The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova

It has just occurred to me that I never made good on my promise to tell you about The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.  I honestly thought I had already posted but apparently all my good intentions came to was an empty post in the Draft folder.  Well, nevermind, now’s as good a time as any, right?

In fact, I think it’s a very good thing that it has taken me this long.  You see, when I first finished this incredibly long drawn-out detailed novel,  I hated it.  That is saying something.  There are few books that I’ve read in my life that I’ve absolutely hated and will never open again (The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt being one, a painful lesson in Pretty Covers Do Not Equal Pretty Books or When Gorgeous Covers Happen to BAD Books, but I digress).  With a bit of distance, I don’t hate the book, but I can’t say that I would easily recommend it.

The narration duty alternates between different characters as well as different time periods, which was the first bit I found to be challenging with this book.  The three main narrators span three generations:  a professor/mentor, his student, and later that student’s daughter.  All of them become quite tangled up in the search for the real Vlad Dracul, or Dracula.  The first two narrators (chronologically, in the actual text the narration bounces back and forth quite a bit among the three) are drawn into the search for Dracula by a book that appears in each of their lives.  The third narrator takes up the mantle of her father’s search, both to find him when he disappears as well as to find out more about who he was and has become as a result of the search.

There are strange plot twists and loads of characters, and I have to say I was not at all satisfied with the end but I did not see it coming.  I suppose that is one point in the favor of this tale:  There were plot twists that I saw coming almost from the beginning, but the eventual wrap up of the story wasn’t one of them.  There are loads of characters and relationships…it wasn’t quite the experience of Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches that actually required me to draw up a family tree to keep everyone straight, but it was close.  I did learn a great deal about the world during the Cold War, as well as a great deal of vampire lore that I didn’t previously know.  The author definitely did her homework and the facts that she is the daughter of a librarian and a university professor, is married to a Bulgarian scholar, and spent her formative years in Slovenia are all very apparent in her writing.

If you’re a fan of historical fiction, then by all means should you get a copy of The Historian and give it a read.  If you’re a fan of modern vampire fiction, it may be a bit dry for you.  But if you’re a vampire fiction buff and have enjoyed Anne Rice and others that wrote about vampires pre-Twilight et al, this may be the book for you.  To be honest, I’m still not sure what I thought of it to the point that I might read it again, and that, I suppose, is the mark of a truly good book…or at the least an intriguing story idea.

Insomnia and Morganville Vampires (the latter by Rachel Caine)

Ah, insomnia, how I do love thee.  While I’m anxiously awaiting my trip to the fae, I thought I’d talk a little about a great little book series I’ve discovered, the Morganville Vampires by Rachel Caine.

Yes, it’s about vampires.  Yes, it’s YA/Teen.  No, you really shouldn’t be surprised that I’m reading ANOTHER vampire novel…or so mean.  Stop rolling your eyes!  Anyway, moving on…

This series was recommended to me by no less than half a dozen customers at work, claiming it was better by far than the Twilight series (I’m sorry, I just can’t call a book about teenagers a SAGA), which I’ve read (and managed not to review…you may thank me now) and the Vampire Academy series which I have not yet read.  I picked up the Omnibus edition, which includes books 1-3, with the intention of reading it on the plane on my most recent trip back home to America.  It seemed reasonable, since I read three Vampire Diaries books in that space of time.

It did not happen, because unlike the other series, I found myself reading every word, hanging on every cliff, and not skipping whole paragraphs because I’d gotten bored.

At the risk of gushing, this series is so much better, more engrossing, better written, I could go on and on and on…sorry, back on topic.  This is one of the best in a genre that seems to be overrun with bad writing.  Slap a black cover on it and it will sell these days…but Morganville is different.  The characters are more real to me, even though the situations they are in are fantastic and involve the supernatural.  The plot twists involve action and adventure, not romance. Rachel Caine has been called the Queen of YA/Teen vampire fiction, and I’d tend to agree with that.

Okay, fair enough, there’s action and adventure in the Twilight books.  But that and my feelings on the sheer number of times a main character is killed and brought back in the Vampire Diaries series belong in other posts.  I said moving on, didn’t I?

The basic plot is this:  Claire is a sixteen year old genius who starts college early.  She attends a small school in Texas in a town called Morganville, but soon discovers that the town has some weird quirks.  She is your basic ill-at-ease, clumsy, awkward teenage heroine, but she displays a strength of character from early on in the novels that I don’t think you see in a lot of other vampire fiction these days.  After some unpleasantness she moves herself out of her dorm and into a house being shared by four other slightly older teenagers, none of which are students at the college she attends.

The plot changes gears here, as she finds out that Morganville is a town filled with and mostly run by vampires.  Humans don’t go out after dark.  If you’re lucky, you have a vampire patron that offers you protection…but that usually comes at a price.  I have to admit, making the vampires the bad guys was a refreshing change from the other novels that are so popular right now.  Claire is a strong heroine who comes into her own more and more as the novels progress.  I’ve only finished the first three, and I can’t wait to see how she continues to grow up in the next six novels.  If you like the genre but are sick of the emo stereotypes, go hang out in Morganville for awhile.  You’ll be glad you did.  Just…make sure your seatbelts are fastened and your tray tables are up.  The ride is fast paced, often turbulent, and just fabulous.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to think about a different kind of novel all together…Skulduggery Pleasant.  Stay tuned.