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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

3.9 (2820 )
5 star
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Overall
4.0 (1182 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
4.2 (1169 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
 (165)
2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Scott Attleboro, MA, USA 03-02-06
    Scott Attleboro, MA, USA 03-02-06 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
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    141
    6
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    Overall
    "disappointing"

    Aren't novels about vampires supposed to be scary? Or at least suspenseful? After 6 months as a member of Audible and a dozen or so books, this is the first book for which I have been absolutely compelled to write a review. I really feel the need to warn people about it. I can't believe that I spent over 26 hours listening to this, waiting for something - anything - interesting to happen. (Not to mention that when I got it, it 'cost' 2 credits!) It starts out with a promising enough premise, and you keep waiting for the good parts, which judging from the reviews posted here and elsewhere, you think must be just around the corner, but they never come. By the time you realize this is a boring waste of time, you're so invested in just getting through it that you trudge on valiantly, thinking the excitement must come at the end, but it just never does. The prose is ham-handed; the narration is completely devoid of anything approaching emotion or feeling; the accents are unintentionally comical. And (this is NOT a spoiler) I'll save you the trouble of finding out what happens: nothing remotely interesting. The so-called "climax" will leave you scratching your head, wondering how this got published without the author coming up with a more imaginative conclusion. Don't waste your time (a lot of it!) with this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nassir Bainbridge Island, WA, United States 02-22-06
    Nassir Bainbridge Island, WA, United States 02-22-06 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    109
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    87
    11
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    FOLLOWING
    10
    0
    Overall
    "Flawed, heavily"

    This book is not scary. Do I need to elaborate? Okay... all the creepiness involves the idea that someone is watching, ALWAYS. That's it, really, and it involves an excessive suspension of disbelief. Also the author errs from the start in making Dracula a vaguely sympathetic character. Up until almost the end we wonder why he shouldn't kill those coming after him... can't a guy have his privacy? So he killed people 500 years ago for political reasons. Is this so unusually bad we need to lord it over his head, still? He asks to be left alone, you didn't, he attacks you, and you think you're the victim? To remedy this, we get a hackneyed "Haw haw! I'm eeeevil!" speech that comes across as jarring and silly. Worst of all, the conclusion is one of those, "Now let's all sit down and wrap up the loose ends with a massive long exposition" affairs. The entire end feels rushed, like the author ran out of patience with her own swollen construction.

    The narrators work together quite well, but their attempts to do any accent that isn't British fail miserably, and we have to labor patiently through the broken, choppy results. It... makes it... very... hard.

    Still, I listened to it. Three stars.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gnomedog 02-17-06
    Gnomedog 02-17-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    29
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    89
    4
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Slow to start, but a great audio book"

    There is so much detail at every level in this book that at first, I didn't know if I would like it, but I stuck with it and am very glad I did. The author has a great talent for setting a scene and I was playing a movie in my head of what she was describing all the way. She could do with less description in some cases, but overall an excellent book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kris SPRING HILL, TN, United States 10-31-08
    Kris SPRING HILL, TN, United States 10-31-08 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    13
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    30
    5
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    "Story of a story of a story...."

    Still trying to get through book. It is the story of a story or a story. Too many strange accents. The abridged version might me a better bet. Only a historian would enjoy this version.

    2 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kirsten Gould Costa Mesa, CA 08-11-09
    Kirsten Gould Costa Mesa, CA 08-11-09 Member Since 2003

    fiveironfille

    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    37
    3
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    "I love vampire stories this one put me to sleep"

    I didn't get past part 1. I don't need a full description of the chair you're sitting in or how you sip your tea etc. etc. etc.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Maarya Minneapolis, MN, United States 09-18-08
    Maarya Minneapolis, MN, United States 09-18-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    34
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    145
    28
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    "Absolutely Spec!!!"

