This debut novel from Kostova contains elements from many of my favorite genres - thriller, suspense, mystery, historical fiction, and vampire lore. It is no surprise then that this supremely intelligent story was a very entertaining read. Though I feel that the story concept and character development deserve five stars, I feel that there are a few important flaws in this book which put it into the four star category.
First the good: All of the characters in this tale are very believable, including Vlad Tepes himself. I really enjoyed the historical facts surrounding the Ottoman Empire and Eastern Europe that Kostova weaved into her tale. I also loved the way she used letters to reveal the more thrilling aspects of the story bit by bit. This kept me in that "I'll just read ten more pages" mode on many a late night.
Now for the problems: The first 300 pages of this book were very compelling and hard to put down. Somewhere between page 300 and 450 it began to feel like Kostova had an old graduate school dissertaion on the migration patterns of monks in the 15th century lying around so she decided to work it into the story. Wow did that slow the pace... I don't have a problem with the storyline taking the characters on a search for the history of these monks, its just that Kostova occasionally strayed across the line between entertaining fiction and dry academic research.
All of that said, my opinion as a librarian and avid reader of such stories is that this is an excellent book, well worth reading. I am sure that it will have wide appeal and is no doubt deserved of its huge marketing push. I have heard that there is already talk of a movie...
on December 18, 2005
I've always enjoyed reading books about the occult and stories that weave them into historical events; moreover I've always been interested in the real Dracula - Vlad the Impaler. Therefore I was really anticipating the release of THE HISTORIAN, especially since it seemed to be getting positive reviews from critics. But it is with great regret that I have to say that this book is overhyped and disappointing. I admit that this book is still better than many of the books that are out there, but that's not saying a lot these days; and it's especially unfortunate to see that this is what passes for good nowadays.
The premise is certainly promising - the search for the historical Dracula. The story is told through three main narratives: that of the young girl that opens the novel; her father; and her father's mentor. The structure is an homage to Bram Stroker's DRACULA, which is also told through letters and multiple narratives. Unfortunately, the author may have been overly ambitious in this endeavor, as she failed to pull the whole thing together. The result is, if you're familiar with the genre, that you notice the structure too much, and so you are able to predict what will happen next long before the author writes it. For a mystery novel, that kills the suspense. It's a bit like seeing the boom mike hanging over a scene in a movie. You want to suspend your disbelief and immerse yourself into the novel, but the boom mike keeps getting in the way.
Also, to pull off such a narrative structure, you need good, distinct characters. Unfortunately, none of the characters really stand out for me. They all seem one-dimensional, and similar, making it hard to attach yourself to the cast that doesn't distinguish itself from one another very much, so much so that every foreigner who happens to speak English has to comment on how they haven't had a chance to practice it, or how excited they are to have the chance to speak English. The narrative also gives the author an excuse to be verbose, so you'll find her describing the same thing over and over again, sometimes even using the same words.
The pacing is also problematic. For the first 100 pages or so, it drags along, and doesn't really pick up till about page 120. But even then, it doesn't accelerate much, and loses steam very soon. The climax is anti-climatic, to put it mildly. In fact, it is so anti-climatic that it borders on being comical. I understand that they've auctioned this book for a movie for a 2007 release. Unless there's some major rewriting, this movie will really flop.
I'll try not to nitpick on the plot holes, of which there are numerous, but I will point out the implausibility of running into people who just happen to do exactly what you're interested in. At first I thought there may be some sinister scheme, but the author chalks it up to "coincidence" and leaves it at that. As a doctoral student myself, I know how hard it is to find an article or a person who's doing exactly what you're doing, nevermind that they're talking about something as esoteric as Dracula. People just happen to sit in restaurants and find out that the person next to them is doing the same topic. Right!
Finally, just a comment on the romance. It is not well developed. It's clumsy and adolescent, like a juvenile first attempt at describing sentimentality. It follows the cliche that every man and woman put together for a short period of time must somehow fall in love. There is no feeling in the romance, which cheapens the novel.
