This thrilling literary adventure (642 pages) was published in June of 2005 by Little, Brown and Company. The book takes you to Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary & more. Melissa read The Historian and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.
‘Vampire librarian.’ If those two words have sold you on this book, feel free to stop reading this and get your hands on a copy of the book immediately.
If you want more, try this: It’s a spine-tingling page-turner and a celebration of the unbreakable bonds we form with people in the unlikeliest of circumstances.
Or this: Most of the action takes place in historical libraries, dusty archives, and mountaintop monasteries — or around tables loaded with endless cups of tea, pastries, and Balkan food.
The story begins in 1970s Amsterdam: Late one night, while exploring her father’s library, a teenage girl finds a collection of old letters and a mysterious book that’s blank except for an illustration of a fearsome dragon. She reads the letters and is suddenly more frightened than she’s ever been. When her father disappears, she sets out on a quest to find him and to resolve the secrets of the letters. That decision puts her on a collision course with Vlad Țepeș, the 15th-century prince of Wallachia, a.k.a., Vlad the Impaler.
As the unnamed heroine searches for her father, he’s on his own mysterious mission and has teamed up with a motley, but endearing, crew of helpers. Our intrepid heroes are professors armed with good intentions, intelligence, and translation skills, rather than weapons. They traipse across Europe, from the Netherlands to Croatia, England, France, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Istanbul to investigate secrets among secrets among secrets.
Equal parts Gothic thriller, detective story, travelogue, and historical fiction, this epic effortlessly keeps track of a large cast of unforgettable (and fanged) characters as they fight for light in the face of an unspeakable evil.
It was strange, I reflected, as we went out into the golden evening of the Byzantine streets, that even in the weirdest circumstances, the most troubling episodes of one’s life, the greatest divides from home and familiarity, there were these moments of undeniable joy. — Elizabeth Kostova
*This is one of Melissa’s all-time favorite books and is one of the novels that inspired the creation of Strong Sense of Place.
Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.
Strong Sense of Place is a listener-supported podcast. If you like the work we do, you can help make it happen by joining our Patreon! That'll unlock bonus content for you, too — including Mel's secret book reviews and Dave's behind-the-scenes notes for the latest Two Truths and a Lie.
This is a weekly email. If you'd like a quick alert whenever we update our blog, subscribe here.
We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.
This 30-page Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.
Content on this site is ©2023 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.