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The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

It seems being a historian is quite the curse, especially if part of a never ending one.

Kostova's debut novel is a sort of delicious first bite reeking of palpable evil, but you still want to taste it anyway. The Historian is a suspenseful adventure of literary studies, ancient history and blood sucking. Yes, and I think you already know what I mean. It is a story that unravels piece by piece through a series of letters and historical notes and each is like a doorway opening into another only to find what seems to be a dark bottomless hole. The book is read in a volley of time, going back and forth between the past and the present packing a lot of historical details and spookiness.

A young woman, an unnamed sixteen-year old narrator, finds an ancient book and old letters in her father's library after he vanishes which spurned events that will haunt her days and the mysteries about the truth surrounding herself, the truth that may challenge world's history. She reads the written notes which told of the earlier time when her father traveled to Eastern Europe and Istanbul as a young man to follow a trail in relation to his father's mentor, the scholar Bartholomew Rossi who also vanished years before. More than halfway of the book, there are also documents about Rossi's own research about Vlad Tepes of Romania, the Dracula legend in which everything is tied up. Now the young woman travels on her own and discover the perils and the ultimate place where the fates of men who was obsessed with Dracula is revealed.

I was eager to read this just by the title alone. Way to go to pique the history-lover in me. Then I read the premise and it got even more intriguing. But I think I came onto it too strong, too curious that at one point things merely flew over my head leaving me at a loss. Perhaps I should have been hesitant, treading carefully, keeping an eye on my flanks just so I could appreciate the book fully and that it would have turned out to be an even more brilliant reading.

The way Kostova tells it, it was almost like reading a detective novel rich with research texts with just a small dab of the supernatural. There is a mood of eeriness smearing the pages, keeping the shadows at bay at first then closing in on the last moment. As the story line converged in the final moments of the book, it's a straight railway to its destination but what is there may yet take us by surprise...or not. The book is unsettling that way. Reading this the book in the lateness of night didn't help matters. I feel like I should keep looking over my shoulder.

For me anyway, this book is all about fleeting shadows. It lurks just in the corner of your lids, you look and it dashes away. Even as I finished it, I am left with that bereft feeling of not being able to capture that something.

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 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.

Title: The Historian
Author: Elizabeth Kostova
Genre: Historical, Fantasy, Horror
Published: 2005
Publisher: Warner Books
Rating: ♨♨♨♨ (4 cups - It plays the dark mood of a vampire story but it is quite more than that. I love the combination of scholarly studies, supernatural creepiness and a little bit of romance.)


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