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The Historian | [Elizabeth Kostova]

The Historian

Late one night, exploring her father's library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters. The letters are all addressed to "My dear and unfortunate successor", and they plunge 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 inconceivable evil hidden in the depths of history.
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Publisher's Summary

Late one night, exploring her father's library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters. The letters are all addressed to "My dear and unfortunate successor", and they plunge 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 inconceivable evil hidden in the depths of history.

The letters provide links to one of the darkest powers that humanity has ever known, and to a centuries-long quest to find the source of that darkness and wipe it out. It is a quest for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler whose barbarous reign formed the basis of the legend of Dracula. Generations of historians have risked their reputations, their sanity, and even their lives to learn the truth about Vlad the Impaler and Dracula. Now one young woman must decide whether to take up this quest herself, to follow her father in a hunt that nearly brought him to ruin years ago, when he was a vibrant young scholar and her mother was still alive.

What does the legend of Vlad the Impaler have to do with the modern world? Is it possible that the Dracula of myth truly existed, and that he has lived on, century after century, pursuing his own unknowable ends? The answers to these questions cross time and borders, as first the father and then the daughter search for clues, from dusty Ivy League libraries to Istanbul, Budapest, and the depths of Eastern Europe. In city after city, in monasteries and archives, in letters and in secret conversations, the horrible truth emerges about Vlad the Impaler's dark reign, and about a time-defying pact that may have kept his awful work alive down through the ages.

©2005 Elizabeth Kostova. All Rights Reserved.; (P)2005 Books on Tape

What the Critics Say

  • 2006 Book Sense Book of the Year, Adult Fiction

"A bloodthirsty delight....Both literary and scary, this one is guaranteed to keep one reading into the wee hours." (Booklist)
"Along with all the fascinating historical information, there's also a mounting casualty count, and the big showdown amps up the drama by pulling at the heartstrings at the same time it revels in the gruesome. Exotic locales, tantalizing history, a family legacy and a love of the bloodthirsty: it's hard to imagine that readers won't be bitten, too." (Publishers Weekly)
"The Historian is artfully constructed and atmospheric." (Washington Post Book World)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (3125 )
5 star
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4.0 (1456 )
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Story
4.2 (1444 )
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 (198)
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  •  
    Branden Lafayette, LA, United States 01-27-09
    Branden Lafayette, LA, United States 01-27-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
    88
    ratings
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    18
    11
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    3
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    Overall
    "Phenomenallly detailed..."

    I LOVED this book. It is chock full of historical detail, which, I believe, took the author years to research. The multi narrator format took a little getting used to. I wasn't crazy about Joanne Whaley's voice; it grates on me. It's worth persevering, though.
    A few pointers:

    *If you're looking for a "vampire" book, beware. The book is more focused on the history and activity of Dracula than on a bloodsucking rampage.

    *If you are bored by detailed descriptions of places and history, you probably want to read the abridged or skip the book altogether.

    *If you have difficulty understanding foreign accents, beware. There are many nationalities depicted in the book.

    *If you're expecting an action-packed plot twister, this isn't your book.

    *This book was made to be savored, not gulped down.

    55 of 55 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joseph Austin, TX, United States 08-26-08
    Joseph Austin, TX, United States 08-26-08 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1026
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    87
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    Overall
    "Great immersion entertainment"

    This is a pretty good story with a wonderful, complex setting and one of the best narrations I've ever heard.

    The story begins slow and hokie, with an uninteresting mystery concerning blank books, and while the characters and the mystery develop and become both enchanting and entrancing, the central hokiness of the premise is hard to set aside. That's why I rated four instead of five stars. The story fulfills enough other promises to transcend those flaws, though.

    The charming characters and epic mystery drive this book through incredible settings, each recreated with an intimate feel that makes you overlook the unlikely justifications for getting you there. The language and scholarship is stately and impressive, yet you feel the cushions in the Turkish parlor as one character sinks into them with the relish of a homesick traveler. From American university libraries to churches in isolated villages in Cold War Bulgaria, each place, each era, each character feels genuine. You will at times wonder how the author knows something, how long she must have lived, where all she must have traveled.

    And the narrators are some of the best I've heard. They recreate a range of accents and character from Scottish to Romanian, yet they master each, almost as actors interpreting a script.

    All in all, this is a wonderful listen, and I've been scouring Audible since hearing it trying to find something that comes close. Easily my favorite Audible purchase. If you are looking for a great epic with strong settings and characters and an interesting tale that rises above its simple plot, give this one a listen. It will immerse you in a world that will be hard to leave once the story ends.

    31 of 31 people found this review helpful
  •  
    eliz1588 amazon customer 10-22-07 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    66
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    12
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    Overall
    "Worth your time"

    The Historian has exactly enough action to keep you interested, exactly enough detail to make it rich, good, solid writing and a complicated and well-developed plot. It's interesting in the beginning and becomes enthralling as it progresses. The readers are great. This book is really worth your time. LIstening to it certainly made painless the mindless labor which of necessity occupied my body while my mind was wandering with the characters.

