Customer Reviews for

The Historian

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

22 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

Better than Stoker's original?

Although vampire stories have always intrigued people, I must confess that I'm surprised (although happily so) that this book has gotten so many good rewiews-- this in a time when fluff vampire stories like those written by Stephanie Meyer and Charlaine Harris are all t...
Although vampire stories have always intrigued people, I must confess that I'm surprised (although happily so) that this book has gotten so many good rewiews-- this in a time when fluff vampire stories like those written by Stephanie Meyer and Charlaine Harris are all the rage. It's nice to know that there are others out there who can appreciate a historically-grounded, thoroughly researched book and still be entertained by it.

Although The Historian is one of my favorites, I do have a difficult time recommending it because I understand that not all people (in fact, MOST people) can't sit through more than 200 pages of anything, especially not a book that gives lengthy details of obscure eastern European history (which I found particularly interesting). If you're looking for blood, horror, and sex, this isn't the book for you!

Some may consider this blasphemy, but I found Kostova's work much more engaging and fascinating than Stoker's original Dracula. I hope we don't have to wait another ten years to see another novel with her name on it!

posted by J_R_M on October 14, 2008

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Most Helpful Critical Review

14 out of 28 people found this review helpful.

Please tell me why....

The paperback is 3.00 cheaper than the eBook version?! I absolutely love my Nook, but refuse to buy any eBook that costs more than I can pay for the actual hold-in-my hand printed book!

posted by bradsbabe on April 12, 2010

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  • Posted October 14, 2008

    Better than Stoker's original?

    Although vampire stories have always intrigued people, I must confess that I'm surprised (although happily so) that this book has gotten so many good rewiews-- this in a time when fluff vampire stories like those written by Stephanie Meyer and Charlaine Harris are all the rage. It's nice to know that there are others out there who can appreciate a historically-grounded, thoroughly researched book and still be entertained by it.<BR/><BR/>Although The Historian is one of my favorites, I do have a difficult time recommending it because I understand that not all people (in fact, MOST people) can't sit through more than 200 pages of anything, especially not a book that gives lengthy details of obscure eastern European history (which I found particularly interesting). If you're looking for blood, horror, and sex, this isn't the book for you!<BR/><BR/>Some may consider this blasphemy, but I found Kostova's work much more engaging and fascinating than Stoker's original Dracula. I hope we don't have to wait another ten years to see another novel with her name on it!

    22 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 12, 2010

    Please tell me why....

    The paperback is 3.00 cheaper than the eBook version?! I absolutely love my Nook, but refuse to buy any eBook that costs more than I can pay for the actual hold-in-my hand printed book!

    14 out of 28 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 5, 2009

    A slow build to a poorly written ending

    At one level, the writing is very good. It is a slow, prolonged buildup of tension that leaves the reader wondering when it will all explode. In the mean time, the author does an excellent job of explaining the fact and fiction of Vlad's life and death and the times he lived in. She also paints with beautiful detail the Eastern European world, especially the political situation as it existed during the Cold War.


    So now you are asking "if it did all these wonderful things, what is your problem?" One small criticism of mine is that the characters are very obvious. The good guys are very good and the bad guys are obviously bad, and the reader knows which is which from the first scene. That's not the big problem, however. Put simply, if you are going to build tension in such a long, drown out manner, there had better be a payoff at the end. This is where the tension that the author spent so long bringing to a peak falls flat on its face. Here is a simple rule- if you are going to slowly build the drama over the course of the entire novel, it had better not end with a complete whimper. The entire climax was over in three lines - I kid you not. I reread it four times, believing I might have missed something. I read the remaining pages frantically expecting that there had to be a big twist - nope. Even worse, the characters afterward shrug the whole thing off as no big deal - as if they had done nothing more than order a frappachino.