If you enjoy historical narratives like THE HISTORIAN, or ones that weave in multiple narratives, I suggest any of the following if you haven't read them already: THE NAME OF THE ROSE and FOUCAULT'S PENDULUM by Umberto Eco, POSSESSION by A. S. Byatt, THE CLUB DUMAS and THE FLANDERS PANEL by Arturo Perez-Reverte. I myself am off to read GOSPEL by Wilton Barnhardt.
A final note: THE HISTORIAN is not bad. Understandably, it is an author's debut novel, and for that, it is still pretty good. I will still look forward to the author's next, but I hope by then she would have had better control of her writing. If you're just here for the ride, pick up the novel. I still read it through and stayed up doing it. But if you're looking for something deep or revelationary or well-structured, this is not it.
Edit: I've just started reading GOSPEL by Wilton Barnhardt and I encourage everyone who enjoys books like THE HISTORIAN but who may or may not have liked it, to give this book a shot. It actually reminds me a lot of THE HISTORIAN, or at least as far as I'm into it. It starts out in Oxford with a doctoral student and a professor. However, the characters, major and minor, all come to life with a few words, and I'm not even 50 pages in. Moreover, the research is impeccable, which makes it even more exciting. I'm not sure if it was a hit when it came out in 1993, but perhaps the length (over 700 pages!) made be forbidding to some. But still, this is the type of book that THE HISTORIAN could have been.
on June 14, 2005
The marketing campaign is underway and Elizabeth Kostova's debut novel is already being hyped as the "Dracula Code" or some similar slogan. I disagree with that approach, not just because they are quite different in more ways than just storyline, but because "The Da Vinci Code" was a good thriller with elements of history mixed in, but it is not even in the same league with this book.
"The Historian" is an epic work of historical fiction that sweeps across Europe during the four decades between 1930 and the mid 1970s. It just also happens to involve the Dracula myth and a good dose of suspense. Now, some people may object to me calling this novel a work of historical fiction because it is mostly fiction and contains very few real characters. That is true, but Kostova does such an amazing job of making the Dracula myths come alive that you can't help feeling that the legends and the story are real. Her research is stunning in its attention to detail and the wide range of topics Kostova must've studied. A previous reviewer slightly criticizes Kostova for spending too many pages describing the pilgrimage routes of monks hundreds of years ago. While sections like that do slow down the pace of the novel somewhat, they don't distract from it. The last book that I read that combines elements of history, suspense, and great characters as well as "The Historian" was "The Devil in the White City".
on April 16, 2009
Like all respectable vampire tales, this one spans centuries. However, that is where the similarity ends because I have never read a vampire tale quite like this. The protagonists span three generations. I can see someone turning this book into an epic movie or mini series. Each generation has one or more of its own historians. All are looking for the real Dracula (Prince Vlad Tepes) for both professional and personal reasons. The search for the truth will take them to several different countries and to journeys of self discovery that none anticipated.
Readers I must warn you that if you are hoping for a romance novel, this is not it. There are several love stories woven within and through the primary story, but as compelling as they may sometimes be (I wept at page 526), they take a back seat to the search for the "Dark Prince".
This is an adventure but not in the usual sense as there is really not much action (until near the end). Remember, these are historians so you can imagine their method of searching. I did not find this novel "Genuinely terrifying" as quoted from the Boston Globe but I agree it is "A thrill ride through history" as stated by the Denver Post. If you love history, traveling, and emersion into other cultures, you will love this book. It will feel as if you have been on an exotic vacation.
Warning, I found the first half of the book difficult to read. Elizabeth Kostova is a stickler for details (possibly in the excess) and I found it hard to form attachments to the characters. The initial moving back and forth through different events within several generations was a bit confusing, but if you can hang in there, by the second half of the book you should have a strong bond to one or more of the protagonists and you will be thankful for the details that brought you to that realization.
