The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
When I first picked up this book in the cozy aisle at Barnes and Noble, I knew that my 2 hour search for the next great read was over. I read the book overview and looked at my partner with gleaming eyes. He was glad the search was over.
I imagined the book to be an adventure through history with a narrating historian. Yet, when I got home and read the front, which I had neglected to the store, my heart fell as I read "vampire". I instantly thought of the Twilight books and how the countless of TV vampires are portrayed. And I wanted to return it, but I decided to give it a shot. It is a bestseller after all.
It took me past halfway to stop forcing myself to keep reading the book. I know that sounds disheartening to many but stay with me here. The writing is sophisticated and flowing. The character descriptions were intelligent and said no more than needed to be said about a person, leaving plenty for the reader to discover through the plot of the book.
The description of the landscape is beautiful at times and I really appreciate the image Kostova gives us, since most of us havn't gone to those places in the book. Here is an example of what I am talking about:
"At one point where the ground levelled, we rode into a nave of silvery trunks, a beech grove of the sort one still stumbles upon -- but rarely -- in the most wooded of English manor grounds. You've seen them, no doubt. This one would have been a marriage hall for Robin Hood himself, with huge elephant trunks supporting a roof of millions of tiny green leaves, and last year's foliage lying in a fawn-colored carpet under our heels."
-The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (page 409)
To not give anything away I will not tell you the place she is talking about but I will give you a hint: It is not in England or the USA. Although, at other times Kostova describes a general landscape and leaves the rest to imagination. The book is long already with a lot of characters and quick plot development so the descriptions are balanced just right with action I would say. The first half of the book moved a lot slower than the second half. Most of the discovery of answers to the mystery happened at half and after. About 400 pages in, the story has really picked up sped up and many holes in the story are starting to be filled. So what it seems that Kostova has done is set up a huge puzzle spanning 3 generations in the first half of the book, which can captivate many but stretched me thin a bit, and then fill in vital pieces to the puzzle in the second half. It is captivating for sure.
Please believe me that this vampire story is unlike any you have read before. It is a sophisticated, well paced story that is based on real folklore. Kostova has really done her research about the folklore of Dracula and where that it has come from. She takes us to the birthplace and tomb of Vlad the Impaler of the 15th century, who was known as Dracula. She tells us a captivating lesser known history through the character's search for answers in the disappearance of another beloved character. The search through history and many great cities of Europe is also included in the story. Where there is romance, it explodes, but for the longest time it was barely elaborated upon to a point where I was questioning the character's emotions and the emotion that I should know to feel between those characters. It's almost like Kostova was leaving that as a mystery for the reader to figure out in the second half of the book along with everything else. Although, most of the situations where obvious in emotion and needed not be explained for the reader.
I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. I thought it was a good balance of emotion, plot development, and physical travel. I thought it had a perfect amount of characters and well paced discovery. I would recommend this book to those who like this kind.
I hope that I have written a spoiler-free, well-rounded, short and to the point review, and I hope that you have enjoyed reading it! Thanks for reading.
Till next time,