To my knowledge, this is Kostova's first novel, and after reading The Historian, I eagerly look forward to reading her second release. The story is relayed by a woman looking back over her life and the strange events that shaped it. She begins in 1972, when she was in her sixteenth year, and carries the reader through her travels as that present unfolds for her. The vast history and ancient lore she uncovers is unveiled piece by piece as she travels across Europe during the cold war in pursuit of her father, her purpose, and the answers to her many questions concerning mysterious events surrounding herself and her parents. This first person account allows the reader to feel each emotion and to be lured into her quest for knowledge, however frightening and dangerous....and all from the safety of a favorite overstuffed chair. While not difficult to read, and a real page-turner, the story is involved. Kostova's 600 plus pages may seem much to some readers, but the novel flows nicely and the pages slip by as one is drawn into the intrigue and suspense.
While searching for her father, our heroine uncovers the dark history surrounding Vlad the Impaler, and must confront the very real possiblity of the continued presence of that ancient evil known as Dracula, the vampire, and her eerie connection to the creature after finding a letter which begins,
"My Dear and Unfortunate Successor: It is with regret that I imagine you, whoever you are, reading the account I must put down here. The regret is partly for myself -- because I will surely be at least in trouble, maybe dead, or perhaps worse, if this is in your hands. But my regret is also for you, my yet-unknown friend, because only by someone who needs such vile information will this letter someday be read. If you are not my successor in some other sense, you will soon be my heir -- and I feel sorrow at bequeathing to another human being my own, perhaps unbelievable, experience of evil......."
I must confess, the hair stood off the back of my neck on more than one occasion and I could not always distinguish friend from foe in this wonderfully woven tale. The author accomplished what many do not......that is, to incorporate enough fact and embellish with enough fiction to render the story believable (as far as vampire lure can be believable). The ending is acceptably ambiguous, leaving the right amount of doubt in the reader's mind as to whether this is the end, or perhaps another beginning......
Not wanting to give away much else, I end by giving The Historian my highest recommendation.