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The Navi-Gator: a Gator's Guide to Library Resources

Recommended Fiction: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

by Pamela Tarajcak on 2021-08-31T17:49:45-04:00 | Comments

"My Dear and Unfortunate Successor"

Cover ArtThe Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Call Number: FIC KOST
ISBN: 0316011770
Publication Date: 2005-06-14
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is a perfect book to cozy up to for the incoming fall weather and an nice, chilling entrée into the spooky season.
In mid-1970s Amsterdam, an unnamed teenaged girl finds a mysterious, almost blank, antique book in her American diplomat father's library.  The only thing that the book has inside is a woodcut illustration of a huge, loopy dragon right in the middle of the book. The dragon bears a scroll with the word Drakula on it.  Stuffed inside the book are several letters each written with the greeting, "My Dear and Unfortunate Successor."  Though performing some basic research, the scholarly, curious teen asks her father what these mean. But when her father painfully divulges, little by little his connections to the book, the protagonist's life take a dark turn when she finds out her entire family has been pursued through three generations by none other than the Voivode (Warlord) of Wallachia himself, Vlad III Tepes, or Dracula.  We learn through her father, Paul, that in the 1950s, he was a grad student in history when, one day, in his carrel he finds that book just waiting for him.  He presents it to his mentor, Bartholomew Rossi, who reveals that he too, as a graduate student, received a similar book.  Overnight Rossi disappears and Paul begins a mad dash quest to find him taking Paul to various destinations in Turkey and Eastern Europe to find the grave of the fiend and to find Bartholomew Rossi both may be in the same place.  Historical documents, poems and inscriptions provide clues; the most reliable are the book itself and an inscription said to be near the undead warlord's tomb, "In this spot, he is housed in evil.  Reader, unbury him with a word."   
This book is superbly plotted.  It includes some madcap humor including Paul having to be submerged in an academic's worst nightmare: giving an address to a conference while not knowing any of the material and having to pull it together in less than a week.  The blending of the historical Vlad and the vampire Dracula is excellent and original.  You meet some unforgettable characters, some loveable and some chilling like the villain himself.  Though I will admit, even though I've reread this book several times over the course of the sixteen years of this book's existence, that Kostova makes this book a dense read and it's a slow start before we get to much of the action.  But the slow start only builds the tension.  Moreover, the dense material only leads to a feeling of truth, including some faux historical documents that Kostova writes so well that I thought they were real.  So the book may not be for everyone, but if it's for you, you will be in for a wonderfully complex ride with some excellent characters.  Moreover, if you're just utterly sick and tired of this Pandemic making you sit at home, then you'll be swept away to so many wonderful locales that you'll feel like you're traveling from the comfort of your couch.  Though hold on, the subtle horror will make you chilly with goosebumps. 

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