Title: The Historian
Author: Elizabeth Kostova
ISBN:
0751537284
Publisher:
Time Warner
First Published:
2005
No. of pages:
704

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis:
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. In those few quiet moments, she unwittingly assumes a quest she will discover is her birthright – a hunt for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler whose barbarous reign formed the basis of the Dracula myth. Deciphering obscure signs and hidden texts, reading codes worked into the fabric of medieval monastic traditions, and evading terrifying adversaries, one woman comes ever closer to the secret of her own past and a confrontation with the very definition of evil. Elizabeth Kostova’s debut novel is an adventure of monumental proportions – a captivating tale that blends fact and fantasy, history and the present with an assurance that is almost unbearably suspenseful – and utterly unforgettable.

Deciphering obscure signs and hidden texts, reading codes worked into the fabric of medieval monastic traditions, and evading terrifying adversaries, one woman comes ever closer to the secret of her own past and a confrontation with the very definition of evil. This novel blends fact and fantasy, history and the present.

Review:
From the outset, a large amount of historical information is laid out for the reader, so that, at times, this novel reads as rather text-bookish, but none of the information is extraneous and every fact presented winds itself into the storyline and makes it all the more interesting. Having read Dracula years ago at school, it was interesting to see how much I remembered and how much of the history was new to me, as well as delving into another culture in a time just slightly before our own.

I found that I occasionally lost track of which character was narrating the tale if I only had short periods of time for reading, but on the whole it was easy to decipher who was narrating after a short while and the threads picked up again. The story was slow-moving at times, with quite a lengthy lull in the middle, after which the pace quickened once more until it felt slightly rushed at the end, but, nevertheless, the closing chapters felt quite satisfying and the ending seemed quite natural.

Even if this novel is sometimes a little dry, it’s worth sticking with it, as none of the historical information is actually superfluous and, in fact, it actually adds to the story at later stages. The format of letters works rather well and is reminiscent of the diary-entry style of Bram Stoker’s classic, Dracula, which is a nice touch. It might be a hefty tome, but don’t let that put you off – it’s definitely worth a look and is a very enjoyable read.

Advertisements