    I had originally downloaded TH about a year ago and never really gotten around to doing a review but anyway, THIS BOOK IS AMAZING! I absolutely loved the blend of history with real life and admire the way the main characters mesh without ever clashing. I think the length of the book was (is) perfect by the way. E.K did an amazing job writing this book and I can't wait for more titles from her.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gavin Caledon, Ontario, Canada 10-19-07
    Gavin Caledon, Ontario, Canada 10-19-07 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
    20
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    32
    5
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    0
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    Overall
    "Slow"

    In all my years on audible this was by far the slowest book I have ever listened to. I am a big fan of the vampire genre so that made this even more of a disappointment. I felt like I was back in school and the prof was trying to ram a boring lesson down my throat.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sheila 12-05-12
    Sheila 12-05-12
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Like listening to a reading of the phone book"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    A better story with something going on. And better narrators.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Elizabeth Kostova again?

    No.


    What didn’t you like about the narrators’s performance?

    Sounded like the Books for the Blind where someone simply read the story. Again, Like listening to the phone book.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Bordeom.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jaye GREENWICH, CT, United States 07-30-12
    jaye GREENWICH, CT, United States 07-30-12 Member Since 2012

    AUDIBLE MAKES READING POSSIBLE AND EASY FOR ME...I AM VISUALLY IMPAIRED. I WISH THEY HAD ALL THE BOOKS I WANT I WOULD SNAP THEM UP!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    105
    ratings
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    180
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    6
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    Overall
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    Story
    "READ THE ENTIRE REVIEW BEFORE YOU BUY"
    Would you try another book from Elizabeth Kostova and/or the narrators?

    NOT BY THE AUTHOR. WONDERFUL NARRATORS!

    EVEN IF THE SUBJECT WAS OF INTEREST I WOULD EXPECT IT TO BE VERY SLOW AND BORING.


    Has The Historian turned you off from other books in this genre?

    I WAS ALEADY NOT INTERESTED IN THIS NONSENSE. BUT THIS BOOK WENT ON AND ON AND ON AN ON AND ON AND ON..........


    Have you listened to any of the narrators’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I DON'T KNOW. THERE WERE SEVERAL NARRATORS THEY WERE THE ONLY GOOD THING ABOUT THE BOOK.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    BOREDOME AND ANNOYANCE AT MYSELF FOR ONLY READING THE SHORT SYNOPSIS OF THE BOOK. IF I HAD READ THE WHOLE REVIEW I WOULD HAVE IGNORED THIS BOOK COMPLETELY. THE SHORT SYNOPSIS DID NOT MENTION A WORD ABOUT VAMPIRES--IT JUST SOUNDED INTRIUGING. I SHOUD HAVE TAKEN THE TIME TO READ THE ENTIRE REVIEW. FROM NOW ON I WON'T MAKE THIS MISTAKE!


    Any additional comments?

    SINCE THE BOOK CENTERS AROUND VAMPIRES THE SHORT SYNOPSIS SHOULD HAVE MENTIONED THIS. IT WAS A VERY IMPORTANT PART AND I WILL NOT FINISH THIS BOOK. I HAVE READ ONE AND A HALF PARTS AND I HAD TO FORCE MYSELF (SWITCHING TO OTHER BOOKS TO GIVE MYSELF A BREAK FROM THIS NONSENSE. THE SLOWEST BOOK I EVER READ!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amanda Phoenix, AZ, United States 11-05-11
    Amanda Phoenix, AZ, United States 11-05-11 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    7
    6
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    2
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "wanted to like it"

    As both a historical fiction and vampire lover, I was really rooting for this book. I liked it so much I even made it all the way to the last couple hours of the novel before calling it quits. I was so bored with the story I couldn't follow it. It's not that it's an overly hard plot to follow, I just found it difficult to pay attention to. My mind kept wandering and then I'd have to rewind to re-listen to what I missed. It sounds like an enthralling plot line so I really am confused as to where it went so wrong...It just never really took off

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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