The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian, by Elizabeth KostovaElizabeth Kostova’s historically dense novel, The Historian, is one of my favorites. The story manages to include a ton of history while not becoming bogged down in unnecessary facts. All of the information is given in the context of the story, so it is both engrossing and informative. The history focuses on Vlad the Impaler and Wallachia, the region he ruled in the mid- to late-1400s.

Much of the story is told through flashbacks and letters. This format lends itself well to the slow reveal of important information. The tension slowly intensifies as more details come to light and flashbacks suddenly begin to make sense. Occasionally I was a little tripped up by the complexity of the history combined with the fact that the story wasn’t told in a , but overall Kostova did a brilliant job of writing the story. It was clear that Kostva did an immense amount of research in the process of writing The Historian.

On the whole, the novel is a wonderfully-written, complex and compelling story. It’s believable – even considering that it’s ultimately about vampires.* This is a book I look for at the Half-Priced Book Store every time I visit; I just want to have it on my shelves.

*Vampires. What a saturated topic in our culture these days. Twilight. True Blood. Countless other series that take advantage of the supernatural craze. However, I would assert that The Historian steps out of this pop culture craze. It’s very much a book for adults, and there will be no “Team Edward/Team Jacob” nonsense. The vampire myth in The Historian ties to history and Bram Stoker’s original Dracula. The idea of the vampire is creepy and sinister, not a heartthrob. So if you’re turned off by the idea of “another vampire book,” just get over it and pick up a copy of The Historian. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.


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