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The Historian (2005)

by Elizabeth Kostova

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
20,134733165 (3.68)4 / 685
A young woman discovers an ancient book and a cache of old letters in her father's library, and thus begins her adventurous quest for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, a search that will span continents and generations, and a confrontation with the darkest powers of evil.
  1. 343
    Dracula by Bram Stoker (SandSing7)
  2. 191
    The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (GodOfTheAnthill)
    GodOfTheAnthill: Both mystery novels with a similar tone and atmosphere
  3. 143
    A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (clamairy)
    clamairy: Similar themes of magic and academia.
  4. 102
    Dracula [Norton Critical Edition] by Bram Stoker (Nubiannut)
  5. 50
    Labyrinth by Kate Mosse (Johanna11)
  6. 40
    Freedom and Necessity by Steven Brust (tessac)
    tessac: Freedom & Necessity is epistolic in nature so if that appealed to you in The Historian, I heartily recommend F & N. There are no vampires but, like The Historian, the fantastical is subtly woven into the story.
  7. 51
    Dracula the Un-Dead by Dacre Stoker (Joles)
    Joles: Both of these books share a great deal of research and they keep you speeding through one chapter to the next. Oh...and they both have Dracula....
  8. 30
    People of the Book: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks (Johanna11)
  9. 30
    The Quick by Lauren Owen (ablachly)
  10. 20
    Nocturne by Syrie James (Joles)
  11. 20
    The Grand Complication by Allen Kurzweil (FFortuna)
  12. 76
    The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (Johanna11)
  13. 10
    The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers (MyriadBooks)
  14. 10
    Lord of the Dead: The Secret History of Byron by Tom Holland (QueenOfDenmark)
    QueenOfDenmark: I've just started reading The Vampyre but right from the start it put me in mind of Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian. Lord Byron is used as the main character in Tom Holland's The Vampyre to interesting effect while count Dracula is the more traditional vampire hero in Kostova's Historian.… (more)
  15. 10
    The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber (nicchic)
  16. 21
    Dracula, My Love: The Secret Journals of Mina Harker by Syrie James (Joles)
  17. 10
    Gospel by Wilton Barnhardt (kullfarr)
  18. 11
    Angelology by Danielle Trussoni (vwinsloe)
    vwinsloe: A well-imagined history with supernatural beings.
  19. 00
    The Book of Love by Kathleen McGowan (nicchic)
  20. 23
    The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman (Othemts)

(see all 22 recommendations)


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English (710)  Spanish (9)  German (3)  Swedish (3)  Danish (2)  Dutch (2)  Norwegian (1)  Italian (1)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (732)
Showing 1-5 of 710 (next | show all)
Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to ‘My dear and unfortunate successor’. Her discovery plunges her into a world she never dreamed of – a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an evil hidden in the depths of history

Well I enjoyed this. Bit of a love story, lots of history (if that's not real historical stuff it's very well made up!), not TOO heavy on the vampire stuff, though of course Dracula does make an appearance several times.

Whilst the daughter is prevalent at the start of the book, she does get "lost" in the middle, and makes a smallish appearance at the end of the book, which was a bit of a disappointment, as she was the one who initiated the story at the beginning ( )
  nordie | Apr 18, 2022 |
I just couldn't get into it at the time. I might try again later. ( )
  jennybeast | Apr 14, 2022 |
First of all, this is really 3.25 stars. I liked this book quite a bit. But it took me an embarrassingly long time to read as I kept getting distracted by other books that weren't so heavily laden with detail. Oh my goodness can Kostova set a scene. She's really great at that. The plot is well thought out, pretty solid, and intriguing. The pacing, though, is funereal, and most of the characters are little more than sketches, a few broad strokes made from archetypal characteristics. They're good broad strokes, but I can't help but think that if the author had spent less time describing the setting, there might have been more time for character development. This is definitely a suspense novel that defies the breakneck intensity that typifies the suspense genre. Overall a good book that even if it isn't amazing, is satisfying. ( )
  JessicaReadsThings | Dec 2, 2021 |
I really enjoyed this book, but skimmed a few portions of it, if I'm going to be perfectly honest. Reading the Goodreads description of it makes the storyline seem pretty upfront, but in truth it is a wildly convoluted and intricate story from start to finish. I give great props to the author to be able to create so many levels and keep them straight; I sure wasn't able to. It has three different timelines, but within those timelines, people are writing letters to others and notes and diaries to themselves. I had to stop a couple of times to remember who was writing to whom and who was reading it at what time. And as for what I was skimming over? The interminable history of areas that had little to do with the actual story of what I wanted to read. Yeah, yeah, it's touted as historical fiction, but it's DRACULA, so no. ( )
  relorenz1064 | Nov 21, 2021 |
600 pages of dull, plodding travelogue followed by 40 pages of action that whips by so quickly it's barely comprehensible. Dracula, when he finally arrives, is actually pretty fun -- far better company than any of the other interchangeably milquetoast characters -- but it's too little too late.