This is a book that should make you think, "It could happen". I can even see readers who tend to enjoy non-fiction more than fiction finding merit and a great deal of fun in following our heroes through situations that are exotic and yet, believable.
What do our heroes find? I am not one to be accused of creating spoilers. My personal joy is in sharing a book with someone and then watching them discover the prize for themselves. I will tell you that what they find is quite fascinating so enjoy. Oh, and with all the historians in this story, I put this question to you. Who is THE Historian?
on September 20, 2005
Please note: important details of the plot are discussed in this review.
If you've got the remotest affection for Europe, for medieval ruins, for the romance of travel and history, it's easy to fall right in love with _The Historian_. Whatever her shortcomings, Ms. Kostova has a genuine knack for evoking the way the light at sunset hits the crumbling stone towers of the monastery just _so_ as the farmers are bringing in their animals and the smoke from the cooking stoves goes wafting by. This, and the glimmer of an interesting idea--someone secretly distributing antique books to university historians, entirely blank but for a single woodcut image of a dragon and the word "DRAKULYA"--were enough to get me at least a hundred pages into the book before I started to realize that there just wasn't any meat to the story.
Dracula, it seems, has kidnapped a kindly old professor--the recipient of one of those old books--and so a student of his sets off to search for the tomb in which Dracula was buried some 500 years ago, because even though he has moved freely across continents and oceans for centuries, that is where he just _has_ to be.
So the travelogue begins, city to city, castle to monastery, library to mosque, confusing movement with progress-- England, France, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary...and perhaps we should be thankful that, with all the sightseeing, the plot scarcely ever has a chance to make an appearance, because it seems mostly to consist of contrivances and chance meetings that even a Victorian like Bram Stoker would have blushed at. That woman checking out Stoker's _Dracula_ in the library just as the professor's student is starting his research? The professor's long-lost daughter, of course. The Turkish fellow sitting down to dinner at the next table? A lifelong Dracula fanatic and amateur historian, of course. And his English is excellent on account of his day job as a professor of English Lit. The English historian at a random academic conference in Budapest that our heroes attend as a cover-story to score visas to Hungary? The proud recipient of yet another of those antique dragon-books. And so it goes, random meeting after chance discovery after remarkable happenstance. Nothing in the plot is organic, nothing evolves according to any kind of logic or necessity: we are only going down a list of bullet points in the author's notebook, one after another, because that is how the plot _needs_ to go in order to take us next to that incredible castle in the mountains where the wind whistles just _so_ through the mossy cracks in the stonework...
...until after about 600 pages of this nonsense, we finally pry apart the gravestones (duly pausing to note how the dust of the centuries has settled just _so_ on the fading inscriptions of the musty crypt) and learn the terrible truth of Dracula's horrible plan for the professor, to--Dun-Dun-DUUUUNNN!--CATLOG HIS LIBRARY! (As Dave Barry would say, I swear I am not making this up.) As it turns out, the Prince of the Undead is a bit of a bookworm. Who knew?
But of course, we should have been able to guess. _Everyone_ in this novel is a bookworm, for the same reason that everyone acts the same, thinks the same, and talks the same: because everyone in this novel is essentially one character, the author herself. Romanian peasant, Turkish professor, expat teenager--read a line of dialogue at random, and you'd never be able to guess who is who. When you pick up the book, it is often a bit confusing to figure out where you are, not because there are so many narrators, but because there are so few _voices_. One imagines the author perhaps putting on now a pair of Groucho glasses, now a fez, now tying a kerchief around her hair, as she evokes one character or another, but the writing never changes. Neither do the characters themselves--the protagonists are all secular, rational people, who, when they find themselves in a vampire story, simply shrug and reach for a crucifix and a silver bullet. What they are experiencing--what they are _doing_, in picking up that crucifix--and what it might mean to their deepest senses of what the world is and how it works...these are subjects that are never touched upon. Heaven knows, an author with a certain curiosity about character and psychology, to say nothing about metaphysics, might have spun a wonderful novel out of this material. But psychology and character didn't seem to make it on to those shopping lists of cities to visit and people to meet that define the plodding bulk of this book.
