Monday, June 26, 2017

THE SHADOW LAND





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The Shadow Land, Elizabeth Kostova, Ballantine Books, 2017, 476 pp


Summary from Goodreads: 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.

 

My Review:
If you loved The Historian as much as I did and even if you didn't love The Swan Thieves to the same degree (I loved it in a different way from Elizabeth Kostova's first novel), you will probably love The Shadow Land. In each book, we have a literary writer who also never fails to include mystery, romance and the sense of a thriller while covering parts of history that at least I did not know before.

Alexandra Boyd is similar to other female characters in Ms Kostova's books. At first I found her a little too bewildered and passive, but then at the beginning of the story she had just arrived in Bulgaria after more than 24 hours of air travel, jet-lagged, under slept and a stranger to the country. As the novel progressed she proved to have a strong sense of what she felt was right and to follow that sense despite fear and doubt.

The ashes she mistakenly came to possess on that groggy morning in Sophia turn out to be the remains of the talented violinist Stoyan Lazarov, who was prevented from living the life of a celebrated touring musician because of the political turmoil of his home country. He spent years in Communist work camps where his hands were ruined and his dreams destroyed.

In order to return the musician's remains to his family, Alexandra must learn the history of Lazarov's life and penetrate a great deal of secrecy and fear. She turns out to be a determined young woman with an abundance of courage.

Once again I learned the history of a country I could barely find on a map. There is so much to learn about the world that I don't like to spend time berating my ignorance. A novel that can teach me so much in under 500 pages while keeping me on the edge of my seat the whole time as well as introducing me to such vivid characters is something extra special. I even got some insight into the current political scene in the world.

Highly recommended. 


(The Shadow Land is available in hardcover by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

 

8 comments:

  1. After the Historian -- I think the author is a terrific storyteller so I'm game for this one. I will reacquaint myself (first) to where Bulgaria is on a map via google: now I know it borders Greece & Romania among other countries. I'm sure all within the book are brought to life.

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    1. Ha! I did the same thing with the maps! It is a great story.

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  2. This one is scheduled to be my next read. I'm glad you liked it.

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    1. Great! Enjoy. We can discuss on our blogs:-)

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  3. I enjoyed this too and actually preferred it to The Historian. I learned such a lot about Bulgaria!

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    1. Well, it sure was easier to follow than The Historian, but that first book is what made me her fan for life.

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  4. I was not a fan of The Historian. I think I was put off by the Dracula aspects of the story. This one actually sounds like it might be a more interesting read - for me at least.

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    1. I assure you there are no undead in this novel. Why did the Dracula aspects put you off?

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