With a Book in Our Hands

Eighteen reviewers telling you the good, the bad, and the ugly

With a Book in Our Hands

Eighteen reviewers telling you the good, the bad, and the ugly

October 31, 2020

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian

by Elizabeth Kostova

Published June 1, 2005
by Little, Brown and Company

Rating: 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Genre: Historical Fiction, Gothic

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.

My thoughts:

I remember being drawn to this book in the store solely for its cover and its title. 

I read this YEARS ago but remember how much I enjoyed reading it to this day. Yes, it is a monster book, coming in at 704 pages. It is also not a quick read. This book is meant to be the only thing you do for several days. You WANT to take your time and savor each and every page. This was Elizabeth Kostova’s debut title but one would never be able to tell. The book is seductively mysterious and thoroughly enchanting. It pays due homage to the precedent set by Bram Stoker’s original Dracula. Neither are action packed thrillers. They are not gripping page turners. In my opinion, the secret of The Historian and Dracula is the way they bury under your skin unnoticed until it’s to late for you to become unattached. 

As the title indicates, there is plenty of historical information in between the covers. Kostova does a magnificent job of providing the reader with a wealth of knowledge about Eastern Europe and the medieval ruler Vlad the Impaler. Lovers of gore rejoice because the historical content regarding Vlad the Impaler provides plenty of it. The book’s overarching theme though is a quest for knowledge: the quest for answers behind the dragon book, the knowledge of what happened to those who disappeared, and the knowledge behind the elusive Dracula himself. One of the things I loved most about this book is the portrayal of Dracula. He isn’t a bloodthirsty purveyor of death. He doesn’t sparkle or melt in the sunlight. This book allows the reader to enjoy the fantastical thrill of entirely losing oneself. Gothic literature fans around the world should flock to read this one if they haven’t already done so. It ranks right up there as one of my favorite all-time reads. 

General Fiction (Adult), Historical Fiction & Fantasy One Reply to “The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova”
Kate Eminhizer
Kate Eminhizer


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