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Slow but atmospheric,
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This review is from: The Historian (Kindle Edition)
** spoiler alert ** (Gigantic spoilers included!)
I felt ultimately torn about this book - after a slow but atmospheric beginning, I was awake late into the night finishing this wonderfully creepy and erudite story. The Historian in the title could describe numerous of the characters in the novel, or indeed its largely hidden villain. The multi-layered plot follows the lives of three people - Paul the diplomat, his daughter (who is never named), and Paul's former teacher, Professor Rossi. Each of them is hunting a missing parent/mentor who accidentally discovers, upon receipt of a mysterious book, that Dracula is not only still alive(ish), but is still fascinated with evil and cruelty, and still taking an active interest in those pursuing him. The wonderful conceit is that the wicked Count has a fantastic personal library dedicated to evil, and is looking for someone to willingly volunteer to become immortal and curate it for him.
In the end I gave it four stars because even though it is quite slow - in the first half, pages are spent describing exotic locations around France and central Europe with the regularity of a travelogue, all beautifully written but not necessarily advancing the story - it creates a rather wonderful and lush atmosphere that bears fruit later. This pattern of faults and virtues continues throughout - the conception of Dracula, when we meet him, is wonderfully realised and chilling, but he is dispatched too readily, and the happy(isn) ending is enabled by the sacrifice of a throwaway character - I thought at least one of the remaining main characters needed to make the terrible choice be sacrificed to the library, and this is where everything tends, and the drama would be in choosing which. Plotwise it's also highly coincidental, but since this is true of Stoker's Dracula too it seems churlish to carp. The evidence that the disparate heroes gather and which fuels their trail is complex, some bits repeated to the point of obviousness, others hidden (names and places and connections would come up as though they had been explained earlier), and yet on the other hand the forward momentum in the last third is irresistable and unstoppable, leading to unbearable tension.
So all in all, not an instantly rewarding read but I was very glad I did it, though my disappointment at the tidy disposal of the invidious Impaler at the end (especially as he was so beautifully realised) somewhat hampered my enjoyment.