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Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

October seemed like a good time to re-read The Historian, my favorite vampire book.  Unlike many others, Kostova keeps Dracula true to his origins -- evil and genuinely scary -- while tying him explicitly to Vlad the Impaler.  There's a great deal of historical research here, resulting in a fascinating display of both Medieval and Cold-War-era Eastern Europe. (I really want to visit  Budapest now.  And Istanbul.)  When The Historian came out it was compared, naturally enough, to The DaVinci Code, but Kostova's novel is quite a bit better, and as far as I can tell not filled with egregious historical and theological mistakes.

A second read did cause me to notice some flaws.  The novel is told in a collection of letters, diaries, and reminiscences,  set mainly in 1930, 1950, and 1972, and told from the viewpoint of the several historians who encountered Dracula directly or indirectly, but Kostova did not distinguish the voices well enough.  Moreover, while Dracula's over-arching plan was clear -- immortality not just through blood, but history -- some of his specific actions were mystifying in light of his goals.  But ultimately these are minor flaws.  Watching the characters piece together Dracula's life was fascinating, and wondering if they would escape his taint was thrilling.

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