Friday, February 4, 2011

No Sparkly Vamps Here...

...And Thank Goodness!!

The past couple of weeks I've been reading The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. I'd seen it in bookstores many times but the description on the back of the book never really stood out to me. Well, it finally did one day and so I bought the book. Imagine my shock when I began reading it and came to realize that it was a book about vampires. I groaned since I'm rather sick of all this Twilight crap and the massive amount of vampire-centric movies and tv shows, but I kept reading anyway. I'm glad I did. While it is a novel that involves vampires, it's actually incredibly well-written (yes that was a backhanded slap to the Twilight series). The author spent 10 years researching and writing it. The Historian is many genres in one--historical fiction, historical thriller, mystery/detective, and adventure, and all with a Victorian feel. The book blends the true history & folklore of Vlad the Impaler (aka Vlad III Drakulya) with his fictional equivalent as created by Bram Stoker--Dracula. In fact, the true history of Vlad is so intricately woven into the 'legend' of Dracula that at times I had to remind myself that I was reading a historical fiction novel. For me it was a page-turner. I really loved it. The stories within the novel (there are about 3 basic storylines) span decades and even centuries but the transitions are smooth and rather effortless. All the characters seem to come to life off the pages and this is only aided by the locales to which the characters travel to: Romania, Instanbul, Italy, France, England. It isn't a gory, horror novel at all, though it is a bit creepy from time to time and you may find yourself looking over your shoulder--but that is a testament to how well this book is written. The Historian has a little of everything--thrill, suspense, love (just a tiny bit), mystery, and history. I most definitely recommend it.

Below is a synopsis of The Historian:
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 university, 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.

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