Wednesday, May 24, 2017

DNF: The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova

The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova
Published April 2017 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
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 political oppression—and she will find out all too quickly that this knowledge is fraught with its own danger.

My Thoughts:
Before blogging, I read Kostova's debut novel, The Historian. Except for an ending that made me want to throw the book across the room, I thoroughly enjoyed that book. It was a wild ride combined with well-researched and well-written story. I was definitely looking forward to seeing what else Kostova had up her sleeve. But The Swan Thieves, Kostova's sophomore effort, left me flat. It lacked the adventure and pacing of The Historian that I was looking forward to.

The Shadow Land doesn't make that mistake; Kostova amps up the ride almost right from the start. That's exactly what I asked for, right? But you've got to buy into some pretty unlikely action and I didn't. I really did try to get past that, to allow Kostova to introduce me to Bulgaria, its past and its people. She's good at that and she convinced me to read nearly 200 pages while I tried to invest myself in the mystery at the heart of the story.

Considering the difficulty I've had falling into any book in the past few months, I might well have said to The Shadow Land "It's me, not you." That might well be true, even. Regardless, at that point, I couldn't muster the interest to keep reading. Given my reaction to this book and The Swan Thieves, it's likely that I'm through with Kostova. I doubt she'll miss me.


  1. I liked The Historian and took a pass on The Swan Thieves--I like the premise of this novel but I doubt I would buy into "some pretty unlikely action" as you put it. I think novelists who stretch the willing suspense of disbelief to the breaking point make me suspect them of not working hard enough to make a realistic plot. I will probably pass on this too. Thanks for a good review--these are often the hardest to write, to put into words why a book just didn't work.

  2. It's not you. I made it through the book, but it left me so blah I still haven't written a review. All that time in the car made it feel more like a travelogue about Bulgaria than a novel. By the time she got to the novel's destination I was cranky and car sick. Not good.

    I'm also like you in that I really loved The Historian, thought Swan Thieves was OK and hoped this was a return to greatness for Kostova. Now I feel like she's not an author I'd read again.