Reviews for Historian : A Novel
Booklist Reviews 2005 May #2
/*Starred Review*/ Readers who think the legend of Dracula has become a trite staple of schlock fiction will find this atmospheric page-turner by first-time author Kostova a bloodthirsty delight. A teenage American girl, living in1972 Amsterdam, comes across an ancient book in the library of her widower father, a former historian and now a diplomat. The book, blank save for an illustration of a dragon and the word Drakulya, contains a cache of faded letters all addressed to "My dear and unfortunate reader." Thus begins a search for the truth behind the myth of Dracula, a search that crosses continents as well as generations. Told through narratives, flashbacks, and letters, the plot unfolds at a rapid pace but never gives away too many clues at once. The cast of colorful characters even includes a creepy librarian who takes on the Renfield role of crazed vampire groupie. Both literary and scary, this one is guaranteed to keep one reading into the wee hours--preferably sitting in a brightly lit room and wearing a garlic necklace. Highly recommended for all collections and just in time to enthrall the summer-vacation crowd. ((Reviewed May 15, 2005)) Copyright 2005 Booklist Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2005 May #1
An intricately plotted first novel, ten years in the making, lavishly reworks the Dracula legend. Kostova's unnamed narrator, a brainy schoolgirl whose education has benefited from European travels required by her father Paul's pacifist foundation, kick-starts the narrative when she happens upon an old book that features a striking woodcut illustration. The image of a huge dragon and the word "Drakulya" thus stimulate her excited questions, her father's initially evasive responses and his gradual disclosures of intersecting scholarly researches into a centuries-old enigma: the unknown location of the tomb bloodthirsty warlord Vlad Tepes (whose atrocities inspired Bram Stoker's ur-vampire) is buried in, though perhaps not resting in peace. We learn, piecemeal, about Paul's mentor Bartolomeo Rossi's fascination with the Dracula story (and its little understood relation to the history of the Ottoman Empire), Rossi's unexplained disappearance and the alarming fact that people interested in obscure manuscripts keep turning up dead (if not undead). The story settles into a hypnotic dual rhythm as the narrator seeks her father (who seems to be hunting for Rossi) throughout Istanbul and the Balkans, accompanied by Helen, a young scholar pursuing her own agenda-while testimony from both Paul's letters to his narrator-daughter and Rossi's to him reveal Vlad Tepes's unearthly ambivalence. The notorious barbarian's excesses coexisted with his "predilection not only for the best of the academic world . . . but also for librarians [and] archivists," and the universal fear and loathing he evoked are complicated by information "that monks traveled with Dracula's remains, and that he was probably buried in a monastery." All is explained in a smashing climax and an ironic epilogue, which suggests that a pact between forces of good and evil has kept the ancient evil alive and well to this day.Anne Rice, beware. There's a new Queen of the Night in town, and she's taking no prisoners. Copyright Kirkus 2005 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Journal Reviews 2005 February #2
Is Dracula alive (so to speak) and well in modern-day Europe? That question, sparked by a strange medieval text and some letters, sets an American girl on the quest that wrecked her father. There's a big, big push here; the publisher is aiming for the Da Vinci Code and even the adult Harry Potter crowd. With a ten-city tour. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal Reviews 2005 June #2
Did Bram Stoker base his character Count Dracula on the historical Vlad Dracul, the cruel 15th-century prince of Wallachia? Some believe this despite scanty evidence, but in Kostova's first novel there is no doubt. In the early 20th century, Paul, a young graduate student, learns from his advisor, Professor Rossi, that Prince Dracula is still alive as one of the undead. When the professor disappears one terrifying night, Paul goes in search of his mentor, whom he knows to be in Dracula's clutches. His search takes him to secret archives and libraries of ancient monasteries throughout Eastern Europe; he is joined by his daughter, his wife, and friends, all historians and scholars themselves. (There's even an evil, undead librarian!) The writing is excellent, and the pace is brisk, although it sags a bit in the middle. There is plenty of suspense so that readers will want to find out what happens next. Ten years in the writing, this debut is recommended for readers who enjoy arcane literary puzzles … la Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code and Ian Caldwell's The Rule of Four. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/05.]-Patricia Altner, Information Seekers, Columbia, MD Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2005 April #2
Considering the recent rush of door-stopping historical novels, first-timer Kostova is getting a big launch-fortunately, a lot here lives up to the hype. In 1972, a 16-year-old American living in Amsterdam finds a mysterious book in her diplomat father's library. The book is ancient, blank except for a sinister woodcut of a dragon and the word "Drakulya," but it's the letters tucked inside, dated 1930 and addressed to "My dear and unfortunate successor," that really pique her curiosity. Her widowed father, Paul, reluctantly provides pieces of a chilling story; it seems this ominous little book has a way of forcing itself on its owners, with terrifying results. Paul's former adviser at Oxford, Professor Rossi, became obsessed with researching Dracula and was convinced that he remained alive. When Rossi disappeared, Paul continued his quest with the help of another scholar, Helen, who had her own reasons for seeking the truth. As Paul relates these stories to his daughter, she secretly begins her own research. Kostova builds suspense by revealing the threads of her story as the narrator discovers them: what she's told, what she reads in old letters and, of course, what she discovers directly when the legendary threat of Dracula looms. Along with all the fascinating historical information, there's also a mounting casualty count, and the big showdown amps up the drama by pulling at the heartstrings at the same time it revels in the gruesome. Exotic locales, tantalizing history, a family legacy and a love of the bloodthirsty: it's hard to imagine that readers won't be bitten, too. Agent, Amy Williams. 325,000 first printing; major ad/promo; 10-city author tour. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 2005 October
Adult/High School -A motherless 16-year-old girl stumbles upon a mysterious book and papers dating back to her father's student days at Oxford. She asks him to explain her find but he disappears before she can learn everything. Reading the salutation of the letters, "My dear and unfortunate successor," the unnamed heroine uncovers an academic quest that begins with her father's mentor's first research into the history of Vlad Tepes (Dracula) and reaches a kind of conclusion many years later. Kostova's debut book unfolds across Europe, through three main narrators, and back and forth in time, as the story of two families' connections to and search for the true Vlad the Impaler is unveiled. The historian of the title could refer to any of the novel's central characters or even to Vlad Tepes himself. While teens may gain a feeling for Cold War Europe and some respect for the Internet-less scholars of 40 years ago, Historian is an eerie thriller, an atmospheric mystery, and an appealing romance. Teen fascination with vampires has been keen since Bram Stoker popularized the legend of Dracula, right up through Buffy. This complex, convoluted, and well-written novel will appeal to teens who love a story on a grand scale that is as engrossing as it is entertaining.-Jane Halsall, McHenry Public Library District, IL [Page 200]. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.