Book Review, Dracula, Elizabeth Kostova, Gothic, History, SephiPiderWitch, Supernatural, The Historian, Vlad the Impaler

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian by Elizabeth KostovaI’m not really sure how I wound up reading two “vampire” stories in a row.  I guess my only defense is that I had no idea that “The Historian” was a vampire novel.  That said, I am glad that I did read this one as it is an excellent novel. The Historian is part mystery, part historical, part speculative fiction and part vampire story.  I listened to this book as an audio book and it was read by a number of people.  The story is told mostly through the young historian’s eyes or the eyes of her father.  It begins with her finding a stack of letters and an old book, blank save for a dragon printed on the pages in the center of the book, in her father’s study.  She questions her father on the book and the mystery begins to unfold from that point. The tale is told predominately from the daughter’s voice and large chunks in her father’s voice, though there are other perspectives and narrations throughout it.  As the story progresses, more characters enter the mystery and it is discovered that there are a number of other “like” books that have wound up in the hands of some of the people they meet in their travels to learn more. The story is rich and layered taking the main players around the world and visiting libraries and sites referenced in documents surround Vlad and his travels, often going into countries mostly closed off from the rest of the world. I loved the history in the book.  Learning so much more about the history of Vlad, his upbringing, origins, how his circumstances helped shape him into the cruel ruler that earned him his name in the history books.  His capacity for cruelty was unmatched and none were safe from it, not even his closest advisers.  Yet, he was followed with the devotion of a prophet. This is a book where the supernatural meets history and the line separating them is blurred at most and at times indistinguishable.  Elizabeth’s command of the language is equal to her command of history and she has woven a fascinating portrayal of possibilities of one of the most curious and enduring figures in history and in fiction. I read many of the other reviews on the book and noticed that many people had an issue with the lengthy history sections in the book.  I must say that this was one of the things I found the most intriguing with it.  For, it gave a history of a person and time that we only know a cursory surface amount on.  Additionally, the young woman is never named, though many of the people she interacts with are.  I do not share entirely with the feeling that this was a bad thing.  It was an interesting way to write and there is some merit to the theory that you bond more with a “named” character, but I believe her intent was to make the quest for the story of Vlad the main focus.  If so, then she succeeded superbly! SephiPiderWitch May, 2015
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