Review: 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.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Narrated by Justine Eyre and Paul Michael. Published by Books on Tape, 2005. Run time is 26 hours and 5 mins. Triggers: small amount of pet death.

Local book club pick for August 2020.

This book has been on my TBR list for a while. Two different family members recommended it and it has had a lot of high press and buzz talk in the book world since it came out. The plot blurb on the jacket just sounded so interesting and it made me very curious about the mystery within. There was only one roadblock in my path that kept me from wanting to jump in immediately.

I am not a big vampire fan. I used to like them (a lot) once upon a time when I was a kid. Now… I am super burned out on them. They used to be scary but now they are all pretty and aristocrats and fancy dressing romantics or angsty loners who cry in a corner or WHATEVER. I’m DONE. If I end up reading another vampire book, I want it to be truly different and creative, like what del Toro and Chuck Hogan did with The Strain. No more romance! No more pretty boys! No more angst, please!

Sooooo I was not overly excited when this book was picked as the next book to read in my local book club. Way back when I joined the library book club, I vowed to give all the books a serious try. If they don’t work out, I can put them in the Did Not Finish pile, but not until I’ve at least attempted to get through it. There have been a few exceptions, but for the most part I’ve kept to that vow.

The Historian started off interesting. The mysterious journals, the searching for clues within history and libraries in different parts of the world. Creepy creepers lurking around every corner and following you everywhere. This was very interesting to me because I love those sort of puzzles. The type where you read and research and look at maps trying to figure out the hidden clues within all that information. I liked this a lot.

I did not really care for the whole family saga part of the story though. It felt drawn out and predictable. It also felt a little too repetitive. I understand the use of the father’s letters telling our unnamed lady character the history of what he has done in order to help move the story along, but…. I don’t know. It just felt like… too much. Either pick the daughter’s story of searching for the dad, or the father’s journey of search for his missing mentor. It felt like one or the other would have been much more compelling of a mystery. With both stories going on at the same time, it just ended up feeling long winded and repetitive.

Speaking of long winded… I am impressed with the author’s research into the locations, the people, the history and Vlad himself. I can’t even imagine how long it must have taken her to research everything. There were a LOT of details! I do find that sort of information very compelling…. when I’m reading non-fiction books on those subjects. In a fictional book, however, I would have liked to have seen a little bit more detail, development, and depth going into the character building and a little less info dumps for just about every location mentioned. Clearly the author must love these locations, and again, that is super cool… but I didn’t want a tourism book. This sort of stuff just made an all ready drawn out story feel even longer!

The Historian audiobook is 26 hours long. About 10 hours in I started to get extremely bored with the book. I started to loose a lot of interest in what happened to who, where the journals came from, is Vlad still alive or not, if the unnamed daughter found her dad, and so on. I decided maybe I needed to take a break before trying to get through the next X amount of hours.

After starting and finishing a different audio book in about a week, I reluctantly tried to go back to The Historian. I made it through one more hour and then I was just out of cares for what happened. I threw in the towel and slapped this book into the DNF pile. I was just kind of over it. This plot was just way over booked. Too much stuff going on at the same time where not a lot was going on- how is that even possible?! *shrug* Do not caaaaaaaare.

I wanted to finish this book for book club, but……….. MEEEHHH.

Don’t really understand how this book had so much buzz and high praise. Maybe if this book had a serious editing to it and trimmed out several hours. Maybe.

Also, the pet cat dies. -.- Nope!

D N F.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s