There’s a handful of good ideas in in Kostova’s novel, that never really gel together. A brainy teenager (with that old Gothic standby of not having a name) tracing a secret long kept by her loving parent, while the other is absent, a secret society of scholars hunting for the truth about Vlad The Impaler discover that the vampiric legends surrounding him are true, and Vlad Dracul’s descendants grapple with the legacy of evil left behind.
None of it quite gets there, as The Historian can’t commit to one of these narratives and tries to get all three in there. While the stylistic choice to mirror Brahm Stoker’s Dracula is a fun one, the diary within a diary within a diary conceit of this book makes it often hard to track.
A globe trotting thriller that’s never quite thriling and a horror novel that’s only scary for a few pages, a semi-sequel to Dracula where he only appears for like ten pages (and they are the best 10 pages of the book) everything about The Historian feels half baked. It’s also from that precious time fifteen years ago where every book seemed like it was trying to ape The DaVinci Code‘s formula of academics uncovering ancient and shocking secrets as they stumble through catacombs in Europe.
I enjoyed it enough that I was able to push through the more banal parts to the actually exciting conclusion, but not enough to really recommend it as a read to most people. It’s a fun read for anyone who’s really into vampire fiction. (Like Me!) It’s ties to Stoker’s original are worthwhile and the way it draws on the actual story of Vlad The Impaler somewhat creative, but it would have been altogether a better book if Kostova had picked one track and stuck with it, rather than trying to cover everything here.
Up next I’m sticking with vampires but we’re checking back in with Lestat in The Tale Of The Body Theif. I’ve missed that arrogant little SOB, I really, really have.