mystery so bear that in mind if you're after some excessive gore. It is definitely not that type of book

On the negative side, it does get a bit long-winded in places with lavish and exuberant description of places and locations. It is beautifully written but has an extreme level of detail. At times it really makes you feel like you're there but other times it does begin to feel like a travelguide. I know there's a lot of readers that can't handle this slower pace so just wanted to get that out there.

"The very worst impulses of humankind can survive generations, centuries, even millennia. And the best of our individual efforts can die with us at the end of a single lifetime."

The Characters

You know me by now, I'll be brutally honest about my perceived flaws in a novel and the Historian is without doubt a plot driven experience. The characters are there to advance the story and there isn't a huge amount of depth to any of them apart from Helen Rossi, who had a fair bit of intrigue and mystery surrounding her. It's certainly not a Stephen King level of character development and I would have appreciated a little more detail.

But with the way the story is delivered, through letters and first hand accounts, it may just have not been possible to do this in a believable way. The novel certainly succeeds despite the minimal character work based on how engaging that narrative is. So I wouldn't let that put you off.

Final Thoughts

Bloody hell this review is getting long. A bit like something else. I mean the Historian of course. At seven hundred pages it is a beast, but although not initially rewarding if you stick with it you'll find a satisfying experience. That's if you want to be a vampire detective for a couple of weeks searching for clues amongst historic documents in vaulted libraries. It makes it cool to be a history geek in the same way the Da Vinci code did, but with a horror flavour.

The ending however was a touch lackluster. After all that careful planning and setting up the resolution felt rushed. The threat is dealt with way too quickly after all that build up. But as my man Stephen King often says the joy is in the journey and not in the destination.

What this book is, is a fantastic homage to the original Dracula that certainly achieves it's goal of paying tribute to that man Bram Stoker. It puts vampires back where they belong after years of that Twilight nonsense and that is nothing but a good thing.

Anyway, if you've got a spare couple of weeks give it ago. Just be prepared to give it a fair chance.

And thanks for reading...cheers!

"As you know, human history is full of evil deeds, and maybe we ought to think of them with tears, not fascination."
Profile Image for Overhaul.
320 reviews706 followers
January 27, 2022
Este libro tenía toda la pinta de ser una gran promesa, con todos los ingredientes.

Kostova ambienta su libro en parte de los años setenta, una parte de la historia de esos años, intenta escribir con un lenguaje muy florido, pero para mí realmente sonó algo exagerado o excesivo. Si, sé que su personaje es una joven historiadora, pero la narrativa podría ser más elegante, incluso en una historia sobre jóvenes. Todos en la historia hablan con la misma voz. Por no hablar de que en varias ocasiones tuve que volver y releer porque había perdido el hilo de quién hablaba. Mucho cambio, mismo tono.

La estructura multinarrativa es ambiciosa es un guiño a la novela de Stoker, pero Kostova no lo logra. Todos sus personajes, suenan parecidos no los diferenciaba. Hay demasiada exposición y repetición. Kostova sobrescribió. Mucho. Una cantidad excesiva de páginas que sobran en el libro. La perspectiva cambiaba con frecuencia. Fue confuso, agotador, aburrido a ratos, otros que tenía que volver atrás, personajes vacíos muy planos. Una historia que podía haber dado para grandes cosas con buenos resultados. Una idea interesante. Pero está mal llevado, todo demasiado excesivo. Como resultado convirtió su lectura en un coñazo para mi.

Escribe sobre Vlad Tepes, Drácula, intentando crear una nueva versión a la historia, pero en realidad hacer esto ya es muy difícil que sea un éxito. Nada nuevo, nada sorprendente. En los momentos de mayor suspense, por denominarlos de alguna manera ya que a eso es que no puede ni llamársele "intento de" me sorprendía estar leyendo y ver el intento de la autora de crear tensión. La protagonista tiene momentos en los que teme por su vida, lo pasa mal o pasa algo, y va la escena siguiente y está tomando un té tan tranquilamente. ¿Pero qué...? No ha logrado ni ejecutar, ni mezclar bien los momentos. Algunos me parecieron absurdos. Crea tensión, la rompe pronto, o lo deja ahí sin más. Muy mundano..