Even Dracula's little hobby of distributing those dragon books to young historians to rouse their curiosity, then trying to kill them if they actually start to do research on them, might have become a window into a vain and endlessly bored mind, giving himself a little thrill to while away the centuries. Here, it's just another illogical plot contrivance, vanishing into the swarming multitudes of its fellows.
on October 14, 2005
This is basically a thin Scooby Doo episode dressed up as historical fiction - without the much needed comic relief and likeable characters.
This book is much too long, the characters are too flat (and largely annoying), the plot is entirely unconvincing, the romance is stale, and the ending...well, at least it finally came to an end.
The true feat of this book is that despite all of it's shortcomings I somehow could not put it down. The story has a enormous potential and is written just well enough to keep you turning the page...only to be disappointed with the resulting pay-off...which makes you think the next chapters will be better...etc.
If you like "evil librarians" (no joke, this is what they are called in the book!) and characters who rephrase the plot in questions asked out loud (in case you'd lost it) and a tights-wearing Dracula who spends eternity, um, cataloging his library... then this book is for you.
If not, wait for the movie. It's sure to be a solid vampire thriller in the hands of a keen director and screenwriter sensible enough to abbreviate the story and inject it with some necessary suspense and drama.
on May 27, 2006
The Historian is rife with incredible coincidences and unbelievable plot twists, which I am about to describe - so major plot spoilers are in the forth coming paragraphs - if you are going to ignore my advice and read this woeful book, better stop reading this review.
At the beginning of novel, Rossi relates that he is examining ancient documents in Turkey, when he reads aloud "...say his name, and he will be there - Dracula!" Suddenly, a mysterious stranger enters the room, and warns Rossi to stop his research. My goodness, Dracula is alive! And he can be summoned simply by saying his name! But when Paul & Helen are in Turkey, reading a similar document, and someone speaks Dracula's name, it isn't Dracula who appears but the pseudo-vampire, the unnamed Librarian who wants to find Dracula's tomb. Later, Helen spends almost 20 years searching for clues to find where Dracula is hiding so she can confront and kill him - so why doesn't Helen just speak his name, and he will be there?
Dracula has printed up 1450 blank books, these books contain nothing but a crude map and the a woodcut with the word Dracula. He has passed these 1450 books out to libraries and scholars, hoping one of them will find his tomb. Yes, Dracula wants to be found, because that will prove the determined scholar is worthy
of being Dracula's librarian. For 500 years, Dracula has been living in his tomb, reading books, longing for a librarian.
But no one has made it to the tomb. Perhaps after the first couple hundred years without a librarian, Dracula might realize
that his strategy isn't working, and he ought to try something else? Or maybe he would realize that he has gone without a
librarian for a few hundred years, so maybe he doesn't need on after all? And why is he spending all this time in his
mouldering tomb reading books, we learn that Dracula has grown strong enough that he can spend time out in direct sunlight.
So why doesn't Dracula go out and DO something?
Despite the fact Dracula wants a librarian to find his tomb, he actively discourages any one from succeeding. Indeed, when Rossi has been investigating in Romania, he learns some clues, and falls in love. But Rossi has to go to Greece for research, and while in Greece, a mysterious stranger (guess who) shows up and hands Rossi a drink named "Amnesia" - which Rossi drinks, and he promptly forgets everything that happened in Romania! (We find out about Rossi's time in Romania because he conveniently wrote letters describing what he learned, but of course he never mailed these letters.) Rossi remember drinking Amnesia, but he forgets everything about Romania. Why exactly is Dracula doing this?
