Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Review: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Now that I commute every morning by train, I am able to finally regain my love for devouring books.

I decided that my first book since I came back to the land of the bookworm is The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.

It is an intricate and intriguing tale of a girl uncovering her family's past and their secrets surrounding the late fifteenth century history and legend of Vlad the Impaler (Count Dracula to those who are not aware of the connection). Told in a unique fashion, you follow the various exploits of several historians and scholars as they get entangled with conspiracies and find themselves on a trek across countries in hopes of uncovering the mystery that involves not only vampires but the lingering threat that had been following them.

All in all, it's a book that was in need of an editor. It's an interesting tale hampered by an over-complicated delivery. Told as a woman remembering her search for her father, reading her father's letters telling the tale of his search for his mentor, in which he sites the mentor's letters chronicling his search for Dracula. The epistolary style harkens back to Bram Stoker's Dracula but it complexity reduced its effectiveness as a narration.

The odd thing was that the tone of the letters did not seem to vary from character to character, and I could only hope that if you were to meet them over coffee you'd recognize that they were different people. Also, not too many people write letters that include full dialogue, descriptions of people, and their own mannerisms when they speak...let alone the five or so people who did exactly that in the book. It's awkward and makes you forget that you're writing a letter or a journal entry only to be jarred out of that reality by mention that it was only a letter.

I enjoyed The Historian and thought the story and the characters were interesting, however it felt like a long book. It would have done better if it was told from only a few viewpoints, rather than the layered onion it was.

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