    18 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    P Houston, TX, United States 01-08-08
    P Houston, TX, United States 01-08-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    23
    ratings
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    34
    4
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    0
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    Overall
    "Great read!"

    Could not put it down, listened every chance I had, on my Zen at work, driving, eating, where ever! Not too long or laborious as some of the reviews say. It all had to be said to understand the work, without all the descriptions it would have been hard to see the places in your mind. I hope her next is just as good. I will keep this one. In a few years may read again.

    17 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    rwise Deer Park, TX 01-13-06
    rwise Deer Park, TX 01-13-06 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
    121
    ratings
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    11
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    3
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    Overall
    "New angle of an old story - good fiction"

    When I bought this book I was very sceptical. The story of Dracula has been told and re-told, filmed and re-filmed over and over. What would be left to tell? Well, this book for instance. It tells the old bloodsucker's story in a more modern content and with well developed characters. Even the character of Dracula becomes more complex and interesting than the well-known movie vampire. The alternation of readers/actors between a male and female voice makes it a way better than average listening experience. Even though it is a rather long book it never becomes boring. I will try to read more books from the author.

    42 of 44 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julie W. Capell Milwaukee, WI USA 11-08-09
    Julie W. Capell Milwaukee, WI USA 11-08-09 Member Since 2007

    The audio books I get tend to be either 1) scifi or 2) things for my husband and me to listen to on long road trips--humor or history

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    5
    Overall
    "Drop by Drop, a pretty engaging read"

    Another entry in the genre I like to call "DaVinci Code-esque" in which a nerdy researcher-university type gets caught up in international intrigue while following a variety of research clues that make some nefarious person want to kill them. Throw in the Dracula legend and you have The Historian. Not as frenetically paced as other novels in the genre, it managed to include enough details of vampire lore without leeching the life out of the story and enough details about the characters' inner lives to make it more than a typical adventure story.

    The author is good enough to be able to move her plot between several timeframes decades apart without making the book hopelessly complicated. This sometimes overused device works well here to maintain suspense and drip clues to the reader drop by bloody drop.

    I enjoyed my audiobook version since I didn't have to carry around this 700+ page behemoth, just load it onto my phone and listen to the wonderful narrators as I took my morning exercise walks through the woods.

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisa Bayside, NY, United States 02-03-06
    Lisa Bayside, NY, United States 02-03-06 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    13
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    Overall
    "Goood Eeeevening"

    While I generally believe details to a large degree build the realism and believability of a story, this one got to be tediously detailed at times. And the depiction of the vampire, which started out scary finally became so hokey it was laughable. So I give it a three. But its non-linear construction is engaging and the characters are compelling and sympathetic. I would recommend it as an interesting, though flawed, literary work.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jessica K 02-26-10
    Jessica K 02-26-10 Listener Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    37
    ratings
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    21
    4
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    2
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    Overall
    "this version is really great"

    The Historian is one of my favorite books, and this audiobook is fantastic. I can easily distinguish between the characters and the pacing is perfect. The sound quality is great and I don't feel like I have to turn my speakers way up to understand the narrators. Highly recommended!

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Benjamin Hillsboro, OR, USA 01-21-06
    Benjamin Hillsboro, OR, USA 01-21-06 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    21
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    23
    2
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    1
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    Overall
    "i liked it."

    Great narration, great(er) story. I hope the author writes more, my only disappointment was in finishing this one and finding out this is the only book she has listed. I've been a audible member for 3 years and this is my favorite book so far. (I missed a lot of subway announcements, train stops, beggars, thieves, and co-workers due to my inability to pull out my headphones ).

    19 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patricia 11-01-09
    Patricia 11-01-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
    139
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    19
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    9
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    Overall
    "Gripping story"

    I am not a part of the current pop fad for vampire novels so I'm not sure why I chose this book, but I'm very glad I did. It's certainly not pop, but rather a deeply thought out story with loving attention to historical detail.

    (Sidenote - I have an interest in art and architecture, so I found the descriptions of, for example, Byzantine and Romanesque architecture fascinating, but I don't think they are too esoteric either for the average reader.)

    The novel is a long, somewhat demanding, listen, but be patient. Let the story unfold and envelope you, which it does, due to two lovely performances by the male and female readers, and a gripping plot.

    The novel follows three historians, one in the 1930s, one in the 1950s, and one in the 1970s, all linked, who are pursuing Dracula and in turn are being pursued by him. The historians are very real people and their stories are emotionally involving, at times bringing me to tears.

    The transitions back and forth between the three different decades, and indeed back to medieval times, is very well done and I never felt lost or left behind by the writer.

    And of course, this being a vampire story, it should be plenty blood-curdling too, and it succeeds.

    My one quibble would be that the finale of the novel feels rushed to me, and the long-awaited confrontation between good and evil not quite as apocalyptic as I wanted.

    Also, I had formed an emotional attachment to the Turkish characters who form such an integral part of the middle of the novel, and they are not mentioned at all in the denouement.

    Overall though, a very enjoyable journey through time, from one fabulous locale to another, in the company of people I really came to care about. What more can we ask of a novelist?


    8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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