August 31, 2011

The Historian

By Elizabeth Kostova

Late one night, exploring her father's library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to 'My dear and unfortunate successor'. Her discovery plunges 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 evil hidden in the depths of history. In those few quiet moments, she unwittingly assumes a quest she will discover is her birthright - a hunt for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler whose barbarous reign formed the basis of the Dracula myth. Deciphering obscure signs and hidden texts, reading codes worked into the fabric of medieval monastic traditions, and evading terrifying adversaries, one woman comes ever closer to the secret of her own past and a confrontation with the very definition of evil. Elizabeth Kostova's debut novel is an adventure of monumental proportions - a captivating tale that blends fact and fantasy, history and the present with an assurance that is almost unbearably suspenseful - and utterly unforgettable.

This book was recommended to me by a friend when I was waiting for another book to come in at the book store quite some time ago. 
On any normal day I would have passed this book staright by without even a glance, but my friend did a great sales pitch (Okay, so it was more like "You have to read this!" with me relenting immediately and buying the book.)

As usual I could re-tell the whole story for you, but that does not make for a review in my opinion. The description above, taken from, basically explains the whole plot without spoiling the fun.

I'm not going to lie, I found this to be a very heavy read. It is wordy. Normally I can devour a book in a couple of days but this one has taken me months to get through. I usually got around 10-20 pages worth read at a time before it was a bit much for me to keep reading. It really isn't a light and fluffy skim read. I very nearly abandoned it several times.
That said, I really did enjoy this book. While I found it hard to read but that was part of what I liked. It was, in my opinion, well written and well worth getting through.

I have read some other reviews on this book and I have seen a lot of good reviews but I have seen an equal amount of bad ones too. I understand where the bad ones are coming from (well the ones that are not just poking at minor details because they feel the need to poke.) But at the end of the day I felt like this was an intelligent, well written book that deserved my time in reading it. I enjoyed reading about the details of the places the book took me to. I enjoyed slowly (and I mean reeeeally slowly) unraveling the mysteries behind the legend and behind the main characters past. I enjoyed the incredible amount of work, research and effort it must have taken to complete this book.

If you are a die hard pop fiction reader as I am, you may not enjoy this book so much. I believe I liked it because I have done a lot of independent study on Vlad the impaler and the old vampire legends of different cultures (many many years ago when I had the patience for such things.) 
If you are bored to death by historical readings, school text books etc, then this book will probably sit somewhere collecting dust in your house (at 700+ pages it would make a hefty door stop.)

I give this one a solid 4 mushrooms. I personally loved it. BUT (and it's a huuuge but...) I don't think I would recommend it freely to every reader I know simply because of how difficult I found it to read.


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