The Shadow Land
April 11, 2017
"From the #1 bestselling author of The Historian comes an engrossing novel that spans the past and the present--and unearths the dark secrets of Bulgaria, a beautiful and haunted country. A young American woman, Alexandra Boyd, has traveled to Sofia, Bulgaria, hoping that life abroad will salve the wounds left by the loss of her beloved brother. Soon after arriving in this elegant East European city, however, she helps an elderly couple into a taxi--and realizes too late that she has accidentally kept one of their bags. Inside she finds an ornately carved wooden box engraved with a name: Stoyan Lazarov. Raising the hinged lid, she discovers that she is holding an urn filled with human ashes. As Alexandra sets out to locate the family and return this precious item, she will first have to uncover the secrets of a talented musician who was shattered by oppression--and she will find out all too quickly that this knowledge is fraught with its own danger. Kostova's new novel is a tale of immense scope that delves into the horrors of a century and traverses the culture and landscape of this mysterious country. Suspenseful and beautifully written, it explores the power of stories, the pull of the past, and the hope and meaning that can sometimes be found in the aftermath of loss. Praise for Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian "Quite extraordinary. Kostova is a natural storyteller. She has refashioned the vampire myth into a compelling contemporary novel, a late-night page-turner."--San Francisco Chronicle "Hypnotic. a thrill ride through history."--The Denver Post "Part thriller, part history, part romance. Kostova has a keen sense of storytelling and she has a marvelous story to tell."--Baltimore Sun "Kostova's vampire is no campy Lugosi knockoff. Blending history and myth, Kostova has fashioned a version so fresh that when a stake is finally driven through a heart, it inspires the tragic shock of something happening for the very first time."--Newsweek Praise for The Swan Thieves "Exquisite."--The Boston Globe "Engrossing."--O: The Oprah Magazine "Stunning. A beautifully written tale of art, love and an obsession triggered by both."--Associated Press"--
In the Shadow Land Between the Mountains…
The Shadow Land is at once hauntingly beautiful, and deeply disturbing…it was the kind of book I wanted to devour, but could not read right before bed without risking strange dreams. Elizabeth Kostova masterfully blends the worlds of modern day Appalachia, with WWII, and post-WWII era Bulgaria…making each seem so real that you could reach out and touch the rugged mountains or feel the biting cold of a communist labor camp. She writes knowledgeably about music, art, and history, making the characters, both major and minor, truly come to life on the page. This is a book that I would highly recommend, with the caveat that getting through it is a bit of an undertaking.
The Shadow Land switches back and forth between the present and past, blending the story of a gifted musician named Stoyan, who finds himself unfairly sent to a forced labor camp during Bulgaria’s communist revolution, with the present-day stories of his son Neven, an American tourist named Alexandra, and a taxi cab driver named Bobby, as they all strive to discover who is targeting Stoyan’s family in an attempt to steal his remains. The blending is done very well, with my only criticism being that at times there were so many visual details provided, that it seemed almost over-done. Personally, I like to have some details left to my imagination; I found the over abundance of details to be so overwhelming at times, that it is the sole reason I did not give this book five stars.
Beyond that minor flaw, I have a deep appreciation for this book, because it really draws the reader in, and explores a lesser known, but very tragic aspect of post-WWII communist revolutions: life in the gulags, and how arbitrarily people were classified as enemies of the state. It explores how human beings process personal tragedy and heart ache, and what we do to survive in the face of bitter adversity and insurmountable odds. Because Kostova sees Bulgaria as an adoptive homeland, she does an excellent job of bringing to life the various types of people one would find there when traveling abroad, and is very sensitive to the legacy of the damages done by the communist regime. For those who love historical fiction, or who thirst for books that will prompt deep and introspective thinking, this is a book that cannot be missed. Just don’t read it before bed if you want to sleep soundly!
Meghan is a high school U.S. History teacher, military wife, devoted mom to three dogs and a little girl, and a coffee connoisseur. She enjoys traveling, hiking, and reading good books, whether on the beach or in a hammock high up in the mountains.