    It has been a very long time since I have actually finished a book and been angry at the book itself, but The Historian had me stomping around the house at midnight. Why? Because this story held so much promise, such a buildup, that to have it fizzle so abruptly at the end made me feel like it was all some kind of cruel joke. I could have almost forgiven it if the book had been bad from start to finish. Instead it felt like buying a beautiful painting only to have your neighbor light it on fire for a laugh. In the end, it felt like a lot of wasted effort.

    12 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2008

    Honestly thought it'd be better

    I honestly had trouble finishing this book. There were 'secrets' in the book that none were supposed to know about, yet every character did. I also skimmed through the last 150 to 200 pages. I cannot understand for the life of me how so many people can say this is a great book, but after reading other reviews, I realize that many others also think it could have been better. WAY better. I wouldn't recommend this book if you're actually looking for substance. It was more of a tired love story.

    10 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Consuming

    Throughout my journey of reading this book it consumed my thoughts night and day. It not only put a realistic spin on the "vampire" genre but it also put the most realistic spin on vampires themselves. While I, of course, do not believe in vampires I was conciously checking dark passageways and streets around me to make sure nothing was there when I was in the midst of reading "The Hisorian". The plot and details were rich and the characters, while well thought out, were somewhat lacking.But not enough to actually consider putting the book down.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 8, 2009

    Interesting...But Not Quite So

    It took me a good 6-7 chapters for me to really get into this book from the moment I started. After that, I had the hope that the book would continue to hold my interest throughout. My hope failed. The historical facts that are stated here, were incredibly fascinating to me. However, I did not find that the author was enough of a good historical lecturer to hold my interest the way that it could have been held. The information just seemed dull while the subject itself was extremely interesting. The letters that were sorted throughout the story, likewise, were a nuisance at times to go through, because by this time, it all seemed to drag on and on. It appeared as if when a part in the book that lacked interest appeared, that was when the letters were also thrown in, leaving me with the urge to close the book and not continue reading. The ending left me dissatisfied, and were it not for the fact that I found the plot (at least) intriguing, I would have never either picked up this book, or finished it. It left a lot to be desired by me.

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2008

    Soulless writing

    Move on, nothing to read here. There's the making of a good book within the 600+ pages but better to leave to someone who can put soul into a story. Characters: soulless (an apt pun). I could not distinguish the voice of any of the characters. They all talk, act and think the same way. Like spending the night with dull dinner guests in which you can't help daydream they'll drop dead in their soup. 'When will Dracula ever show up to dispatch these people?' Plot: laughable. Was this a Saturday Night Live cast-off? The Evil Dracula: Kostova's worst sin - she created a dull vampire. Not scary, not menacing, just dull.

    7 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 19, 2008

    more from this reviewer

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    Disappointing qualities outweigh redeeming ones

    I thought that there were two scenes in this book that live up to the thriller genre. The scene where they were being painted in the outdoor cafe was especially original. Otherwise, the suspense was tepid at best and my really big complaint is that the ending felt entirely rushed. I found the premise and the characters interesting but the book did not quite take-off like I hoped. It seemed pretty clear to me that this was the work of a freshman novelist.

    6 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2007

    Too Long - Ridiculous Ending

    The book had definite possibilities, but needed the strong hand of a good editor. Way too long and ended with a 'trite who-done-it' style finale. Very disappointed.

    6 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Unique Take on the 'Dracula' Story!

    Although it was a bit slow to start out, and at times I almost (though not quite) got lost in the flow of the story, The Historian is a truly thrilling ride, and one I would highly suggest to anyone looking for something new to read!

    Despite the fact that this book is about vampires, I can honestly say it's not like any of the other books out there on this subject. Different, unique, and one-of-a-kind are great words to describe this novel. You'll find no romanticized vampires in this novel!

    I enjoyed how Elizabeth Kostova managed to tell this captivating story, weaving together not only the story from Paul and Helen's point of view (through letters and some of it though story telling on Paul's part), but also from the point of view of Paul's daughter. While switching from the two POV's may, at first, seem a bit confusing, Kostova did a magnificent job at it, and I can honestly say that there was only one or two spots where I was momentarily confused.