Apparently Dracula is frustrated that no one can figure out how to find his tomb and become his librarian, so he appears at the college where Rossi works and abducts him. When Rossi wakes up in the tomb, Dracula confesses his diabolical plan to leave blank books around the libraries of the world to lure a suitable scholar to his tomb. Rossi protests: "But I didn't find your tomb, you brought me here!" Dracula ignores this valid complaint. "Now that I have explained my evil plan, let us read!" And so we are treated to ludicrious scene where Rossi and Dracula are quietly reading ancient old books in a tomb! (But not until after Rossi has a fine meal underground. Where does this magical dinner come from? Why does an undead vampire need room service? No one else has been in his tomb for 500 years, so it isn't like he is used to entertaining visitors.)
Why does Dracula print up only 1450 of his blank books? Because that was the year the Ottomans took over his kingdom. But we learn in a different part of the book that people in that part of the world dated their calendars from the time of the Great Flood, because all of Brother Kiril's letters are dated something like 6540. If the monks of that era are using an archaic calendar,
why isn't Dracula? He ought to have printed 6540 blank books!
Rossi has an assistant, Paul, who is actually the main character of this story. Paul realizes he must find the tomb of Dracula so he can rescue him. Because if Rossi is bitten three times, he will be turned into a vampire himself! It takes months for Paul to finally reach Rossi, and yet Dracula still hasn't gotten around to administering the third bite. Nevertheless, Paul drives
a stake through Rossi's heart any way! I was confused by this. The whole issue of being needing three bites to turn into a vampire is not applied consistently in the Historian. For example, the unnamed librarian, who is a pseudo vampire, has apparently only been bitten once. Yet this librarian bites Helen, even though he is not yet a vampire himself! Then he gets hit by car, which kills him, except he is apparently already undead,
because he shows up again later in the novel. But when he does show up again, he is much stronger, "because apparently he has been bitten a second time!". Helen gets bitten a second time, but she doesn't turn into a vampire. (Helen has been wearing a crucifix, but apparently the chain broke in her sleep and it fell off on the exact night when Dracula decides to show up and haunt her! How inconvenient!) (Despite the fact Dracula can now move around in the sunlight, he is still afraid of a crucifix. We know this because he hides his face behind a newspaper when confronting Paul's daughter, who is wearing a crucifix around her neck.)
Every where Paul and Helen go, they meet someone who has also found one of Dracula's blank books. Attend a conference in Romania and talk to a Scottish professor - coincidentally, he also has one of those books! Stop at a monastary in Bulgaria? Yes, they have one there too! Stop for dinner at a restaurant in Constantinople? A stranger sits down at their table who also received a book! What a coincidence - even the characters in the remark on how extraordinary this coincidence is. Even better, the guy in the restaurant turns out to be a member of a super secret order of Turkish Vampire Fighters! These Turkish vampire fighters never reveal their existence to anyone, but he tells Paul "... because you guessed!" Paul: "No I didn't!" Turkish guy: "Well, I have to reveal my membership in this ultra secret society so that I can give you the 200,000 lira you need to bribe your way into Bulgaria." How convenient! Also convenient, Helen has an aunt who is an authority in Romania and can get Paul and Helen in to that country.
There is lots of more: Helen throws herself off a cliff to elude Dracula, only to fall a mere 15 feet and escape without harm, and Dracula can't be bothered to see where she lands. Dracula presumes she is dead, yet Helen lives in fear of him in the following years - why? At the end of the novel, why does Master James suddenly appear - only to distract Dracula so Helen can fire? Talk about a deus ex machina!