Los personajes. Inexistentes. De cartón. No son nada realistas. No encontré nada en ellos que llame la atención lo más mínimo, sin diferencias entre unos y otros. Usan el mismo tono, o tienen las mismas reacciones y todo se conecta al azar. No hay "casi nada" creíble en ellos o yo ni les preste la debida atención entre los bostezos y el café debido a las cartas. De las que luego hablaré, porque joder, tiene tela la cosa...

La protagonista en la historia ya para empezar solo se mueve por la superación, por el deseo de resolver el misterio que su padre no pudo, para demostrar que es una mejor historiadora. No hay más, vacío, con momentos que en fin..

Las cosas simplemente suceden. Así por que si. Sin razón. Hay deux ex maquina para regalar y los personajes pues se juntan románticamente hablando, de la manera más sosa y a momentos sin sentido. Por que sí. Sin lógica, simplemente lo hacen sin más. Sin nada que haga entrar en materia. Joder algo de sal, especias. Algo de sabor joder. Romance absurdo que no despierta interés alguno.

Las cartas, ¡Las puñeteras cartas!, detalladas, mucho, vaya que si lo son, tanto como excesivas y aburridas. He leído varios libros que utilizan ese formato de cartas integradas en la trama de manera eficiente y eficaz. Le da un puntazo a la lectura. Pero aquí me pareció tan absurdo. Aquí no solo son largas, sino que también están excesivamente detalladas en cosas que no son necesarias. Lo que crea pues otra capa más de basura, perdón, otra razón por la que al libro y a sus personajes les falta vida, alma o algo que destacar. Increíbles. Y ese intento de romance me importó bien poco.

Deus ex maquina y coincidencias hay para dar y regalar como caramelos. En el libro suceden por doquier algunas coincidencias. Vale, algunas no pondría objeción. Pero como casi todo aquí es y sucede por que si, en otras se excede. Es que no he identificado ni una puñetera razón realista para que la mayoría de los personajes hagan las cosas que hacen.

Por no hablar del desenlace de algun personaje que me dejo con la boca abierta, vamos que ni la factura de la luz.

La historia es sobre vampiros, en este caso el ya usado, en exceso, Drácula. Y cómo un profesor, Rossi, realizó una investigación para descubrir más sobre un libro aparentemente vacío con la imagen de un dragón en su cubierta. Paul otro personaje, recibió el mismo tipo de libro, al igual que otros antes. Años más tarde la hija de Paul encuentra papeles y cartas en la estantería de su padre y consigue que empiece a contar su historia, por fin..

La mayoría de historias de vampiros se basan en los clásicos; seres oscuros, en el amparo de la noche, con colmillos, mucha sangre, con algo de romance calentorro. Seres sin alma que matan sin temor o piedad en callejones oscuros y que toman la forma de varias cosas. En este libro no hay nada de esto, ni nada nuevo o realizado con éxito.

Avanza, lentamente por no hablar de cuando llegan las cartas, de verdad que trauma me ha dejado las malditas cartas. Y avanza la trama, pasado y presente. Recopilando información sobre Tepes. Que a su vez este va jugando con los personajes y sus lectores, lo único que puedo decir que tiene un aceptable.

A veces daba la sensación de un gran trabajo de investigación, intrigante. Pero no fue por el buen camino ni bien llevado. Fueron demasiados lugares, épocas, se desvía todo por tangentes que me sobrepasaron como lector.

Un elenco de personajes en el libro que convergen en el último capítulo, unas putas 400 páginas demasiado tarde, lo hace para sostener y desarrollar el final, que ni de coña, ni de coña se sostiene. Después de tanta vuelta, páginas y de tanta carta estás esperando que el final sea algo maravilloso. Ni eso, ni eso, una decepción.. Terminé, cerré el libro y me quedé; lo que acabo de leer, ¿Como he sido capaz de terminarlo?...

