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A Comparison Review ‘The Historian’ by Elizabeth Kostova and ‘Verland: The Transformation’ by B.E. Scully


TheHistorian

Written by: Drake Morgan

I’ve been reading a great deal on vampires lately. Fiction and non-fiction have crossed my desk, including a debut novel from B.E. Scully called Verland: The Transformation. I received a review copy and as I began reading, it reminded me of another recent entry into the vampire lore. In 2005, Elizabeth Kostova released her debut novel called The Historian. As I read Scully’s work, the similarities immediately jumped out. Both novels are a new take on the vampire legend. They avoid the Twilight romance, the Vampire Diaries silliness (voting rights?), and the endless supply of repetitious serial novels filling the ebook shelves.  Both are debut works, richly detailed in historical fact, and feature female protagonists.  I decided to read Kostova’s work again to compare the two.

The first time I read The Historian I truly enjoyed it. I did the second time, but perhaps it was the contrast to such a similar novel that make the differences stand out in stark relief this time around. Kostova’s work is replete with historical fact, rich descriptions, and minute details. It is this attention to detail however, that bogs the work down. It’s a dense tome and much of the material felt superfluous the second time through. Being familiar with the story, I wasn’t as enthralled by the narrative. Instead I found myself glazing over at the intricate descriptions of Istambul, vampire legends, and maps. There was just too much here without the suspense of the narrative. The second time through, I found myself more interested in the characters and they all felt too much the same. I also noticed the formatting of the novel changes throughout. What begins as a present day, first person contrasted with letters becomes something of a confusing mess.  As a new section began, I had to pause because the narrative transition was so awkward. The letters began to read like just another first person narrative. The novel’s central story about Vlad the Impaler and the vampires is excellent. The mysteries are intriguing and for first-time readers, it’s a fantastic book. But when compared to another novel in the same vein, its weaknesses stand out.

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Both The Historian and Scully’s Verland: The Transformation are rich historical novels. Like Kostova, instead of a single narrative, he chooses to shift back and forth through time in order to slowly reveal the vampire’s secrets. The format is unique as we have Elle, a true crime writer, wrapped up in a mystery with a movie producer. As she digs into Kingman’s story, a diary appears. Elle’s “real life” story is then juxtaposed with entries from this mysterious diary, culminating in a dramatic and rather unexpected conclusion. Scully’s writing is crisp and I never felt the historical, philosophical, or geographical details slowed the narrative. There is just enough to create a certain tone, atmosphere, or mood, but he never writes simply to fill the page with facts. He is quite skilled at giving the reader just enough tantalizing history, but then pulling back into the narrative to keep the story flowing. The novel is rich in theme and reminded me of great classics such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in the complex and difficult questions raised within the pages.

Both novels are great books. The Historian is a compelling story of Vlad the Impaler and well worth reading. Verland: The Transformation is, however, just a cut above. Kostova’s novel is reading for today. Had I not wanted to do a comparison, it would still be on my shelf. Verland: The Transformation is a novel that will be retrieved many times over the years. Like Stoker’s Dracula, it is a novel for the ages.

Order The Historian here, and get Verland right here!

The Historian Draws a 3.5/5, while Verland: The Transformation yanks down an impressive 5/5

About The Overseer (1669 Articles)
Author of Say No to Drugs, writer for Blumhouse, Dread Central, Horror Novel Reviews and Addicted to Horror Movies.

1 Comment on A Comparison Review ‘The Historian’ by Elizabeth Kostova and ‘Verland: The Transformation’ by B.E. Scully

  1. I love this comparison. You do know B.E. Scully is also a woman though, right?

    Like

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