    Since the novel was told in such a unique way, and done well, I really felt the connection to not only the story but the characters as well. They were not just words on a page, but honestly seemed like they were real. This was partly due to the lush details provided and partly due to the talent of the author. Not every author can pull this off, but fortunately Kostova did because, to be quiet honest, if she had not managed this, this story would have been drastically different, and a great deal harder to get through without losing interest.


    4 STARS! A seamless twist of history and myth, The Historian is a great read for anyone that enjoys a good mystery. Mystery, suspense, a bit of historical accuracy, and even a dash of romance--- really, who wouldn't be interested in reading it? And don't let the vampire plot turn you away, I promise, it's nothing like any vampire story you've read before!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 6, 2009

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    I couldn't stop reading

    It's not often that I sit at work thinking about going home to read a book, but this one is written that well. I was actually sad when I finished, not because of the story but because I knew that I would miss reading it. Stories about vampires are not normally my favorite theme, but her writing is so captivating, and it involves so much more than a vampire chase. Her description of the people and customs from poor Eastern European areas behind the iron curtain is fascinating - the ancient castles and crypts, the secrets. And the glimpses of European history, whether one can believe them to be true or not, are presented in such a way that one gets a new respect for history itself. There are several plots working together, two of them love stories and a desparate vampire trying to keep his world together in a new, modern world. Her use of language I would compare with Virginia Woolf; Individual sentences are a joy to read. This book is thrilling, suspenceful, fascinating, dramatic... what a good book should be.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2007

    Enough to string you along

    This could've been a really cool read, but it wasn't. I'm actually surprised I finished it. Summed up, The Historian is a long-winded, not even creepy enough rip-off of Bram Stoker's Dracula. I didn't care about the characters since there's hardly any character development and the 'conversations' are boring because all anybody seems to know how to talk about is history. If I wanted a history lesson, I could go take a history class, or check out a book from the library on Eastern Europe. Some of the facts were interesting, but I think it could've been pulled together beautifully if it wasn't so predictable and the characters had some personality. When I read why Dracula was doing what he was doing, I thought 'give me a break.' The climax sucked.

    4 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2011

    Boring

    I hated this book.It slowly went nowhere. I kept waiting for something anything to happen then it ended. And the ending was predictable.I will never read anything else by this author.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 2, 2010

    AMAZING, I loved it!!!!!

    This was not the typical Dracula bit em and bleed em book. This book was amazing. It created such a vivid picture of history and the different countries that they ventured into. It made me want to visit so many countries just by reading this book. I loved the story and plot. I loved the characters everything about it was great I would recommend this to anyone who wants a GREAT Dracula read...not vampire...Dracula.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 13, 2010

    Dracula, Romance, and History

    The first time that I read this book was at the age of 15. I loved it then, and loved it now when I finished it just recently. For me this book was the perfect combination of thrills, tradegy, romance, and that little bit of vampirism. I highly recommend this book only to those who would truly appreciate the history behind each character. They each have their own stories to tell, but a connection appears between these stories. I am now 18 and hopeful that the teens of my generation can appreciate the famous story that is tied into this amazing book. I loved every minute of reading it, and hope to read more of Kostovas books in the future.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 4, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    too much detail

    This book initially drew me in with it's quickly developing story. Unfortunately it slowed down a bit too much for me by the introduction of too many intricate details. It began to feel more like a chore than enjoyment. I found it difficult to keep track of all the minute details. There was definately lots of suspense and mystery and hope I can eventually get to the end because it's a great concept.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Suspenseful and carefully crafted - The Historian takes you on an adventure!

    The tale of The Historian is told by a sixteen year old girl raised as a privileged and protected diplomat's daughter. As she accompanies her father on his research and diplomatic missions through Europe, we learn that her father has a dark and painful secret that is somehow tied to the myth of the vampire Drakula or Vlad Tepes of Wallachia and the disappearance of his beloved advisor Professor Rossi.

