Author: Elizabeth Kostova
Published: April 11, 2017
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 Stars
Description from Amazon:
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. Elizabeth 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.
Elizabeth Kostova is one of those authors that I will read no matter what. The Historian is one of my all time favorite books and The Swan Thieves was also excellent. Somehow, she managed to publish a book in April and I missed it until the beginning of December . . . sad I know! But as soon as I saw it, I didn’t even read the description, I automatically bought it. I tried very hard to not compare it to The Historian; I didn’t always succeed, but I did try!
From the beginning, I liked Alexandra. There were some times that I got a little tired of her letting one event, an important event, long in her past, define her present. Other than that, her willing and helpful spirit was very refreshing. She didn’t give driving all over Bulgaria for a family she only interacted with once for a short time, a second thought. Bobby, became one of my favorite characters! I was so disappointed when I found out that he was gay! (ok, calm down snowflakes, I’m not homophobic!) He and Alexandra had such cute chemistry and even a bit of a physical relationship that could have blossomed into such a good romance!!! I kept waiting to find out that Alexandra had turned him straight!!
The history in this story was fascinating! I’ve always loved Eastern European/Russian history, but I’d never studied Bulgaria specifically. Kostova was able to combine her easy story telling skills with history that kept me turning the page. The scope wasn’t nearly as big as The Historian, but I felt that The Shadow Land was the more emotional of the two. The one thing that keeps me from giving this book 5 stars is the odd relationship that exists between Alexandra and Neven. I don’t want to give anything away, I’ll just say that it seemed to be a stretch for me. I would absolutely recommend this to anyone looking for great historical fiction. I would also recommend this to every single older teenager, especially the ones who look at communism thru rose colored glasses. This book did a great job of showing just how bad communism is on a practical level.