By Elizabeth Kostova
Read by Joanne Whalley, Martin Jarvis, Dennis Boutsikaris, Jim Ward, Rosalyn Landor, and Robin Atkin Downes Hachette Audio, (2009)
An Unabridged Recording on 10 CDs
ISBN 13: 978-1-60024-861-0
Reviewed by Angela Evans - October 12, 2009
The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova is an intricate story that takes the reader on a journey through the present, and back into the past when Vlad the Impaler terrorized those unfortunate enough to fall under his dominion. Opening in the early 1970's this story follows an unnamed, 16-year-old young woman, as she is drawn into a murky world where Vlad the Impaler still lives. A world in which countless generations have searched for the historical truth behind the story of Dracula, with disastrous results.
The young woman's journey starts when she uncovers an ancient book whose pages are mysteriously blank, except for the center two pages which bear a woodcut image of a dragon and the word Drakulya. Also, hidden within the pages are many letters, all addressed to "...My dear and unfortunate successor." As events unfold, our heroine appears to be the latest successor to the book, which, according to her father, Paul, has a propensity of co-opting its owners for its own, arcane purposes. Caught up by the story of the book, and the histories of two of its previous owners, Professor Bartholomew Rossi and Helen Rossi, the heroine embarks upon her own quest for the truth about Dracula, despite knowing that this unfinished quest has already ruined the lives of so many of her predecessors.
Mixing historical fact and historical figures with outright fantasy and the Dracula mythology, Kostova has written an admirable first novel. She weaves a labyrinthine story that chronicles not only the young woman's quest into the truth about Dracula, but also of the quests embarked upon by her predecessors. The story is told to the reader through the research being conducted by the heroine. We read as she reads, and we know what she discovers only as she uncovers each new tidbit of information. This technique allows the reader to become the investigative historian, and to put the pieces of the puzzle together along with the researcher. Interweaving these diverse stories and settings, Kostova manages to bring the story to a solid and satisfactory ending, while also providing an unexpected sense of tension and suspense.
This audio edition of The Historian is read by a diverse cast which helps to distinguish the various characters and the various time lines of the story. This is a long book, with a large cast of characters, and at times the story does flag somewhat, but don't let this but you off the book. As a whole, this is a well-crafted story that will hold your interest and send a few chills up your spine.
If you have any interest in the Mythos of Dracula, or if you have enjoyed any of the numerous books about Dracula, you will be fascinated by The Historian. Be forewarned, however, while Dracula does make an appearance, this is not so much a story about vampires as it is about one girl's quest to find evidence of their existence and to discover the fate of her latest predecessors, the Rossis. Therefore, if you are simply looking for a fine historical novel or suspenseful read, this book will also make ideal summer listening. Not only does it offer a unique take on the Dracula story, but it also serves as a bit of a travelogue, taking the reader on a journey throughout Western and Eastern Europe, while solving a complex mystery.
This audio edition of The Historian includes an audio preview of Kostova's new book, The Swan Thieves, as well as a PDF file that list the complete cast of characters found in The Historian.
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