The Historian

A Novel

Kostova, Elizabeth

Book - 2005
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
The Historian
To you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history....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. What does the legend of Vlad the Impaler have to do with the modern world? Is it possible that the Dracula of myth truly existed-and that he has lived on, century after century, pursuing his own unknowable ends? The answers to these questions cross time and borders, as first the father and then the daughter search for clues, from dusty Ivy League libraries to Istanbul, Budapest, and the depths of Eastern Europe. In city after city, in monasteries and archives, in letters and in secret conversations, the horrible truth emerges about Vlad the Impaler's dark reign-and about a time-defying pact that may have kept his awful work alive down through the ages.Parsing obscure signs and hidden texts, reading codes worked into the fabric of medieval monastic traditions-and evading the unknown adversaries who will go to any lengths to conceal and protect Vlad's ancient powers-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 relentless tale that blends fact and fantasy, history and the present, with an assurance that is almost unbearably suspenseful-and utterly unforgettable.

Publisher: New York : Little, Brown and Co., c2005
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780316011778
Branch Call Number: FICTION KOSTOVA
Characteristics: x, 642 p. :,map ;,25 cm


From Library Staff

A secret book draws a young woman into a world of intrigue and mystery. The book puts her on the trail of her missing father, and the truth behind the historical figure, Vlad Dracule.

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... Read More »

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Dec 24, 2014
  • LVM1000 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

A wonderful historical fiction, well-written and exciting. Yes, it's long and deeply detailed, but the overall experience is so worth it. Excellent scholarship, not just titillation for teenagers. However, even they might like it; I found the mercifully-brief romance thing tacked on at the end to be the least satisfying part, but I don't need (or even want) that in a book. This one really delves into Prince Vlad and the historical record for those of us whose interest long predated the Twilighters without being too scholarly and dry for its and Anne Rice's fans.

Nov 18, 2014
  • wilqser rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Interesting take on the vampire story with lots of twists and turns- more of a mystery than a thriller. The story is a bit long -although well written -and the characters voices and taking us on various journeys can be confusing to some, but I thought it was cleverly written and full of excitement in their various locales. Clearly, the author knows her history of architecture and art. A good take on the vampire lore from the historian perspective. Would read her again if only for knowledge of aesthetics and clear writing. Good.

May 24, 2014
  • brianmoegling rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

SO good that it created an interest for me in an entirely new genre of books. Completely engaging, easily one of the top 10 best books I've ever read.

Sep 07, 2013

I lost interest and never finished this book, and found it incredibly difficult to believe the author actually received a $1 million advance for such a thing? Must have been related to someone at the publishing company, most likely?

Sep 07, 2013
  • zogkarndon rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

Interesting concept, but padded *far* beyond my interest level.

Jun 24, 2013
  • JCLDianeH rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

While going back and forth between time periods was occasionally confusing, I like the way it brought the different narratives together. You could sense the different lives and events converging to an endpoint that wasn’t 100% predictable. Also, as a lover of books, I found it fascinating how a beloved object, a book, could become a sinister and terrifying presage of more horrors to come.

May 13, 2013
  • DanglingConversations rated this: 1 stars out of 5.

I thought this book would never end. There was so much filler with drab detail and marginal character development. The author must have been using all those European settings to pad her travel budget to claim as expenses for writing the book. They were gratuitious and did not move the plot along. Braiding together 3 different time lines failed as a literaty technique.

Mar 15, 2013
  • JudithPlante rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

I'm a great fan of adventures with mystery and history and a touch of supernatural. A lot of twists and I didn't want to put it down. I thoroughly enjoyed this author and plan on reading more of her books.

Mar 09, 2013
  • plourdelou rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Excellent. Descriptif.

Dec 31, 2012
  • alimperks78 rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

Fun look at the Dracula story and takes the reader on quite an adventure to discover the truth. My only critique is the length, the book could've used a bit more trimming 150-200 pages or so. It did drag. I liked all of the correspondence in it that aided in the flow of the book and the visits to the exotic locales. The author herself, seems to be quite the historian.

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Nov 28, 2012
  • LibrAimée rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

LibrAimée thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 13 and 99

Feb 04, 2010
  • laurenemmeline rated this: 1 stars out of 5.

laurenemmeline thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over


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Mar 22, 2012
  • AnneDromeda rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

I should own up to something right away: I am definitely one of those geeks fleshing out the market for vampire novels. I loved them when they were first in style, and Anne Rice was the queen of the genre. I kept the fire alive when pop culture became insufferably perky. Then, when *Twilight* brought vamps skulking back out, I could have chaired the Twi-hard fan club. In other words, when it comes to vamp lit, I suck. Happily. If you do, too, read on.<br />

Elizabeth Kostova's *The Historian* opens with a teen girl perusing her father's library. She finds a troubling bundle of letters tucked into a book, all addressed “To my dear and unfortunate successor.” It's immediately plain her father (Paul) has been drawn into something unsavoury. After confronting her father, she's enveloped in a world of danger, intrigue, and glamorous academia.<br />

Parallel plot lines pull the reader through a whirlwind tour of post-WWII Turkey, England, Romania and Hungary. Kostova has done her research on these many locales, and her descriptions of place and culture ring true (her depictions of communist Romania and Hungary are particularly entrancing). One plot line follows Paul's initial discovery of Vlad Dracula's continued existence, and the mad search for his mentor after Rossi's abduction by Dracula. Another follows the heroine's own desperate attempt to save her father's life, 20 years later.<br />

In essence, *The Historian* is the Indiana Jones of vampire literature. Exquisitely researched and relentlessly paced, it features lots of travel, classic romance, gory history, and battles in crypts. Kostova has gone out of her way to put the monster back into vampires – no synthetic blood or sparkling in the sunshine, here. Her Dracula owes much more to Eastern European vampire folklore than to glam goth culture. And, if we use monsters in literature to exorcise what makes us most uneasy as a culture, it's worth noting that almost every vampire encountered is a librarian. If Stoker's vampires were working out cultural sex taboos, Kostova's express a deep unease with the use and transmission of information. This debut novel is highly recommended to fans of vamp lit, and to any historical fiction readers open to supernatural elements.

Dec 16, 2010
  • notTom rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

An old, leather-bound book, blank except for an illustration of a dragon over the word "Drakulya" in the center is the catalyst of this suspenseful novel. When a woman finds letters in her father's library addressed to "My dear and unfortunate successor", her father relates his story of mysteriously finding an old book in a university library and the subsequent disappearance of his mentor, launching him into an epic quest to discover not only the whereabouts of his mentor, but of the grave of Vlad Dracula himself. When her father then disappears, the woman decides to follow his trail that leads only to true evil. In a galloping novel that criss-crosses Europe, vampires cease to become legend and folktale, but become dark and cunning every-day creatures, always lurking just around the corner.


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