Posted on April 17, 2007 by Flames
Written by by Elizabeth Kostova
Dracula has held our fascination for centuries, and yet his life, and his death remain a mystery to us. So it is only natural for him to star in many novels and games, making the hunt for him a focal point in the plot. The novel The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova, features the history of Dracula. The fear and danger of searching for him are wonderfully depicted in this novel, keeping the reader glued to its pages.
The book takes place in both the past and the present. The main character is the daughter of a European Historian, named Paul. The daughter remains nameless and we can assume her identity is The Historian, the namesake of the book. The plot follows her following her fathers steps trying to track down the location of Dracula’s corpse. Her father has left in search of her mother, Helen, who went missing shortly after The Historian‘s birth, but is still alive. The story takes them all over Europe and the Middle East, as well as Russia. The storyline is split, and each chapter pretty much focuses on either the past storyline, which is Paul and Helen searching for Dracula, and the present, which is The Historian searching for her father.
This type of storyline can be hard to follow, but Elizabeth Kostova did a very good job keeping the storyline moving and easy to follow. The Past storyline starts off with Paul when he is working on his Doctorate. One night in the library, he finds a book among his possessions. This book had blank pages with the cover image is a woodprint of a Dragon encircling a castle. Following the minimal clues given to him, Paul starts researching and tracking Dracula’s past. Along the way they meet up with many others who are also on the same trail. Every step of the way they meet danger and warnings about following the trail, the perpetrator working for Dracula himself. The twist in the story is a wonderful surprise that Helen herself is a descendant of Dracula, and can feel his presence around her. She uses this to her advantage in tracking him.
The use of historical text and locations gives the edge this story needs. She even makes a list of the travel and historical sources she uses in the back of the book. Each new place they travel to offers a new perspective on their crusade.
The true horror of this book comes from the mysterious things that keep happening. Attacks on their friends, pets disappearing, or their rooms being ransacked. Each step closer to the truth brings them one step closer to death itself. The way terror and the dark are portrayed is amazing. It kept me hooked all the way to the end of the book. Dracula’s own minions keep following them, keeping right up with them the entire adventure. Helen herself gets bitten twice by the monster following her.
All of this build up eventually let up to a pretty disappointing ending fight. Dracula himself was not as dark or horrifying as his minions. He just stood there while everyone stood around frozen. The Historian can hear his blood calling to her, but only she can hear it. His conversation feels almost like a pamphlet advertising for eternal life. Only when Paul confronts Dracula does something does the battle start. The battle takes place in modern time, with The Historian herself finding his resting spot. The battle itself was anti-climactic, with Helen returning to her family just in time to save the day.
Another downfall of the book was the lack of Helen’s personality. The other characters in the story are very nicely developed, and Helen is just left outside the loop. One possible reason is that she herself feels like an outsider, so to keep with character feelings, Elisabeth Kostova kept her a mystery. When Helen finally returned at the end of the story, it lost its effectiveness, as it seemed like The Historian and her father didn’t change much.
So the final verdict? Yes or No? I would say yes, anyone with a pension for dark history, fear, and evil would definitely love this book. Its shortcomings can easily be forgiven, given the wonderful plot line that was laid out before it. It kept me wondering what really lurked outside my window at night.
Reviewer: Crystal Mazur