I don’t know what I expected from The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, but I did make the reasonable assumption that I might be surprised here and there with this novel about scholars on the trail of Vlad Ţepeş, i.e. “Vlad the Impaler”, aka Count Dracula. After all, it was the first début novel to become number one on The New York Times bestseller list in its first week, which probably wasn’t a coincidence considering the publishers paid Kostova an astounding $2 million U.S. for it. I forced myself to read this overly long novel in record time because I do enjoy the occasional historical mystery and was hoping that the final dénouement would make the drudgery worthwhile. But since I guessed what the “mysterious” cargo—which our protagonists and numerous other scholars spend the better part of the book trying to identify—was from the first, I could easily sum up my review in just one word: UNDERWHELMING. I still gave it two and half stars because I did enjoy Turgut Bora, the Turkish vampire scholar and modern-day Janissary as a character, as well as descriptions of some of the places visited; Istanbul, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and the South of France, among others. I don’t think I’ll bother reading another vampire book anytime soon; HBO’s True Blood satiates my appetite for vampire tales far better than anything I’ve read so far, and it’s much more believable. I’m just so happy I got this book from a second-hand bookstore’s closeout sale; at least I wasn’t suckered into paying big bucks for this big dud.
Banner image: detail from Vlad the Impaler and the Turkish Envoys by Theodor Aman; date unknown.