Es una pena, creo que llevado de otra manera, cortando muchas otras y dándole algo de alma y sentido tenía todas las características de una gran historia. Pero nada se ejecutó e integró de manera correcta. Una pérdida de tiempo que no puedo recomendar.
Profile Image for Glenn Sumi.
404 reviews1,588 followers
January 17, 2016
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) is suspenseful and atmospheric, and obviously she's done a lot of research into how historians gather facts.

But if you'll pardon the pun, boy does this book suck.
Profile Image for Paul Weiss.
1,253 reviews237 followers
April 4, 2023
... sorta depends on what you read first!

There are lots of good things to say about Elizabeth Kostova's THE HISTORIAN! It's moving, suspenseful, creepy, deeply atmospheric, haunting and informative at the same time about a particular area of the world and a point in time that few readers will be familiar with.

The basic plot is beautifully summarized in Amazon's editorial reviews and, frankly, I don't think I can improve on it ... so I'll reproduce it here for the reader's convenience:

The story opens in Amsterdam in 1972, when a teenage girl discovers a medieval book and a cache of yellowed letters in her diplomat father's library. The pages of the book are empty except for a woodcut of a dragon. The letters are addressed to: "My dear and unfortunate successor." When the girl confronts her father, he reluctantly confesses an unsettling story: his involvement, twenty years earlier, in a search for his graduate school mentor, who disappeared from his office only moments after confiding to Paul his certainty that Dracula--Vlad the Impaler, an inventively cruel ruler of Wallachia in the mid-15th century--was still alive. The story turns out to concern our narrator directly because Paul's collaborator in the search was a fellow student named Helen Rossi (the unacknowledged daughter of his mentor) and our narrator's long-dead mother, about whom she knows almost nothing. And then her father, leaving just a note, disappears also."

Sounds exciting, doesn't it?

Kostova's superb writing skills will charge the reader with suspense and a delicious frisson of horror from the very first page. But, sadly, those heightened expectations are slowly deflated over the course of a rather lengthy novel . Indeed, as I turned the final page, the conclusion that had been building in my mind for more than a few chapters crystallized into a firm conviction! Bram Stoker did it first and, because of that, Bram Stoker unquestionably did it better! Kostova's a great writer but THE HISTORIAN is an average and frankly derivative novel that did little more than recast the hunt for Dracula's final resting place into a modern format.

Let's put it this way ... if you've not read Bram Stoker's DRACULA, then Kostova's THE HISTORIAN is liable to take your breath away. But, if you're looking for new insights into the Dracula legend or a different take on the story, I would submit that you're sadly set up for disappointment.

Paul Weiss
Profile Image for Mutasim Billah .
112 reviews200 followers
July 23, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Lara.
217 reviews169 followers
March 23, 2008
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 are very proud of him because he saved their country from the Turks. They do not like it at all that he is construed to be Dracula. His father was called Vlad Dracul, which is where that name comes from. Dracul is the Romanian word for the dragon.)

The Historian goes with the belief that he is definitely a Vampire, and that he is still alive. Or "undead" as it were. There are three different stories weaved together into one about three people who are trying to find Dracula: The narrator, who is telling her story from her viewpoint as a 16 year old girl in 1972, her father, whose story is told through letters to his daughter as well as conversations about his experiences in 1954 and finally, Professor Rossi, who was the father's advisor in college. Rossi's story is also told through letters and conversations and occurred in 1931. Every once in a while it is difficult to figure out which story you are reading as they jump around so much, but after the first few chapters you start to get a feel for it and it seemed really ingenious the way she chose to combine the three stories.

I loved reading so much about the history of Eastern Europe during the rule of the Ottomans as well as during Communist times. I don't know how much of it is actually based in fact, as that line blurs when we talk of vampirism and Vlad Ţepeş, but I know much of it was. The author is obviously an excellent researcher and really knew her stuff.

I was slightly annoyed by the fact that the Romanian language wasn't always written accurately (I guess she didn't research that quite enough). It was almost always missing diacritical markings, except for in place names. Her Hungarian seemed to have all the diacritical markings in it, and I am unsure of the Bulgarian, since she used our alphabet rather than cyrillic. So I was just bugged by that, although I know most people wouldn't even care! :)

It also bothered me that we never know the name of the narrator. Her father never refers to her by name, and neither does anyone else it seems. We know she was named for "Helen's mother" but "Helen's mother" is another character whose name we never actually hear. I don't know why this bothered me so much, but it did. I guess we get to make up her name, and since we know it was Romanian, I choose Anca. :)

The epilogue was a little unsettling, and the final resolution of the story seems comical when I think about it now, but it was completely fitting and totally acceptable in the framework of the story. I did have to chuckle every time I read the phrase "evil librarian."

