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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 (2923 )
5 star
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4.0 (1274 )
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4.2 (1261 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Tiffany Corona, CA, United States 03-08-06
    Tiffany Corona, CA, United States 03-08-06 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    144
    ratings
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    "Great Treasure Hunt !"

    Granted, it started out a little slow, and if you are looking for horror a la Stephen King or Dean Koontz, you won't like it. If you liked the treasure hunt aspects of the Davinci Code, you'll love The Historian.

    This story is intricate and has about 4 levels of stories within stories and some of it is very ancient, and I personally could not put it down (stop listening, rather). I have no idea whether any of it is accurate or is even supposed to be, but it is fiction and the author weaves a very good story. Not terribly frightening, but definitely eerie. I can see how others might find it too long, but I was sorry to see it end.

    I would love to see more stories like this one, weaving ancient legends with historical events and secret societies leading into the modern.

    The Historian kept my commute almost enjoyable for at least a few weeks!

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barbara kansas city, MO, United States 01-16-10
    Barbara kansas city, MO, United States 01-16-10 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    31
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    7
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    "can't stop listening even at 2 a.m."

    This book held me spellbound for hours every day that I listened to it. I was skeptical of all the
    "vampire-hype" books- but this was a gorgeous aural surprise.
    Characters were so well written and the journey of the book was truly gripping and well written!
    Highly recommended by a friend- I will always heed her recommendations.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julie Cookeville, TN, USA 12-20-09
    Julie Cookeville, TN, USA 12-20-09 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    19
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    39
    5
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    "Unique take on a historic subject"

    I didn't know what to really expect. This was a great mix of history and fantasy. Lots of detail, but worth the entire read.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Monty Bludworth Clear Lk Shores, TX 11-26-08
    Monty Bludworth Clear Lk Shores, TX 11-26-08 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    12
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    2
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    "Fantastic!"

    I thoroughly enjoyed The Historian, yes it is long, but I relished every minute of the story. I had this book in my wish list for a long time before I downloaded it, primarily because of the negative reviews. I am so happy that I finally decided to listen to it! Also the production is very well done and the narration is well done too.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Josh Taylorsville, UT, USA 01-20-08
    Josh Taylorsville, UT, USA 01-20-08 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    15
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    10
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    "Good read"

    Excellent! Chilling and every thing I was hoping for out of this book.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada 02-08-06
    Susan Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada 02-08-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    35
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    202
    8
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    Overall
    "Be prepared to rewind"

    As a general rule I like long audiobooks, but I've never had to rewind a book as often as this one. There are long pauses in the action while things are explained (one key piece of information comes in the form of a scholarly paper). My mind would wander and I'd have to go back to see if I had missed anything. I also found that at those times my disbelief clicked in--...but how did he ...? Even though some seemingly extraneous details turn out to be relevant, a good edit could have sustained the action without sacrificing important information.

    I also have mixed feelings about the narration. Having two readers works well, but the woman's attempt at an English accent is excrutiating.

    15 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Yamhill, OR, United States 08-28-11
    Robert Yamhill, OR, United States 08-28-11 Member Since 2015

    Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    3898
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    366
    214
    FOLLOWERS
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    2233
    12
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Everything going for it but the ending"

    I think that there is a lot to recommend in this audiobook. It was well produced and the narration was excellent. The book was well written and long with multiple arcs. This may not appeal to all but it does to me. There was a good deal of history, no pun, and geography spanning the pages. I diligently followed the characters but was no emotionally invested in any of them. It was a book about the history but not exactly the origin or final disposition of Dracula's vampirism. Many reviewers have commented on the unsatisfying ending of the book and I have to agree here. For a book of this length, I believe it should have fulfilled something more than just an enticement to read the next in a series of the author's books though I do not even know if a sequel is planned. I enjoy long, complex books that are often part of a series but I do believe that each entry in a series should have a certain finality in itself and be able to some extent be a work capable of standing on its own. As well written as I believe this book to be, it really does not stand on its own.

    16 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diane Westlake Village, CA, United States 05-01-12
    Diane Westlake Village, CA, United States 05-01-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    10
    ratings
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    6
    5
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    Story
    "If you like multiple stories this is for you"
    What would have made The Historian better?

    in the description letting the buyer know it is about Dracula


    What could Elizabeth Kostova have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    the narration jumps between characters, accents, eras and is very confusing


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    too many accents (not well done)


    Any additional comments?

    very disappointed in this book - sorry I wasted a credit on it

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David 10-30-11
    David 10-30-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    35
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    Story
    "quite amazing, but at the story struggles"

    Apparently this is Kostova's first book, and being so it is actually quite amazing, but at the same time the story struggles. The story is strung out over three timelines, so it can get a little confusing or frustrating jumping in and out of the different "voices". Way too often the main characters, who are following and trying to solve a mystery, stumble upon coincidences that are needed to move the story forward to the next scene. At one point, the characters even mention how "lucky" they are that they keep coming across coincidences that help them. Another weakness in the plotting is that the character about whom the whole mystery revolves distributed a whole bunch of resources (maps) to locate the mystery, and at the same time is trying to prevent people who find the resources from locating the mystery. Lastly, Kostova must have done a ton of research on Eastern European history, and she puts it all into her book when lots of it may not have been needed. If you like the genera, then you will probably like the story. Otherwise, wait for the movie...

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Katie woodbridge, VA, United States 05-24-10
    Katie woodbridge, VA, United States 05-24-10 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
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    10
    1
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    Overall
    "I've made myself listen"

    Perhaps the abridged version would have been better? The story drags, perhaps in part because the narrators speak very slowly. I find my mind wandering, which is unlike me.

    After listening to Under the Dome and Prince of Tides, which I couldn't listen to ENOUGH, this one is a disappointment. Maybe I'm spoiled by these as the narrators seemed to be acting their parts, rather than reading them to a dull-witted person.

    As for the story itself, it's interesting if you've never been to the countries described in the book. I could almost "see" them.

    I'm on the 4th of 4 parts now; perhaps it'll pick up. If not, tomorrow my subscription renews so I'll download Steig Larrson's last book. Can't wait!!

    As for my recommendation, sadly I must agree with other reviewers in that this book was more than slightly boring to listen to. To actually read it might have been different. Some audiobooks work and some don't. This didn't, for me.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
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