Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Historian - by Elizabeth Kostova

The HistorianThe Historian attempts to pick up the threads of Bram Stoker's Dracula and expounds the idea that the 15th century vampire is still among us, walking the Earth as an undead creature of the night.

It tells its tale in much the same way as Stoker did, in a series of journals and letters, only this story spans three generations in its search for the resting place of the medieval monster that Stoker's Dracula was based on. He goes by many names - Vlad The Impaler, Vlad Drakul and Prince Vlad Ţepeş.

The three generations' stories are nested within each other and, while the book follows the latest quest to find the fiend, we are also treated to the historical progress of the previous two which, as you've probably guessed, ended badly.

It has to be said that, while the book promises a lot, it is a very slow and laborious read. We follow the tale of a sixteen-year old girl, who's father is an important diplomat and he's taken off on a quest to find his old University mentor, who he believes has been kidnapped by Dracula. The fact that her mother has gone missing, presumed dead, is also factored into it.

Vlad The ImpalerSo we get a narrative by the daughter, the notes and journals of both the father in his youth and in his search for his mentor and then even earlier ones from the mentor himself. Their travels cover a fairly wide expanse of Europe from the Romanian region of Wallachia, which is where Vlad Ţepeş originated from, through Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Austria, England, The Netherlands and Spain.

Kostova weaves a detailed tale containing much about the life and deeds of probably one of the worst tyrants of European history so, in reading it, the reader will learn a great deal of the history of Eastern Europe and the Ottoman Empire. Unfortunately the characters embued with tracking this villain down are pretty weak. They are, for want of a better word, academics and not the Indiana Jones kind of academic. They are researchers to the core and, while the story is interesting in places, it didn't grip me as a good horror novel should. There's very little action and almost none of the building dread required of such a work and, given the inconclusive ending, it was an unsatisfying read.

Genre: Horror
ISBN: 0-7515-3728-4
My Rating: 5/10

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