As much as I enjoyed Paul and Helen, I had trouble liking Paul's daughter, whose story occurs is intersected with his adventure with Helen. She just struck me as completely devoid of any individuality or distinguishing characteristics. Fortunately, her story was subordinate to Paul's and Helen's, so that subplot, though it formed a sizeable portion of the book, wasn't too distracting for me. My biggest problem with the novel is some of the plotting. I think Kostova did a nice job of maintaining my interest through 640 pages--no small feat--but sometimes she took the easy way out and relied on contrivances and coincidences to advance the story. I'm sorry, but the characters acknowledging that their highly unlikely and fortuitous meeting that garned them lots of wonderful information about Dracula was a coincidence doesn't make the meeting any less of a coincidence that smacks of lazy plotting, especially when that formula is repeated throughout the story. There was also one particular aspect of the ending that bugged me as a bit too far-fetched. (I refuse to reveal it here to avoid spoilers. If you've read The Historian and want to argue or commiserate with me, PM me. I'll force you to hear me whine digitally. ^^)
I have seen discussions of the book where readers have complained that Dracula, in the book, is not scary. I agree with that description of him, but I don't necessarily see it as a flaw. He is creepy and a bit eerie, which is what Kostova intended according to interviews she's given, but he's also a bit more complex than how he's usually portrayed, something that I enjoyed.
I'm hesitate to unequivocally recommend this book, for the reasons I mentioned above, but I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy this read. If you can look past some of the flaws, you'll find a nerdy adventure with some creepy overtones and an inventive take on the Dracula story.
Next Time: I have no idea. Consider it a delightful--or not so delightful--surprise.
This Week In Literary History: 9 July 1918: William Faulkner, one of my absolute favorite authors, joins the RAF to fight in WWI, though he didn't finish training in time to see combat. The war shaped literature and society for the next couple of decades, as people tried to cope with the fallout of a modern war, especially the truly horrifying number of casualties. In fact, as evidence of the widespread impact of the war, just the day before Faulkner joined, his future rival Hemingway was wounded severely on the Italian front.