I picked up this book totally on a whim because I wanted some “light reading” and hey! It’s a novel about Vlad the Imapler! Awesome! If there’s anything I love as much as historical be-headings, it’s historical psychotic mass murderers. (I’m admittedly more than a little odd.) I thought there was a good chance that the book might be total fluff, in the manner of some “historical fiction” that I’ve read, but man was I wrong.
THIS BOOK IS SO AWESOME, ITS AWESOMENESS MUST BE CITED IN ALL CAPS.
Holy cow is this thing well written. Kostova manages to weave a story together through many forms of writing: first person narrative, letters, journal entries, and historical documents. It’s incredible. The most incredible part is how lucid it is, for all of the scene-shifting that takes place between chapters. She manages to jump seamlessly from narrator to narrator over spans of decades and continents and never once is the reader confused as to “Wait a minute, whose story is this now?”
This is a really, really fast book. And a smart one. Even if totally made up for the story, to weave together as many historical elements as Kostova puts forward requires serious skill and really keeps the reader entranced waiting to see how this is all going to tie together. After I finish writing this, I’m going to log on to the library website and request a biography of good ol’ Vlad (he lets me call him Vlad) himself to see which elements of the story were based on his actual life.
One detail that really grabbed me: the intro to the book presents the story as an “autobiography” (though clearly, it’s not) and throughout the novel until one of the very last pages, is that the narrator is unnamed, and even then it’s a nickname. It’s a great device to really challenge the reader to totally suspend disbelief here for a few minutes. Thankfully, all of the other characters have names, or it might get a bit confusing.
Last thing: in the book, Vlad is a great lover of books. Gotta love that in a mass-murdering nutcase.
Dracula’s face darkens. “I do not plan to subject myself long to death,” he says in a low voice.
“There is only one way to escape death,” the abbot says bravely, “and that is through the Redeemer, of He grants us His grace.”
Dracula stares at him for a few minutes and the abbot tries not to look away. “Perhaps,” he says finally. “But recently I met a man, a merchant who has traveled to a monastery in the West. He said that there is a place in Gaul, the oldest church in their part of the world, where some of the Latin monks have outwitted death by secret means. He offered to sell me their secrets, which he has inscribed in a book.”
The abbot shudders. “God preserve us from such heresies,” he says hastily. “I am certain, my son, that you refused this temptation.”
Dracula smiles. “You know I am fond of books.”