The Historian
Elizabeth Kostova
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The Historian
Elizabeth Kostova
Back Bay Books
704 pages
October 2006
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Click here to read reviewer Mayra Calvani's take on The Historian.

The lugubrious tale begins in Amsterdam in 1972, where a sixteen-year old girl spends this pivotal year in a somewhat unusual pursuit, her professor father a traveling lecturer/historian working from his base in Holland. She joins her father in city after city as he reveals the story of a mysterious book that came into his possession by chance in his graduate study days.

The girl's father was trained in his research methods by Professor Rossi, who disappeared soon after admitting to the ownership of a similar volume in the 1930s, an ancient leather journal with a Byzantine etching of a dragon on the cover. The book in question is connected to the legend of Dracula or Vlad the Impaler, a central figure in vampyric lore, a creature thought to have died circa 1472, although there is apparently some question about the location of the tomb, as well as a bizarre possibility that Vlad may, in fact, still be alive.

Too terrified to tell the story all at once, the girl's father reveals small pieces of a convoluted journey through the past as they travel to distant countries, each new city the occasion of more information. Listening to her father's unbelievable recitation, the girl is infected with curiosity as well, equally besieged by terrible and frightening events as she pursues information on her own. Clearly, this is not a subject to be trifled with by the uninitiated.

Layer by layer, country by country, character by character (both human and vampire), mystery by mystery, the insidious plot develops, more clues unveiled, all leading to the same, irrevocable conclusion: either Vlad the Impaler or some associated evil has survived the centuries and walks the world with impunity, shielded by secrets and societies pledged to keep the location of the tomb hidden.

Generations are bound by an impossible search, traveling through gothic settings, impeded everywhere by lurking creatures straight out of Bram Stoker's Dracula. By the time the story is finished, the daughter has caught up with her father's labyrinthine story, another father-daughter relationship is exposed, the girlís mother discovered, all involved in the expose of a terrible truth.

Even in a modern world, there is an aura of antiquity to the tale, the cities they visit buried in the familiar terrain of ancient civilizations. These characters would fit perfectly into an 1880ís drawing room; for all of its immediacy, the novel may be more accessible in a Victorian atmosphere, the protagonists mired in literature, history and mythology. Doubtless Dracula would lead them all on an unearthly chase, no matter what century he inhabits.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2005

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