I had a difficult time picking up a new book after finishing Shadow of Night. This has been happening to me a lot lately. I become so invested in the characters and the plot that it’s tough to start a new book.
After a months of staring at The Historian on my bookshelf, I finally decided to pick it up. Reading the book jacket, it seemed to have the same sort of historical fiction meets paranormal and suspense feeling as Shadow of Night, which made it a little easier for me to get into.
By Elizabeth Kostova
Old books, filled with blank pages except for a woodcut of a dragon at the center of the book, randomly appear to different people across the world. The recipient is usually a scholar and a lover of history. Those that receive the book are intrigued. They begin researching the unknown book and its history – chemical analysis is done to date and place the book, tales and symbols of dragons are researched, the life and legends of Dracula (aka Vlad the Impaler) examined – at least until strange things start happening. People get hurt, started disappearing… causing the recipients to question their safety and the safety of those around them. Most eventually give up on the mystery to protect themselves and those around them.
This is exactly what happened to Professor Rossi and years later, his student Paul. The Historian chronicles first Rossi’s research and then Paul’s into the life and legend of Dracula in a series of stories and letters, flipping back and forth between past and present. How much of the stories are simply that, stories? How much of it is true? Could Dracula still be walking the earth today, undead?
Recommendation/Review: While I felt like I was reading this book forever, I did enjoy it. It was clear that a lot of research went into the historical components to make them as factual as possible. In fact, it took Kostova 10 years to write the book. There were definite lulls in the story as some of the historical aspects and descriptions travel throughout rural Europe went on a little long, but overall, these parts did not detract from the story. I continued to be hooked, wondering whether the mystery of the appearing books and Dracula would be solved and whether missing persons would be found.
In my opinion, the one major weakness of The Historian was end ending. After such a long book, it was pretty anti-climatic and long – I thought it would end three times before it actually did. Actually, I was surprised because I found the ending seemed to set Kostova up for a sequel, although I have yet to hear that she is working on one. Had the ending been stronger, it could have been a great book.