Book Review: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Elizabeth Kostova’s Stoker homage, The Historian, is so exactingly researched—or seemingly—so intricately detailed, that over the course of its 642 pages, one becomes convinced of the plausibility of vampirism. Sure, I believe there are people that get off on playing the part, even to the point of drinking blood (I live near Seattle, after all, home of the pale), but Kostova’s words are so subtle and her glimpses of the vampiric form so brief, that memories are sparked rather than literary images—Or, I’m simply crazy from reading too long a story.

The Historian is told through the same literary device that Bram Stoker’s original vampire masterpiece, Dracula employed: correspondence. Multitudinous letters, postcards, documents recount the tale of the hunt for Vlad “The Impaler” Tepes (cool porn name?), over the span of 500 years. The novel trips like a Bond movie from Amsterdam to Istanbul, Oxford to Budapest. And—get this—every character is an historian. Who would have thought that would be interesting?

While there is no way, despite its theme, the book could be considered horror, The Historian is nevertheless immensely readable and, at times, thrilling. Kostova has produced an enviable debut novel that seeks and finds a fresh perspective on some pretty moldy lore.

Next book reviews: In honor of Chrisopher Moore's Seattle reading/signing: Bloodsucking Fiends and its sequel, You Suck: A Love Story, reviewed, all in one tidy bundle, sans swaddling clothes.