Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Historian

by Elizabeth Kostova

You may recall that I planned to read The Historian this summer, but was side tracked when a friend told me I should read Dracula first, which I did, and now I know why she said that. Although The Historian stands alone, Stoker's novel and vampire lore are mentioned throughout Kostova's book, which makes Dracula a handy point of reference.

Unlike current pop culture vampire stories, The Historian presents a lengthy account of several people's searches for the real Dracula, akaVlad the Impaler. The nameless narrator is a 16-year old girl who lives with her father in Amsterdam when she discovers some of his letters that lead her on a journey to find him before it's too late. The letters she finds reveal the story of her parent's voyages through Eastern Europe as they uncover the mystery of the undead and search for their friend and father Dr. Rossi and ultimately Dracula himself.

This book includes lots of scholarly research about Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, the Ottoman's, the travels of 15th century monks and especially Vlad the Impaler, who tortured and killed thousands of people during his reign in Wallachia. These facts combined with Romanian and Bulgarian folklore and the vampire legends of Bram Stoker lend to an engaging adventure.

I had a few minor issues with the book: while the information of the monk travels was interesting, it was a bit off track and overly lengthy, the ending was rather abrupt, especially given the detailed storytelling up to that point. I thought the author did a great job of making Dracula the vampire real up until the Rossi incident, which I won't divulge so as not to create a spoiler. I also found the epilogue unnecessary and obscure.

If you like history and anthropology, mysteries and travel adventures you will like this book. If you want a creepy vampire story, it has that too. 

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