Customer Reviews for

The Historian

Average Rating 4
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

23 out of 25 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

15 out of 31 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 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.

    13 out of 15 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.

    8 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 19, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    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.

    7 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    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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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2008

    I thought it tapered off towards the middle and end

    I thought this book was enthralling at the beginning, but got more boring towards the middle and ended okay at the end. I'm no literary expert, but this book was just O.K for me. Sorry I can't be more informative than this.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2007

    A reviewer

    Wow. I read this freshman year and feel the same way about it until now. This novel was BEAUTIFULLY written. So lovingly paced with just the right amount of detail and laced with emotion. The characters slowly bubbled to the surface with each passing letter and narration and the story had so much potential. It built itself up step by step dragging the reader deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Vlad the Impaler and the legend behind Dracula and then--wham!! It finished. The fact that this story came to an abrupt close is what ruined this would be fantastic novel for me.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 14, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Didn't care for it

    I wanted to put the book down after the first five chapters, but kept trucking despite the urge. While I did appreciate the historical aspect of it, I loathed the way the author moved through her story by using letters between the characters.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2008

    It was ok

    It was ok it didn't have any romance and the end was a major let down. the facts were cool though

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2008

    Not that great.

    Overall the story of Dracula is very interested. But the narration of the book is very winded. It was hard to stay focused while reading it. If you like tales of Dracula you might like this story, but I would recommend Bram Stokers Dracula over The Historian any day.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2007

    Great , but...

    For a first time author Elizabeth Kostova did an incredible job. I loved this book, however there are some problems with the book and content that could potentially drive readers away. The book starts off well enough, and pulls you in, however there is a big chunk of the middle that -- despite how much you are liking the book -- will slow you down because of the lagging the book takes in plot and suspense. The buildup suddenly slows and you have to debate whether or not to continue. The end parts of the book seemed to become too predictable to me and the climax and resolution of the story seemed to be pushed into one small space and is done too quickly and unsatisfyingly for the amount of reading you have to do to reach it. All in all the book was great. I am a history lover, and I thought that was the most facinating part. I think the book would better serve those who want a history lesson than an original fiction story but the book altogether -- the fiction and history -- made for a great read. I do recommend this book, but only to those who will be devoted to reading it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2006

    None of the suspense I was expecting

    The Historian was very interesting but moved slowly and lacked the suspense I was expecting. Although I found the story interesting the author did not pull me into the characters experience and because of that you don't really come to care about them. You can tell the it was very well researched though.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2005

    Don't believe the hype

    This book did a wonderful job giving us a history lesson on the Dracula legend, and mixed in a rather weak story to try and tie all the information together. The ending is one of the worst I have read in a long time.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2006

    Ok, but a little disappointing.

    found the book relatively good to read, but it seems, as with most topics lately, vampires are passe, save for a peculiar fascination by younger teens. It is a thriller, but a predictable one and I found the pace slowing in places, leaving me let down. I did however, find the search through libraries and archives in Eastern Europe interesting.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2006

    I feel like I'm still waiting for something....

    OK book overall... but it was longer than necessary. Plus, the male/female duo doing the 'dog chasing its tail' routine is becoming a cliche in many of these novels. The cultural/scenic descriptions of eastern Europe was cool but overdone in the book. I was waiting for the anticipated historical meaning behind vampires, but it disappointingly never happened. I certainly hope no one will ruin the writer's point by turning this into a movie because this is a book about people READING BOOKS!!!! Script wise, there is about 45 minutes of action and 4 hours of talking. I think the DaVinci Code cracked the mold with the great historical adventure with the twist. Let's move on to something else.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2005

    Too long for no reason.

    This book has a great topic which could've been presented in a much better way. There are too many detailed descriptions of these ancient places whose names one cannot remember throughout the book. A few times the author hints towards a big surprise or breakthrough but it is always disappointing and leads nowhere. The ending is completely off track and non-sensical. I think Dan Brown would've done a much better job with the subject of Dracula in this context.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2005

    Not a Total Waste

    This book was ok. It took a very long time for the plot to thicken. Once it did, though, I was hooked. The ending, however, was unbelievably anti-climatic and disappointing. It's a good book to read if you have a true love of history and don't really care about a story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2005

    L. York, Avid reader

    Disjointed and lengthy. This book gets mired down in history. Hence, the name of the book. Lengthy is good if it is interesting and keeps the readers interest, but I found myself wanting to skip some of the narrative, to get back to the central plot. Girl looking for her father, her father looking for his professor, her Mother looking for Dracula, Dracula looking for his head. The author in her first book bit off more than she could handle in the plots and subplots. Consequently the disjointedness.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2005

    Good Writing is More than Good Grammar

    Reading Kostova is refreshing in that her work is the first I have encountered in some time that adheres to the rules of grammar. The author obviously is erudite and articulate. This is very pleasurable reading for anyone who revels in good writing style. However, two problems plague the work. First, Kostova does not handle well the preternatural element in her story line. While Anne Rice doesn't given much more detail in describing how vampires kidnap people and travel great distances, what she does give the reader is far more convincing than the meager offering provided by Kostova. The comparison with Rice is inescapable. Rice has defined modern-day vampire fiction. While Kostova is the better writer (have you ever tried reading Rice's work aloud?), Rice is the superior storyteller. As an aside, I note others are comparing the Historian to Brown's DaVinci Code. The two works are similar only in that each is set in part in the pre-Modern period. However, Brown's fictional work is centered in Renaissance Italy, while Kostova's focuses on the late medieval period of eastern Europe and Byzantium, which fell to the Ottoman Empire. Both deal with European history, why not also compare Kostova to Eco's Name of the Rose? The comparison with Brown doesn't go farther than suggesting Kostova has a better handle on history than does Brown. (Before leaving this, I should also note, as one with History Ph.D., Kostova's understanding of the graduate school process in History, as displayed in the novel, is superficial at best). Secondly, the plot is circular. Dracula (or Drakulya) kills scholars who get to close to his tomb, but it is Dracula who compels the same scholars to seek him out by sending each a book the only contents of which is a woodblock print of Dracula's sign (the dragon). If Dracula doesn't want historians and archeologists finding his tomb, why does he provoke them to seek him? Granted, a five hundred year old vampire is likely to have a twisted mind, but Kostova does nothing to develop Dracula's character so that we understand him in the way that Rice gets into the minds of her creatures. The character descriptions and place settings are well done, even if characters could be better developed. In the end, the story is engrossing (I finished the book in a day), if predictable, tale richly told.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2014

    A scant three stars

    Left a lot to be desired, and the author must have enjoyed some late night makeout sessions with a thesaurus, but, overall not a bad story and I'm not sorry I read it. (Years ago)

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