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.
The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova
Publication Date: April 11, 2017 by Ballantine Books
There are aspects of this novel that I absolutely LOVED, but the pacing is what ultimately ruined this for me.
To start, Elizabeth Kostova is a phenomenally talented writer. Much of what I loved in The Historian is present in The Shadow Land – the dynamic characters, the intensely detailed descriptions of the surrounding environment, and a unique mystery all twisted within. While I wouldn’t exactly qualify The Historian as a “fast-paced” read, I never felt like the storyline was dragging at all. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case for me with The Shadow Land.
I felt invested in the plot for the first 200 pages or so and I absolutely loved Bobby’s character. Alexandra felt a bit lacking in personality and I felt a bit confused about the underlying hints at her attraction to Nevin. However, the chapters that shared Stoyan’s personal narrative were stunning and at times, heartbreaking. I only wish that there could have been less lead up to Stoyan’s story and the final “reveal” because the slow pace ultimately made finishing the novel feel like too much of a chore.
This is the type of book for those who like to get lost in the details and are okay with a long, winding and often untraceable plot. What’s best about Kostova’s style is her ability to paint a country for a reader who hasn’t necessarily been somewhere like Bulgaria – I could easily picture the narrator’s surroundings and it made me begin to itch to travel somewhere new and different from what I’m accustomed to. For those who need a strong, clear cut plot and don’t have an appreciation for extensive detail, I wouldn’t necessarily suggest picking up The Shadow Land.
Thank you, Netgalley and Ballantine Books for allowing me the chance to read this book before its publication date in exchange for an honest review.