The Historian – by Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian

 

 

by Elizabeth Kostova

Published 2005 by Little Brown and Company

Thoughts on “The Historian”

 

“In this spot he is housed in evil.  Reader, unbury him with a word”

 

Bela_Lugosi_as_Dracula,_anonymous_photograph_from_1931,_Universal_Studios

Some books, enter my reading radar by chance, others I seek out based on subject matter. This particular novel, came as a recommendation from a colleague at work. When I discovered that it was a different take on the legend of Vlad the Impaler or Vlad Tepes, I was somewhat anxious to begin. Having read Dracula some years ago, and I might add, the 1931 version of Dracula starring Bela Lugosi stands as my favorite classic horror film, this would fit well with my interest in the story. So, knowing nothing of Kostova,  I dived in to read.

 

This narrative told through letters and oral accounts spans a thirty to forty year period. Told by the 16 year old daughter of a college professor (we are not privy to the girls name), it weaves together the folklore and legends surrounding Vlad Tepes and his fictional counterpart ‘Count Dracula’. The story gets off the ground when Paul discovers an unusual antique book containing only one image of a dragon, has dropped itself into his lap. Recognizing the name Drakulya, Paul heads off to speak with his college advisor Bartholomew Rossi, who gives Paul an even bigger shock. Thirty years prior he received a book, also containing only the picture of the dragon.

The mystery kicks into a higher gear a few days later when Rossi goes missing, and leaves behind only a puddle of blood on his ink blotter as a clue. Paul begins to piece together what’s happened, and upon encountering Rossi’s estranged daughter Helen. the pair head off across Europe to solve both the disappearance of Rossi and to solve one of the longest standing legends in Eastern Europe…the legend of Dracula. Paul and Helen’s journey takes them to several history rich places, including Istanbul, Bulgaria and Budapest, each discovery bringing them a step closer to finding the ultimate answer. Allies turn up as do enemies as Paul and Helen race time to find Professor Rossi before it’s all too late.

monastery_of_snagov_vlad_the_impaler_grave_12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monastery at Snagov – Vlad the Impaler’s Gravesite

 

 

Not a fan of this particular novel. While I love the concept and the overall story. I found the length to be long in the tooth for a vampire novel, and it seemed by the end of the book, that the main narrator (who remains nameless – don’t get me started on the debate of not giving your characters names), added nothing of substantial value to the novel. She reminded me of the children in ‘The Bridges Of Madison County’, where they appear relevant to the story, until about four days after watching it when you begin to question in your mind what purpose they served. My point being, the nameless narrator could have  been eliminated with, in my humblest of opinions, very little lost from the story.  Not to quote Stephen King, but I am…

“kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings”

Rating

This one is difficult to rate. I think it offers a lot of information and draws the reader into an alluring adventure. For a first novel, I think its bloody brilliant. That said, I have to admit, it did not measure up for me as a vampire novel. I would have enjoyed more hair standing on the back of the neck pages, and more time with the actual vampire. So, while I think it is a beautiful follow up piece to Stoker’s earlier work from 1897 (let me be clear – this is not a sequel), for me it missed the boat on being worth a second read. It’s just not on the same footing with Stoker’s work.

The Author

Elizabeth Kostova

Elizabeth Kostova graduated from Yale and holds an MFA from the University of Michigan, where she won the Hopewood Award for the Novel in Progress.

To find out more check out http://www.theswanthieves.com/

 

 

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7 thoughts on “The Historian – by Elizabeth Kostova

  1. Thanks for taking the time to read it Scott. Even though I enjoyed the book (or I wouldn’t have recommended it to you) you did give me some points to ponder.

  2. I definitely agree that, as a vampire novel, it was somewhat lacking. But as a family epic I thought it was pretty engaging — and I loved the little factoids that were scattered throughout.

  3. Pingback: Book 18: The Historian | The Leather Library

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