The Historian

The Historian

by Elizabeth Kostova
4.0 1097

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Overview

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316070638
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 09/01/2009
Pages: 720
Sales rank: 48,692
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Elizabeth Kostova graduated from Yale and holds an MFA from the University of Michigan, where she won the Hopwood Award for the Novel-in-Progress. Her second novel, The Swan Thieves, will be published in October 2009.

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The Historian 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1098 reviews.
J_R_M More than 1 year ago
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!
ChadAaronSayban More than 1 year ago
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.
criswithcurls More than 1 year ago
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.
Sapph0 More than 1 year ago
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.
Brittchin79 More than 1 year ago
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.
The_Book_Queen More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
AspiringMusician More than 1 year ago
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.
Aelphie More than 1 year ago
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.
Caledaravel More than 1 year ago
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.
gl More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
paula_pern More than 1 year ago
This is not a true Thriller or the current version of a Horror Story, OR a fast read. It is however, a very satisfying book that I recommend to anyone who enjoys a more classical and thoughtful writing style. It was a nice changeup from the usual books I read in a day or so.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I LOVED this book-- I love how the legend of Dracula came to life, but was backed up by all this historical mumbo-jumbo. It was a little slow at first, but after the story picked up I couldn't put it down.
papicek More than 1 year ago
Elizabeth Kostova managed to do something that no other novelist has managed to pull off in a long time: though I'm no fan of vampire stories, she wrote a book that I hated to put down.

Several things I liked about The Historian. She tells her story with much the same flavor as Stoker's Dracula, using the same devices as Stoker, and it's very apparent that Kostova has a great deal more depth of historical knowledge than Stoker ever could've hoped for. Also, while the original seeps claustrophobia, being set mainly in Castle Dracula and Whitby, Kostova's tale MOVES as her modern characters follow fiend's the ancient trail. Along the way, she manages to breathe some life into history, lending her storytelling needed depth and authenticity. This is perhaps what I enjoyed most.

She misses 5 stars only for a few deus ex machina moments along the way, nonetheless, I definitely recommend it for some interesting escape.
skibbs More than 1 year ago
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.

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.

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.

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.
MaGicAllyGeNuisJ More than 1 year ago
I really did enjoy this book alot. It was very interesting, it had alot of history information in it. It was also well written, I like how the author had it formatted it into like a letter. I L.O.V.E how it ended.\But I dont want to spoil no of the book. But also if you like Vampire books, or interested in Dracula PLEASE READ!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a GREAT book! If you like Dracula this book is for you. Great for ages 9-16.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Too drawn out and slow. Couldn t even finish it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is not the usual fare, and on its surface, not a topic I would ordinarily read. I love historical fiction, but the vampire isn't really my favorite life form. However, the title caught my attention on the shelf at Barnes, and kept it until I finished the book a little over a week later. It was absolutely captivating for me. It had the right mix of historical fact, legend, and pure fiction, to keep me enthralled until the very end. As a regular reader, I can say that this was the best book I've read in a while.
Sarah_N_NC More than 1 year ago
I thought she did a very good job, even though I have to agree the ending was a bit of a letdown. I didn't have a problem with the different narrators, I think that's why Kostova started slow in the beginning, to give the reader a chance to get used to her style, which I liked. What I didn't like was the disturbing "images" her words put into my mind. (If you read the whole thing and have anything resembling a soul, it should disturb you too; just so you know). Granted, there were only two or three times where that happened, but they stuck with me, and I finished this book over a year ago. Check it out from the library if you're not sure you want to make the investment.