I have not exhausted the stupid plot twists in this horrible novel, but I am tired of writing about it. Avoid this huge bloated book at all costs. There are plenty of other good books in the world. Pick up one of the good ones, and let's join Dracula in his tomb: "Let us read - but not the Historian!"
on May 28, 2007
The truth is this: I think most of the reviews of this book are correct, both the good and the bad (warning, spoilers will be included here). The good is this, I found this book to be a genuine page-turner, and once well into it I wanted nothing more than to keep reading it. And being aware that comparisons had been made to the Da Vinci Code, I found myself thinking how much much better written it was than that. It's sort of depressing to see a book like Da Vinci that's so poorly written doing so well. Additionally, all the "big" ideas in that book were stolen from other writers. Which brings me back to The Historian, which, it turns out, doesn't have much in the way of ideas when you come right down to it. More on this later. To continue with the good, I like all the different locales evoked here, it makes you want to go to places like Budapest. I like history also, and it's stimulating to see the past influencing the present. Best of all, the premise of this book is a big winner, the historical Dracula explored, and found to still be with us. His presence provided this narrative with its drive.
However, there are serious problems. For one thing, this book seriously needs at least 150 pages cut from it, pronto. This is supposed to be a Dracula story, not a damned travel log. Had there been one more "gasp of pleasure" at the pretty pretty architecture I would have tossed my cookies. Worse and most unforgiveabely of all, like with any mysterious narrative, one is driven to reach the moment when everything is explained and it all makes sense. The Historian is sadly lacking in that moment. Things never make sense, things are never explained properly.
Here's a partial list of the gaps/gaffes I see. If anyone can defend these things, I'd like to know:
1. Dracula's stated goal is to get a scholar talented enough to organize his library (this is supposed to so hard?). To get a scholar, he gives his dragon books all around the world to promising candidates, and then. . .does everything he can to frighten and discourage them. Huh? Oh sure, if the candidate keeps going, he can be sure the guy must be determined, or maybe just really stupid. . or how about anxious to kill Dracula, which is basically what happens? Oops. A mystery only works if after the solution is revealed, we can see why everything happened the way it did, whereas the basis of this book in the end is nonsense.
2. Rossi. How to list all the problems in his narrative? To begin with, he tells Paul that he knows Dracula is still alive, and then tells him a story that reveals nothing of the kind. Just because some Turkish beaurocrat had bite-like marks on his neck, this means Dracula still walks the earth? And this guy is supposed to have a supreme intellect. Even more egregious, he tells Paul early on that vampires are not at all like the way they are portrayed in the movies, or in Stoker's novel (and never mind that again there is no way he could have known what vampires are like based on what he knew at that point). . .and then subsequently in the rest of the book we get vampires that are basically EXACTLY like movie vampires, and Stoker's novel. This is one of the places where one expects the writer to have an idea, to put her own spin on vampires, but she's got nothing (unless you count the fact that they like to read -- oooh, spooky!).
3. Dracula is kinda like Santa Claus, he just KNOWS whenever someone is researching him halfway around the world. But he doesn't know when someone is standing behind him with a silver bullet. He has to stay in his tomb most times, but has no problem appearing England, Holland, Italy or wherever. He claims to be the author of modern times, but can't keep track of his own books. None of the things he's able to do are ever explained, making it obvious Kostova spent no time working it out, she just made it up as she went along. That irritates me.
I could keep going, but the point has been made that there are gaping holes in this thing. I gave it three stars, because the subject was interesting, the writing was decent, and the history was interesting. But it coulda been so much better.
on July 19, 2005
There has been a lot of reviews and commentary about for this book, much of it complimentary. So I looked forward to reading ‘The Historian’ hoping it would be a well written, involving literary adventure. Considering the author was paid around US$2 million for it, you would hope so.
Well, what a disappointment!
I don’t know where to start with what is wrong with this book – do I mention that the writing is ‘clunky’? Do I go into how the book is based on letters supposedly written in a hurry that end up reading a melodramatic word-by-word recreations of events twenty years past? Do I mention how in the second half the book got so bogged down in boring extraneous information I ended up skipping and skimming through much of it like a pebble across a lake?
