George V. Reilly

Review: The Historian

The Historian
Title: The Historian
Author: Elizabeth Kostova
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Copyright: 2005
Pages: 642
Keywords: fantasy
Reading period: 25 November-2 December, 2007

For centuries, carefully selected historians have mys­te­ri­ous­ly received a book that contains only a picture of a dragon holding a placard that says, Drakulya. Three gen­er­a­tions of one family have followed the trail of those books: the narrator as a teenager in the 1970s, her graduate student parents in the 1950s, and her mother’s father in the 1930s.

The trail has led them from the Pyrenees to the Balkans and Istanbul, from libraries to monas­ter­ies to remote mountain villages. The narrative moves back and forth across the three gen­er­a­tions, as each retraces their pre­de­ces­sors’ footsteps. Each of them find fragments of evidence that show that Vlad the Impaler, prince of Wallachia and scourge of the invading Ottomans, never died but lives on.

The author weaves a historical mystery against a backdrop of Cold War Eastern Europe and the late Middle Ages, and the never-ending clash between Chris­tian­i­ty and Islam. The tension builds as each generation makes its inevitable way towards a con­fronta­tion with Dracula late in the book.

Well-written and attention-holding.

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