Sunday, December 27, 2009

Top 60 Novels of 2000-2009 Countdown, No. 4

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

This novel combines several genres -- vampire books, secret histories, mysteries and missing books (Dracula has a library!). I loved the stories wrapped inside stories, as the plot moves on two or three planes at once -- the heroine, the heroine's father and the history behind Vlad and his somewhat undead head. The really great thing about the book is that it doesn't so much transcend vampire novels as redefine vampirism as an all-encompassing evil that not only wrecks a family (a missing mother, as in Nancy Drew) but seems intent on wrecking the whole world as well, much as in Declare (another novel involving communism in a supernatural plot). I liked the conceit of fighting off vampirism Islamic-style and the many references to Orthodoxy in Bulgaria and Romania. The book also has a great, open-ended finale, one that seemed to cry out for a sequel, but one probably isn't forthcoming. Kostova's prose is evocative and scintillating -- it makes you want to visit the places the novel inhabits.

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