I think there are probably three main problems with this book. The first is the author has forgotten the main rule, equally applicable to films and books, when writing about ‘fantastic’ subjects – if you expect the reader to believe the unbelievable (in this case that vampires do exist) everything else about your story should be believable. And here we come to ‘the letters’ – most of this novel is presented as letters written by a father to his daughter. Nothing wrong with that. However, these letters are meant to be written in a hurry as the father is concerned he will not have the time to tell his daughter all he wants her to know. Yet, what is meant to be a letter is full of flourishes such as “She inhaled without flourish, smoking dexterously…The Friday plane to Budapest from Istanbul was far from full, and when we had settled in among the black-suited Turkish businessmen, the gray-jacketed Magyar bureaucrats talking in clumps, the old women in blue coats and head shawls – were they going to cleaning jobs in Budapest, or had their daughters married Hungarian diplomats? – I had only a short flight in which to regret the train tip we might have taken...” etc. etc. etc. After a few pages of this, the reader is left wondering why the author bothered with the letter conceit and just didn’t tell it as a narrative. There was no way I could believe these were letters rather than a novel.
The second problem is the density of this book – while I can understand an author unwilling to leave out any of the information gathered over ten years of research, where is the editor in all this? By the last quarter of the book it gets so tied down in blather about details that are not all that interesting you wonder why you are bothering at all.
Lastly, there is the plain and simple fact this is not a well written book. As I stated above, much of the writing is clunky. Many of the descriptions of the locations are workman-like rather than evocative – I have been to places mentioned in this book, including Istanbul, and rather than recreate the city I loved I thought it was really boring. And the plot itself relies on too many clichés – unbelievable co-incidences, extraordinary good luck, even amnesia for one of the main characters for goodness sake. By the time you eventually get to the ending and the reason for the dastardly Dracula’s actions are revealed, you are too bored to even laugh at the ridiculous reason.
After all this, a review in a nutshell – the writing is clunky; the plot is meandering and ridiculous. The book is too long, and could have been much better with half the words. In short, don’t bother – life is too short to slog through this book! Get your hands on some Anne Rice or even Bram Stoker if you want to read a good book involving vampires.
on July 27, 2005
For those of you confused about whether to buy this book or not, allow me to tell you its basic premise and then you can tell me whether it would be worth reading almost 700 pages.
A professor/historian from the past, at one time in pursuit of Dracula, disappears.
His student - a young historian - travels in puruit of the professor across several countries...Hungary, Romania, blah blah...in fear that he has been taken by Dracula. Why? We don't know yet.
After a nauseating number of visits to Monasteries and other locations - described in unrelenting (i.e., unnecessary) detail through almost 600 pages, the professor is finally found. He is close to death and close to becoming one of the "undead" resulting from obvious bites by a vampire.
The professor discloses to the young historian that Dracula had taken him and forced him to -- get this -- catalogue Dracula's immense book collection located under a Monastery. Dracula provided him a type-writer and everything! No kidding folks. THAT'S THE BASIC PREMISE -- Dracula is a book collector but has no administrative skills, so he abducts the professor to quite literally catalogue his book collection!!!
Repeatedly during this thick, long read, we read of Vlad Tepes, the 15th century legendary figure who impaled many people and, as it turns out, ultimately became Dracula. We anticipate a hugely dramatic ending that does justice not only to the scary Dracula legend but also to Vlad himself.
When we are finally informed about the reason the professor disappeared, there is a confrontation with Dracula that has no drama or suspense whatsoever. In fact, it happens so quickly and briefly (relative to the detailed descriptions of churches, monasteries, and libraries) that you think you may have missed something. I re-read the section and could not believe that I read over 600 pages to find out that Dracula had taken the professor to be his personal librarian and that the confrontation was so abrupt as to be nearly missed.
So you wanted a real suspenseful novel about Dracula? You're intrigued by his legend and want a gripping story of murder, vampire bites, and a powerful ending encounter with the fanged one?
You won't find it here.
If, on the other hand, you prefer endless descriptions of the insides of libraries, countrysides viewed from trains and buses, historical descriptions of 14th and 15th century empires, and architecture, without any corresponding passion, drama, or story climax, read away!
Now that you know what you know, would you read over 600 pages?