The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Date of Publication: 2005, Little. Brown and Company

Number of Pages: 642

Synopsis (from inside cover): Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters. The letters are all addressed to “My dear and unfortunate successor,” and they plunge 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 inconceivable evil hidden in the depths of history.

The letters provide links to one of the darkest powers that humanity has ever known – and to a centuries-long quest to find the source of that darkness and wipe it out. It is a quest for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler whose barbarous reign formed the basis of the legend of Dracula. Generations of historians have risked their reputations, their sanity, and even their lives to learn the truth about Vlad the Impaler and Dracula. Now one young woman must decide whether to take up this quest herself – to follow her father in a hunt that nearly brought him to ruin years ago, when he was a vibrant young scholar and her mother was still alive.

Review: As a university student about to return to classes in a few weeks, I found an enthusiasm for this very scholarly novel, which I ultimately needed. The main problem with this book is that is stays true to the nature of historical research: searching through libraries with painstaking care, reading ancient texts, puzzling through inconsistencies. This is detective work at its finest, but even my study-starved mind became a little impatient at all the studying required to solve the mystery of Dracula.

Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the way Kostova weaves her way through time, from stories from ancient Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria, to the fevered investigations spanning two generations in the 20th century. Secrets long buried in history are constantly being revealed and there’s a twist in almost every chapter. Kostova is also adept at bringing the environment in which these incredible events take place beautifully to life. I almost felt as if I were traveling through the streets of Istanbul and the countryside of Romania. Kostova also brings this intensity to her storytelling. It was at one moment incredibly frightening, and at another moment so moving it brought tears to my eyes.

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in history, including the history of Dracula. The Historian is a wonderful and cerebral twist on the traditional Dracula legend.

Rating: 9/10

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