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Guest Review | The Historian | Elizabeth Kostova

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'The Historian' is a bit of an epic ride, and it took me three weeks to finish! My copy was 704 pages, so it's definitely not a quick read.

The narrator of the novel tells us that she is going to relate her father's story to us. In his library she finds some letters beginning "My dear and unfortunate successor...". When she asks her father about them, so begins the sprawling tale of his search across Eastern Europe for a legend. It is no great spoiler to tell you that the story is about Dracula. The narrator's father, Paul, is introduced to the legend of Dracula/Drakulya when he finds an antique leather-bound book on his desk at the university. The pages are all blank apart from a distinctive design in the centre. Paul is confused by the discovery until his talks to his advisor, Bartholomew Rossi, who confides that he, too, found one of the same books among his personal items, and embarked upon a journey of a lifetime. We end up following the journeys through the East, the reign of the Ottomans and Turks, of Rossi, Paul, and the narrator's mother.

The story is, as another reviewer remarked, "a slow burner". It took me several hundred pages to become really interested in the novel, and to feel like I wanted to find out what was going on. The majority of the book is made up of other people's accounts of their travels and research into Dracula. However, I did not find it difficult to keep up with whoever was telling their part of the story. I knew that the main story was told by Paul, and that any other parts were told by other characters, until the narrator herself rounds off everything she learned from the various sources.

There is a good sensation of suspense and apprehension throughout the final half of the book, I'd say. The characters in the story become some involved in their search and completely intertwined with Dracula's journey that the reader cannot help but become absorbed with them. Their search is compelling. Each new discovery, each seemingly-unrelated piece of information comes together slowly slowly, until there is a physical chase for the vampire himself.

I was not completely in love with this novel. I think its length didn't help the situation. I often start to think "hurry up, this is taking too long!" when a book is lengthy. I long to get to the end just to finish it, not only out of a desire to know where the story goes. Though I must say that once I got caught up in the adventure, I longed for my next chance to read it. I know that this is a paranormal, fantasy story, but I really believed that all of the discoveries and occurrences were things that could have happened. The characters are all convincing historians with a thirst for knowledge, and the sense of danger is ever present. I really liked the author's obvious familiarity with Eastern Europe, the Balkans. Judging from her surname, I'm guessing she is Eastern European in origin, and she presents all of the places featured in the novel with an attentive eye for detail and culture.

This review was written by guest blogger Jemma
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1 comment

  1. Nadia Santos4:08 am

    Definitely one of the best books I
    have read in a long while. Yes, it requires more careful reading than a
    typical James Patterson novel or other mindless thriller, but the
    payoff is also so much larger. I think the people who didn't enjoy it
    were those who were searching for something this isn't , not what it is -
    an extremely literate, suspenseful and enjoyable thriller.

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