The Historian


Darn,it was close.

The legend of the vampire and particularly of THE vampire is rather difficult to make any addition to at this late date. Vampires have been sucked dry so far as romance, fright, and interest go. They've transmuted, become heroes, become anti-heroes, criminals, detectives, you name it, you can find a vampire novel for it.

I don't know what attracted me to The Historian by Elizabeth Kostovo; however, I am glad that I read it. It is a contribution to the legend and THE legend, and its a really fine one.

The novel is densely layered consisting of at least three different narrative voices told in five or six different batches of letters all centered around a young woman in Amsterdam who finds a mysterious book with only a single image in it--that of a dragon. As the story goes along, we find that these books are not so uncommon as we might think--we meet the owners of seven or eight of them.

In the course of the novel we're given tours of Hungary, Romanian, Turkey, and Bulgaria, with sidetrip to the French Pyranees, England, and the United States. We have all the usual suspects, and most of the classical trappings of the Vampire legend. And we have The Historian of the title. That's one of the charms of the book--the way in which the title takes on multiple meanings as you continue through it.

I suppose my one demurral from the whole thing is that the end is really very weak. After reading through six-hundred pages the "duel" at the end is a fizzle and the story peters out into an extended fantasia. It's a shame because the writing is very fine indeed and the story substantive up to that point.

If you're interested in the subject matter, recommended.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on October 23, 2005 8:59 AM.

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