Synopses & Reviews
"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.
"Considering the recent rush of door-stopping historical novels, first-timer Kostova is getting a big launch fortunately, a lot here lives up to the hype. In 1972, a 16-year-old American living in Amsterdam finds a mysterious book in her diplomat father's library. The book is ancient, blank except for a sinister woodcut of a dragon and the word 'Drakulya,' but it's the letters tucked inside, dated 1930 and addressed to 'My dear and unfortunate successor,' that really pique her curiosity. Her widowed father, Paul, reluctantly provides pieces of a chilling story; it seems this ominous little book has a way of forcing itself on its owners, with terrifying results. Paul's former adviser at Oxford, Professor Rossi, became obsessed with researching Dracula and was convinced that he remained alive. When Rossi disappeared, Paul continued his quest with the help of another scholar, Helen, who had her own reasons for seeking the truth. As Paul relates these stories to his daughter, she secretly begins her own research. Kostova builds suspense by revealing the threads of her story as the narrator discovers them: what she's told, what she reads in old letters and, of course, what she discovers directly when the legendary threat of Dracula looms. Along with all the fascinating historical information, there's also a mounting casualty count, and the big showdown amps up the drama by pulling at the heartstrings at the same time it revels in the gruesome. Exotic locales, tantalizing history, a family legacy and a love of the bloodthirsty: it's hard to imagine that readers won't be bitten, too. Agent, Amy Williams. 325,000 first printing; major ad/promo; 10-city author tour. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Kostova handles the logistics of multiple story lines well, though unfortunately her narrators all speak in the same hyper-descriptive, overwrought prose....Even if this thriller fails to thrill, [certain] moments...show Kostova to be a writer at home in the world: a rare and welcome thing." Los Angeles Times
"Readers who think the legend of Dracula has become a trite staple of schlock fiction will find this atmospheric page-turner...a bloodthirsty delight....Both literary and scary, this one is guaranteed to keep one reading into the wee hours..." Booklist (Starred Review)
"[A] ponderous, many-layered book that is exquisitely versed in the art of stalling....Only occasionally does the book deliver the kind of jolt that explains its prematurely inflated reputation." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"Kostova may have outdone Stoker or even, for that matter, Hollywood's numerous Dracula reincarnations with her chilling revelation of what motivates her blood-thirsty monster. Before the sun sets, grab this book and take a long and satisfying drink." USA Today
"Surpass[es] The Da Vinci Code
in almost every aspect....It is an atmospheric thriller with an improbable-but-plausible plot, exotic locations, multidimensional characters and an engaging style that unobtrusively hooks and then reels in the reader." Denver Post
"The Historian is artfully constructed and atmospheric, yet nothing that happens in it is really all that surprising. Still, Elizabeth Kostova has produced an honorable summer book, reasonably well written and enjoyable and...very, very long..." The Washington Post
"[O]ne terrific and fascinating read....[A] must-read for anyone with even a pretense to loving the genre. Kostova's debut is indeed auspicious and the news that she is working on a second novel is welcome." The Baltimore Sun
"The writing is excellent, and the pace is brisk, although it sags a bit in the middle. There is plenty of suspense so that readers will want to find out what happens next." Library Journal
"What's unfortunate about this [romanticizing of historians] is that the book...is otherwise the kind of wonderfully paced yarn that would make a suitable companion to a deck chair, a patch of sun and some socklessness." Henry Alford, The New York Times Book Review
"The Historian is intriguing for its thorough examination of what constitutes evil and why it exists....Kostova's thorough research and lively narrative will compel many in search of a good story, richly told and not soon forgotten." Chicago Tribune
"[A] late-night page-turner that will be sure to make you lose some precious hours of sleep....Anyone who loves to become involved in the lives of fictional characters will find much to savor in this intricately plotted, delicately written novel." San Francisco Chronicle
"There's a really terrific vampire story buried somewhere in The Historian....There is indeed a rich payoff if you persist through the slow parts. But then again, this is a frigging vampire novel. There shouldn't be slow parts. (Grade: B)" Entertainment Weekly
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.
Review A Day
isn't especially scary (though Kostova can work up a respectable miasma of dread when needed), and it lacks the inane but breathless chase scenes of The Da Vinci Code
, but for the sophisticated reader it's a fine Bordeaux to Dan Brown's overcaffeinated Diet Coke....The big difference is that, unlike Brown's nattering cardboard people, by the end of Kostova's novel, the girl and the mother she lost as an infant have also become people worth caring about, tragic figures enmeshed with a treacherous past. That makes The Historian
a thriller in more ways than one." Laura Miller, Salon.com
(read the entire Salon.com review