There is an interesting story clumsily suggested by this book: a revisiting of the Dracula mythos from the point of view of the Ottomans and their descendents. I'd love to see that.

https://donut-donut.dreamwidth.org/830055.html ( )
  amydross | Oct 29, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 710 (next | show all)
Vlad Lit: don't flirt with it, just sink your teeth right in
When, after many other allusions to historians and historicism, Kostova introduced a character whose last name is Hristova, I was tempted to run out to a pharmacy for some antihristomine.

What's unfortunate about this overload is that the book -- which seems to want to do for historians what ''Possession'' did for literary scholars -- is otherwise the kind of wonderfully paced yarn that would make a suitable companion to a deck chair, a patch of sun and some socklessness.
In a ponderous, many-layered book that is exquisitely versed in the art of stalling, Ms. Kostova steeps her readers in Dracula lore. She visits many libraries, monasteries, relics of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, crypts, restaurants, scholars and folk-song-singing peasants. Every now and then a mysterious pale, sinister figure will materialize, only to vanish bewilderingly. The book's characters find this a lot more baffling than readers will.
Stuffed with rich, incense-laden cultural history and travelogue, The Historian is a smart, bibliophilic mystery in the same vein (sorry) as A.S. Byatt's Possession--but without all that poetry.
added by Shortride | editTime, Lev Grossman (Jun 12, 2005)

» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Elizabeth Kostovaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Eyre, JustineNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Michael, PaulNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ram, TitiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schroderus, ArtoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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How these papers have been placed in sequence will be
made manifest in the reading of them. All needless matters have
been eliminated, so that a history almost at variance with the
possibilities of later-day belief may stand forth as simple fact.
There is throughout no statement of past things wherein memory
may err, for all the records chosen are exactly contemporary,
given from the stand-points and within the range
of knowledge of those who made them.

     —Bram Stoker, Dracula, 1897
What sort of place had I come to, and among what kind of
people? What sort of grim adventure was it on which I had
embarked? . . . I began to rub my eyes and pinch myself to see if
I were awake. It all seemed like a horrible nightmare to me, and I
expected that I should suddenly awake, and find myself at home,
with the dawn struggling in through the windows, as I had now
and again felt in the morning after a day of overwork. But my
flesh answered the pinching test, and my eyes were not to be
deceived. I was indeed awake and among the Carpathians. All
I could do now was to be patient, and to wait the coming
of the morning.

—Bram Stoker, Dracula,1897
There was one great tomb more lordly than all the rest; huge it was,
and nobly proportioned. On it was but one word,


     —Bram Stoker, Dracula, 1897.
For my father,
who first told me
some of these stories
First words
A Note To The Reader

The story that follows is one I never intended to commit to paper.
In 1972 I was sixteen—young, my father said, to be traveling with him on his diplomatic missions.
"To you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history . . ."
"My dear and unfortunate successor . . ."
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Please do not combine with any abridged editions of The Historian.
Publisher's editors
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

A young woman discovers an ancient book and a cache of old letters in her father's library, and thus begins her adventurous quest for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, a search that will span continents and generations, and a confrontation with the darkest powers of evil.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Late one night, exploring her father's library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to 'My dear and unfortunate successor'. Her discovery plunges her into a world she never dreamed of - a labyrinth where the secrets of her father's past and her mother's mysterious fate connect to an evil hidden in the depths of history. In those few quiet moments, she unwittingly assumes a quest she will discover is her birthright - a hunt for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler whose barbarous reign formed the basis of the Dracula myth. Deciphering obscure signs and hidden texts, reading codes worked into the fabric of medieval monastic traditions, and evading terrifying adversaries, one woman comes ever closer to the secret of her own past and a confrontation with the very definition of evil.

AR 7.3, 42 Pts
Haiku summary
Dracula - alive!
But where to find him today?
Family's search for truth

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Average: (3.68)
0.5 38
1 197
1.5 29
2 475
2.5 118
3 1214
3.5 320
4 1932
4.5 192
5 1350

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Hachette Book Group

6 editions of this book were published by Hachette Book Group.

Editions: 0316011770, 0316154547, 0316067946, 1600242782, 0316070637, 1600248616


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