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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Historian

The Historian The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars

A bestseller of recent years, The Historian piqued my interest because I've seen it compared to The Thirteenth Tale and The Da Vinci Code, both of which I really enjoyed (suck it, haters) and also because it's about vampires, and it's the season of the vamp.

Unlike the Sookie Stackhouse and Twilight craze of today, though, The Historian is old-school in its treatment of the undead. In fact, it's kind of like a sequel/companion to the under-appreciated Stoker Dracula,, in that Kostova's description of the Count is totally similar to Stoker's (and similarly creepy: the hairy, long fingers, the musty smell, the slight nausea felt by those near him. YUCK) and Stoker is referenced through the book as someone who wrote ficton, but got his vampire anthropology eerily right.

The reasons for the Dan Brown and Setterfield comparisons is that The Historian's a historical mystery, one solved through discovering manuscripts and clandestine visits to ruins and late nights reading. The Da Vinci Code parallels are obvious in the characters' endless criss-crossing of Europe, going to chapels and libraries and tombs to decipher their hidden pasts. The Historian also shares this new "women+their books" obsession with Daphne + The Thirteenth Tale. The romance in these tomes is not between the lady and the Vampire, but between the lady and the page, musty, yellowing, and full of secrets.

The actual mystery in Kostova's book is the whereabouts of Vlad the Impaler's (aka Vlad Drakyula) tomb, a mystery passed on by mysterious means to a set of scholars over the centuries. None have been able to solve it, yet. But what's even more unsettling than the mystery is what solving it might reveal: that Vlad doesn't rest in his tomb, and instead he still walks among us to this day! Cue menacing peals of laughter. The protagonist, a budding historian, and her father, are caught up in the chase, and she stands to learn some things about her family and self in the process.

So did I like the book? At times it was thrilling, and creepy, and beautifully written. It is much more literary and serious than Da Vinci, with a more interesting set of characters and a slower pace. That being said, it's a really lengthy, studious read, and considering that it doesn't reveal much about humanity, it's kind of paradoxical: a detailed, careful thriller, a laborious beach read, a chase that's also a meditation. But for serious, committed bookworms who love the vampire legend and want more, I'd say read it, and skim with impunity.

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1 comment:

  1. I found this seriously boring, to be honest. And I don't have anything more insightful to say, haha. I'm glad you enjoyed reading it though!