It is not a quick read...took me nearly a week to get through, but definitely enjoyable. Kostova has a lovely, almost Victorian style of writing. Very descriptive. The book also scared me out of my wits at times. Really good though. Loved it, despite all my above annoyances.
Profile Image for Shovelmonkey1.
353 reviews887 followers
April 9, 2012
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 condition of my soul because that would be long gone, along with worries about iron supplements and dental hygiene. Maybe not a bad thing in the long run.

So Vlad Tepes, Prince, Impaler and legendary ruler of Wallachia, not to mention possible embodiment of Bram Stoker's villainous Count Dracula is a living breathing actual person who has taken to sending out teasers in the form of esoteric historic folios in order to lure unto himself a librarian, historian or archivist for nefarious purposes related to archiving. As every goodreader knows, book collecting is an addiction and so imagine having over 500 years in which to collect and hoard piles of papery goodness? Vlad is not averse to snacking on his bibliophilic staff either and this got me to thinking... what would be the tastiest of all professions?

The conclusions I have drawn are based largely upon my perceptions of what each job actually entails. If you perform any of these professions then feel free to chip in and argue the pros/cons of your own tastiness.

1. Chef: Generally a little plump, well-fed, uses only the finest ingredients and are subtly flavoured after years of rubbing things in butter, slurping down sherry, red wine, bouille bases with herbs and shallots. Lets face it these people are basically self basting here. The only potential downside might be the long term exposure to garlic.

2. Athlete: Perfectly honed in their well muscled meaty suits and filled with more vitamins and minerals than you can shake a stick at plus with the added bonus of always having their blood pumping extra loudly due to all the exertion so they're easy to find.

3. Lingerie model: scantily clad and used to drapping themselves over furniture in a way which might be appealing to vampires of a more traditional frame of mind. Exposed neck area for easy biting.

4. Dentists: Probably taste minty fresh and who is to say that a vampire might not need a scrape and polish now and again?

However, I quite clearly digress. The Historian moves like a river, the edges (first and last section) swirl and spin and blood sucker you into a promising plot, however the centre has a sluggish meander where the waters get a little muddied. The story follows three generations of the same family and little by little their own history is shown to be interwoven with that of Vlad the Impalers. The narrative travels between Amsterdam, America, Oxford, France, Istanbul, Bulgaria and Romania so there are pleny of colourful scenery changes as the plot unfolds. I did enjoy this, all digression and prevarication aside and Elizabeth Kostova can write and is clearly an excellent historian in her own right, which is what pushed me on to the end without feeling the need to drive a stake through my own heart.
Profile Image for Stacey.
266 reviews457 followers
May 18, 2008
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 off sounding pretentious, overwrought and juvenile. Yes, her character is supposed to be young, but the writing can be elegant, even with a young and immature subject. In addition, everyone in the whole story speaks with the same voice. Many times I had to backtrack because I'd lost the thread of who was speaking.

Then, she writes about Vlad, Dracula, attempting to add new lore to the story, but never really gives us any surprises. At the most "suspenseful" moments, I often found myself feeling irritatingly amused at the author's attempt to create tension. One moment she is in fear of her life, and the next, she's what? sipping tea? And I don't recall that Kostova mixes her scenes well. She creates tension, but then breaks it too soon, or holds back from stretching it out, or drops into the completely mundane, instead of just pulling back a little. Even her main character doesn't seem to be driven by anything except one-upmanship, the desire to solve this mystery that her father couldn't, not for anyone's sake except proving that she's a better historian?

Lastly, the stories of Dracula are supposed to be horrific, but also reluctantly romantic. She rarely rises above twittering, and it was never at any junction a book that I devoured. Mostly I just got through it, only to discover at the very end, when everything is supposedly wrapped up, with no foreshadowing, she tacks on a "oh by the way, he could still be alive! muahahaha!"

