‘The Historian’ by Elizabeth Kostova is a sweeping saga of the search for the real Dracula, delving into the mysteries surrounding his life, death and burial. It is a combination of historical fact and fantastic legend. Vlad Tepes, the Impaler, murdered more than 20,000 people. His father had been inducted into the Order of the Dragon by the Holy Roman Emperor – and hence Vlad’s name as Dracula, meaning son of the dragon. It was Bram Stoker’s novel that created the legend of the undead – and Dracula became known as a bloodsucking vampire.
With the delicacy of unwrapping an ancient manuscript, the story begins with a letter in a library. Working our way through books, libraries, ancient castles and medieval monasteries, we journey back in time to understand Dracula’s life as a real historical figure – a man of such immense cruelty and evil that the idea of him cheating death is not too fantastic. Is Dracula still alive? Does he hold the extraordinary powers attributed to him? And who is his next victim?
Meticulously researched and written in a rather Victorian style, The Historian begins as an intriguing read. But for an impatient reader like myself, it was just too slow. I think it was a great idea that died halfway through and did not recover itself. I often wonder, when plodding through books like these, if the writer was writing more for herself and the agent rather than the reader. It’s a fat book, a tome, and I wonder how many people really have the time for books like this today, especially if the work loses pace halfway through.
But this is just my opinion. This is a major work well-crafted by a good writer. Those who like a detailed, informative, densely plotted and lyrically written book to keep them company for a number of months, will definitely enjoy this.