Well, I finally finished The Historian, and I'm sad to report great disappointment with it. I had much higher expectations after reading such favorable reviews; I also happen to love vampire lore and have been a buff of the Vlad Tepes legend for a long time.
Overall, I felt that it was a promising story that unfortunately had the life sucked out of it (pun fully intended) by florid, overwrought prose and tedious, interminable catalogues of pedantic detail.
I also feel that Elizabeth Kostova failed at representing different points of view--so important in a novel with multiple storylines and epistolary conceits. Everyone sounded the bloody (pun intended) same! The 16 year old girl, her father, his professor, even the old Hungarian lady all had the same voice.
Also, the letters are entirely unconvincing; they conveniently skip key moments (like how on earth was it that Paul was able to travel so freely to Eastern Europe in that time period?) but then linger for paragraphs on four course meals--and we are to believe these were written under extreme duress? Would you really stop to describe the wine you were served at a dinner party when you have vampires hot on your tail?
Anyway, I feel the book is somewhat overrated, and too much has been made of Kostova's ten years of research and $2 Million advance. To me, it failed to deliver the goods. It doesn't even work on the level of a historical thriller like Da Vinci Code, which despite all it's overhyped faults, was at least genuinely thrilling to read.
I seem to be alone in my perception, however; everyone else I know seems to love it, so either something is wrong with me, or everyone else is under Dracula's psychic thrall.
--Yours in Grief, SnowflakeGirl