“The Historian” is a thrilling, gothic, historical, mystery novel. There are so many different parts to it that I’m not sure exactly how to classify it.
The story begins in 1972. A 16-year-old American girl living in Amsterdam finds a mysterious book in her father’s library. The book is old and blank except for a sinister woodcut of a dragon and the word “Drakulya.” Inside she finds a series of old letters addressed to “My dear and unfortunate successor.”
The girl asks her father about the letters, and he reluctantly tells her a chilling story about his involvement, 20 years earlier, in the search for his missing graduate school mentor.
The father’s mentor, Rossi, disappeared only minutes after confiding that he was certain that Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, was still alive. The father then embarks on a search for his beloved advisor with the help of another scholar, Helen, who is searching for Rossi for her own reasons.
As the daughter hears more of the unsettling story, she secretly begins her own research and quest for the truth. Could one of the darkest powers to ever live still be alive? The young girl is plunged into a dark world that is beyond anything she could have dreamed, where her father’s secrets and her mother’s disappearance are all connected to the hunt for Dracula.
The book is laid out in a series of first person narratives, some from the young girl, another from her father recounting the story from 20 years earlier and also from a series of letters. The entire novel reads in a very suspenseful way.
Kostova did an excellent job of seamlessly jumping around from story line to story line. The characters were interesting, and the story drew you in from the beginning to the end.
My only complaint with “The Historian” is one specific chapter. It doesn’t fit with the fast, thrilling pace of the rest of the novel. The book comes to a sudden halt with this chapter, which feels and reads like a college research paper on the migrations of 15th century monks. I read about five pages and skimmed the rest of the chapter to see where the story picked back up. As soon as that chapter was done, the novel picked back up with its thrilling pace.
I would recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction, vampire lore and a good mystery. This book has all three blended together beautifully into a chilling story that will keep you saying “just five more pages” late into the night.
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