Wednesday, October 13, 2010

THE HISTORIAN by Elizabeth Kostova

'Tis the season for ghost and goblins—and vampires. Actually, vampires seem to be in vogue year-round these days. The title applies to almost everyone in the book, including Dracula, who doesn't just delve into ancient archives but has witnessed five hundred years of history firsthand, since his decapitation in the 1400s. Three other historians, not of the undead variety, have embarked on a sort of treasure hunt to locate Dracula's tomb and drive a stake through his heart. These three quests take place in sequential time periods. The first is that of Bartholomew Rossi, an academic who has stumbled onto manuscripts that would indicate that Dracula, a medieval Romanian tyrant, is still alive and tormenting anyone who happens upon his trail. Then Rossi suddenly vanishes, and his protégé, Paul, sets out to find him and guesses correctly that Dracula has something to do with Rossi's disappearance. Before Paul sets out for Eastern Europe, he meets a young woman, Helen, who claims to be Rossi's daughter. Then around 18 years later, Paul abandons his teenage daughter at a conference at Oxford University, because something has suddenly come up. A handsome student named Barley suspends his studies at Oxford to go to France with the daughter to find her father. Yes, everyone is dashing off to parts unknown, and it's a little confusing, especially since voluminous letters consume most of the book. As with many lengthy adventure tales, the culmination of the quest(s) is somewhat anti-climactic. Despite painstakingly detailed itineraries and descriptions of translated parchment documents, there's a lot here that defies reality, besides the obvious vampire lore. Paul and Helen miraculously weasel their way into communist bloc countries and somehow avoid spending the rest of their lives in a dark prison for grave-robbing. Then there are numerous convenient coincidences, where various vampire hunters cross paths serendipitously. Plus, the fact that everyone the world over believes vampires exist puts this book solidly in the realm of fantasy. And, coming in at over 600 pages, it needs to be really good fantasy in order to keep me entertained, and it falls short. Anne Rice still reigns in the vampire department.

1 comment:

Jessica said...

I keep seeing this around but for some reason I've never brought it. I read nearly all of Anne Rices stuff so I think thats the reason. Thanks for the review.