Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Historian

Elizabeth Kostova's best-selling novel The Historian follows a girl who lives a rather luxurious lifestyle. Her father is a retired professor and she is fortunate enough to be able to travel with him all across Europe for lectures and the like. In their library one day, she stumbles across a book with the image of a dragon in the middle of blank pages. After questioning her father about this, her father slowly relates a tale of the supernatural, of his search for the tomb of Vlad the Impaler and the truth of the legend of Dracula.

The Pros: Elizabeth Kostova's prose reminded me of Ann Radcliffe a bit, incorporating chapters that bordered on travelogue, and blending it with elements of the supernatural. Through these instances, as with Radcliffe, I was not bored. The story is very engrossing from beginning to end as the mysteries are unveiled. Kostova writes a wonderful story in a beautiful style with several very suspenseful, truly horrifying moments.

The Cons: The story meanders away from characters for pretty lengthy periods of time. When her father gets deep into relating the events of his graduate school days, hundreds of pages go by where the main character is barely touched. Also, some of the puzzle pieces that fall into place can be seen a mile away. A character will come to a conclusion after something had been shrouded in mystery for hundreds of years and you have to wonder why the heck no one else thought of that when you'd realized it at the first mention of the concept. This happened more than once. And finally, when vampires are actually introduced in the book physically, it's really jarring. The stories and theories that resonated in their research lost some of their magic, and it happens pretty abruptly.

The Bottom Line: While it has its faults, this is a highly entertaining genre work told beautifully. If you like history, unraveling mysteries, the supernatural...check this out. 8/10

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