    As she tries to coax the story from him, the book shifts perspective and we read of his adventures from his own voice. Occasionally, the story of the search for Drakula is told through the voice of Oxford professor Rossi. Through carefully woven narratives from these three characters and from the letters and journal entries, we are taken into a dark and mysterious world where a centuries old evil continues to reign.

    As the journey takes us from the libraries of Oxford, America, and Constantinople to remote towns in Hungary and Eastern Europe in search for the missing Professor Rossi, the story becomes one of courage, friendship, and a long abiding love.

    Suspenseful and carefully crafted, The Historian evokes the leisurely prose of classics of the genre. An unusual read, I am very much looking forward to Elizabeth Kostova's next novel, The Swan Thieves, which comes out in January 2010.

    Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (September 1, 2009), 720 pages.
    Review copy provided by the publisher.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2009

    Best book in a long time

    I am the kind of person who finishes maybe 1 in 3 books - I get bored, or frustrated, or lose interest. When I saw how thick The Historian was, I would have bet ten bucks that it would go unfinished. However, from the moment I read the first page - I was consumed.

    Regarding other reviews: many readers have said, "you can't distinguish one narrator from the next" - this is FALSE, and almost humorous to me - its always very clear who is narrating and in the rare occasion where its vague, well, it adds to the mystery of the story. Other readers have said, "the book lost me halfway through - it turns into boring history." This is also FALSE, so much so that I found myself checking the page # I was on, to see if I was indeed halfway through since I was more engrossed than ever. I do however agree with reviewers who've said the climax of the book is a letdown - this is TRUE. Its quite disappointing but you are quickly moved into the next mystery, so I "got over it" so to speak. It certainly isn't so disappointing that I regretted reading the book. This book kept me up late many nights, and was the first thing I thought about upon waking some mornings. It is addictive! Full of interesting twists, history/literature, and some romance interspersed throughout. I am now looking everywhere for similar books and want to delve into rare literature myself. I could re-read this ten times and still catch new clues/mysteries. This is one of my top five favorite books ever.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 8, 2009

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    I Also Recommend:

    Good in Theory, Somehow Gets Mangled

    I really liked the last half of this book, you know once the action started picking up. The problem is it took so long to get there that the book seemed difficult to enjoy. It's a relatively long book, and I think the beginning could really be pared down. However, the writing seems to be in the style of older classics that really did take their time getting to where they were going. <BR/><BR/>The characters seem a little cookie cutter at times. First person narrative changes, but sometimes it's difficult to know who is talking because they seem very similar. Dracula himself isn't even as imposing as he might be. Although, his characterization manages to both differenitate him from the typical Dracula myth and incorporate elements a reader might expect to form something that is unique but not entirely out of left field.<BR/><BR/>The romantic sublots are a little lacking. I think it could have been left out for the daughter because it wasn't necessary to the plot, and wasn't even really developed all that well. It was just there. <BR/><BR/>The ideas the novel revolves around are all cool, and the description of locations is fascinating. Kostova is effective in transporting readers to foreign lands. I think the best aspect is the way in which Kostova combines narrative, history, and folklore fluidly. The worst part is the way the narrative drags for the better part of the first half of the tale.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2008

    Was Thrilled to Death Until the Last 200 Pages

    I absolutely love the writing style! So very Romantic (as in era)! I can't say enough about how easy this is to read and how wonderful, but the story itself began to drag after the point at which we learn about Elena's mother and Prof. Rossi. Being dragged from Turkey to Hungary to Bulgaria was just excruciating. I understand that they needed to consult every expert on the route the monks might have taken from Turkey, but surely one less journey would have made OUR journey much more enjoyable. I hardly ever put down a book without finishing it, but I'm about to do so with this one if it doesn't start heading downhill soon!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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