The Vampire Historians
The Vampire Historians
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The Historian

A novel by Elizabeth Kostova

< read all 25 reviews

Overdone, overplotted, but overall, not bad

  • Apr 6, 2011
Rating:
+3
So, in order:

1.  Is it just me, or has there just been a glut of novels in the last decade or so based on the fiction of new-found materials about some older fictional topic:  new Shakespeare plays, new Sherlock Holmes mysteries.  All of these accounts purport to shed some new light on a historical (who was Shakespeare?) or fictional (did Holmes ever fall in love?) mystery.   Here Kostova reuses this now-overdone convention to explore whether Dracula was really a vampire, and whether he was still alive and sucking, as it were.

2.  But Kostova goes the "new-found materials" framework one worse by making her story two layers deep--the narrator is a young woman who finds letters from her father, who had found materials from his mentor!!  The extra layer of abstraction is confusing early on, and makes the going tedious.  Once the story gets settled down, though, it flows well, and is quite engaging in its depth and attention to detail until about 500 pages in, when the author (or perhaps her editor) realized that the density of the plotting would require either
  • picking up the pace,
  • pruning down the pages, or
  • printing up a 1,000-page doorstop. 
Kostova seems to have taken the first option, so the last 100 pages or so of the total 642 pages seem a bit breathless and sketchy compared to the earlier dense tapestry..  

This is a first novel, and I have noted the tendency of first novelists to this kind of over-plotting.  Perhaps they are worried that their first might be the only so they want to get all their material onto the printed page, or perhaps they have over-researched a topic very dear to their hearts.  In any case, Kostova falls into this trap, and I can see Kostova has newer novels in bookstores so she needn't have worried about the first.

3.  So, overall, as you can glean from the positives I've pointed out, this is not at all a bad first novel.  The action is exciting and believable, the dialogue (often a problem for first-novelists) is well-handled, the historical elements are interesting (a postscript from the author about her sources and how much is fiction and how much fact might have been nice), and it was fund to read to find out what was going to happen next.  And really, isn't that how we ultimately judge the worth of a novel?

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May 03, 2011
I finally read this book after having it pushed on me every single time that i went into my local barnes and noble...i found it suprisingly interesting. Aside from the fact that the author gets a little to wordy in descriptions and is waaaayyyy to slow to get the story rolling the ending was well written that is if you (like you said) can suffer through the first 1/3 of the book to get to the good part. Lovely review, i dont know too many other people who have actually heard of this book much less read it.
 
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More The Historian reviews
review by . December 02, 2010
Ever since Bram Stoker published "Dracula" in 1897 the vampire genre has had a healthy and uninterrupted ascension amongst the works of literature. "The Historian" is one of the latest more successful additions to the Dracula lore and legend. As the title may suggest, the plotline of "The Historian" centers on several generations of related twentieth century historians who are becoming increasingly convinced that the myths and legends behind the historical figure of …
review by . June 24, 2010
Elizabeth Kostova's "The Historian" a book about the search for Dracula has got to be one of the most arduous books I have read in a very long time. In fact it's been almost 7 years since I read Stephen Kings "Dark Tower" series, and that's the last time I had a hard time finishing a book! I actually started in in October of last year and finally put it down after only 20 or so pages. I only picked it back up because my local book club picked it as the book of the …
review by . November 29, 2010
Ever since Bram Stoker published "Dracula" in 1897 the vampire genre has had a healthy and uninterrupted ascension amongst the works of literature. "The Historian" is one of the latest more successful additions to the Dracula lore and legend. As the title may suggest, the plotline of "The Historian" centers on several generations of related twentieth century historians who are becoming increasingly convinced that the myths and legends behind the historical figure of Count Dracula may in fact have …
Quick Tip by . July 01, 2010
One of the better vampire attempts of recent years. It needs more attention.
review by . July 01, 2010
I guess it sorta depends on which one you read first
There are lots of good things to say about Elizabeth Kostova's "The Historian"! It's moving, suspenseful, creepy, deeply atmospheric, haunting and informative at the same time about a particular area of the world and a point in time that few readers will be familiar with.      The basic plot is beautifully summarized in Amazon's editorial reviews and, frankly, I don't think I can improve on it ... so I'll reproduce it here for the reader's convenience: &nb …
Quick Tip by . June 30, 2010
an intresting twist on the origional vampire myth about count dracula. kind of long but very action packed with a writing style similar to dan brown of the di vinchi code.
Quick Tip by . June 28, 2010
Amazing vampire story.
Quick Tip by . June 26, 2010
This novel inspired my visit to Eastern Europe. I have wanted to visit Hungry since I was a small child, but never as much as I do now and I can't wait to visit all of Eastern Europe. I made a Romanian friend while reading this book in Knoxville, TN and we have built quite a relationship since we bonded over this book. He has shared so many of his experiences growing up there with me and then we compare what is in the book. Enjoy this sharing so much. Inspired by a really good book.
Quick Tip by . June 23, 2010
An enthralling tale but the plot is a little dragged out and the book can seem quite lengthy at times.
review by . June 23, 2010
Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian was published in 2005, the same year as the first novel in the Twilight series. Like Twilight, The Historian deals with vampires and the folklore surrounding them. This is where the similarity between the two novels ends. It would be a mistake to discount Kostova's first novel as another manifestation of the current vampire trend.       Kostova's novel is intellectual and will appeal to those familiar with academia. Almost all …
About the reviewer
Todd Stockslager ()
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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Wiki

The Historian is the 2005 debut novel of American author Elizabeth Kostova. The plot blends the history and folklore of Vlad Ţepeş and his fictional equivalent Count Dracula. Kostova's father told her stories about Dracula when she was a child, and later in life she was inspired to turn the experience into a novel. She worked on the book for ten years and then sold it within a few months to Little, Brown, and Company, which bought it for a remarkable US$2 million.

The Historian has been described as a combination of genres, including Gothic novel, adventure novel, detective fiction, travelogue, postmodern historical novel, epistolary epic, and historical thriller. Kostova was intent on writing a serious work of literature and saw herself as an inheritor of the Victorian style. Although based in part on Bram Stoker's Dracula, The Historian is not a horror novel, but rather an eerie tale. It is concerned with history's role in society and representation in books, as well as the nature of good and evil. As Kostova explains, "Dracula is a metaphor for the evil that is so hard to undo in history." The evils brought about by religious conflict are a particular theme, and the novel explores the relationship between the Christian West and the Islamic East.

Little, Brown, and Company heavily promoted the book and it became the first debut novel to become number one on The New York Times bestseller list in its first week on sale. As of 2005, it was the ...

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Details

ISBN-10: 978-0316011778
Editor: 0316011770
Author: Elizabeth Kostova
Genre: Historical Fiction, Horror, Vampires, Gothic Horror, Adventure, Thriller
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, Back Bay Books
Date Published: 2005
ISBN: 0-316-01177-0
Format: Novel
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