Okay then.

To comment specifically, I'd probably have to reread, or at least review, the book, which I'm not willing to do when there are still so many thousands of brilliantly written stories out there that I haven't discovered yet.
Profile Image for Geza Tatrallyay.
Author 17 books284 followers
November 21, 2018
Well written, interesting perspective on Vlad the Impaler. Good research into the history of that part of the world.
Profile Image for ``Laurie.
197 reviews
July 7, 2017
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
Profile Image for Eileen.
89 reviews4 followers
May 28, 2008
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" charachter- Paul. Some are being told by the "daughter" charachter.

So, the story is about vampires/Drakula and how a professor- Rossi - researched to discover more about an empty book with a dragon picture in it. Paul received the same kind of book, as do others woven into the story. The daughter finds papers and letters on her fathers bookshelf, and gets him to start telling his story.

There is a cast of charachters in the book that finally converge in the last chapter or two - about 300 pages too late if you ask me, to help the final story unfold. But at this point, you are expecting something grand and wonderful. Its just a big disappointment. I finished it thinking...THATS IT??. That is what I wasted 3 nights of reading on.

Remember the classic christmas movie - A Christmas Story - when Ralphie gets the Secret Decoder Ring in the mail and decodes the secret message "Drink your Ovaltine" and says, "Thats it?!? A CRUMMY COMMERCIAL"

That is how you will feel when you finish this Crap of a Novel. You will feel cheated.

Its a shame too - it has all the makings of a great story I think, but it just wasn't executed properly. I don't mind LONG books either - some of my favorites run in the 800 page realm. But this one just plodded and plodded along. YOu kept getting to the next chapter thinking...surely it will pick up now.


Profile Image for Simona B.
898 reviews3,009 followers
January 7, 2018
“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 the novel, and therefore, even though plot-wise it's nothing short of embarrassing, I can turn a blind eye on it. I can do that especially because the rest of the book, that is to say more than 620 out of a total of 700, is not only entertaining, but also both insanely instructive and insanely intriguing, and I loved it madly. More on the reasons later.

Full RTC
Profile Image for Alex Telander.
Author 16 books157 followers
September 17, 2010
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 and researching and following the trail; its an academic adventure novel.

Our narrator is a young girl in her teens traveling through Europe, following the letters of her father from his travels in the 1950s, who is following the letters of his mentor from his travels in the 1930s. While most of the book is in letter form – with speech quotes framing just about every sentence – Kostova forgoes the accuracy of the letter form and, like Bram Stoker in Dracula, makes the letters part of the novel with action, emotion, and character reaction – attributes that would not usually be in a letter, but for the sake of this book, they need to be.

The premise is that Dracula, or Drakulya, better known as Vlad the Impaler, who was killed in battle in the fifteenth century is still alive and well in the twentieth century. The three story lines of the narrator, her father, and his professor, all have an event in common: they each received a copy of an ancient book with an elaborate woodcut of a dragon, the symbol and emblem of Drakulya. Each of them travel throughout the many cities of Europe tracking Dracula and tracking each other through their letters; clearly Kostova herself traveled to each of this cities, for the book is partially a travel log of Europe, written in exquisite detail.

At the end of the book, when each person finally confronts Dracula in their time, it is revealed that Dracula himself is a lover of history and books and has been building up his library for hundreds of years with the hope of having every old book and important piece of writing in history at his finger tips, all he needs is a librarian to maintain it, of course they need to be turned undead so that their duties as librarian will last as long as Dracula is alive. The professor is turned and when this is discovered, is staked, while the narrator’s father leaves due to the loss of his wife – the narrator’s mother – thinking her dead. It is at the very end when the narrator finds Dracula, she also finds her father on the trail, and then her mother who all play a part in killing Dracula once and for all; the family united at last.

While this review may make The Historian seem trivial and “tied in a big red bow,” the author clearly worked very hard and long in her research of books and places; the result is a lengthy tome that takes you on a long journey through a well-described Europe, through old documents and books, to an adversary we have read and written about for hundreds of years.

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