Customer Review

32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars flatters to deceive, 26 July 2006
This review is from: The Historian (Paperback)
This book promises so much, yet ultimately - as a previous reviewer succinctly puts it - collapses under the weight of its own pretentiousness. The author in interview has admitted her love of victorian novels, and wanted to write along the lines of Dickens, whereby a story is gradually unravelled. There is nothing wrong with this approach, provided one has the talent to pull it off.

Unfortunately, for me the pace and rhthym of the book suffer from the over-laborious use of detail - I'm all for geographical information to set a scene, but if I wanted to read a travelogue I'd buy a Bryson.

Towards the end of the book, when the pace should be quickening toward a climax, we are treated to a highly detailed chapter concerning the monks story.

A major failing is the telling of the story from three different perspectives/experiences. The narratives of Rossi, Paul, and his daugher simply get in each others way - as soon as something interesting starts happening in one narrative, the author quickly switches to telling the experiences of another.

The book is laced with implausibilities. Why, when Paul is desperate to get hold of the library's only copy of Dracula and finds it out, does he not simply go to a bookshop??? The Rossi/Helen's mother sex episode is frankly unbelievable, and the vampire librarian just seems to be forgotten. The eastern european soujourns are equally superficial and unbelievable. As a lowly civil servant in the eighties I had considerable trouble getting into Communist Romania; I simply can't believe that an American could simply walk into the Eastern Bloc at the height of the Cold War after a coupla phone calls and a dodgy letter or two from Helen's aunt - no matter how "brilliant" she is.

Although there IS latent horror, and a sense of impending dread interlaced within the novel, the final "climax" is anything but. Other than a hint at what might have been - Rossi's entombment with Vlad is an excellent set piece - nothing REALLY happens, The ending seems rushed and, after all the weight of information which had gone before, extremely glib and superficial. (Without giving too much away to those who have yet to be bored by this tome, the climactic confrontation between Paul et al and Vlad in the tomb reminds me somewhat of the scimitar vs whip scene in "Raiders of the Lost Ark"....)

Ultimately one ends up (and having read other reviews on this site I don't seem to be alone) feeling somewhat cheated. The premis of the story is excellent, there are one or two genuinely chilling moments, and the author so nearly pulls it off; one really wants to get to the end of the story to find out what happens. Unfortunately, nothing does.

Ms Kostava is obviously very intelligent, and knows her subject well; but a good author? Only time - I'm afraid certainly not this book - will tell....
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