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The shadow land : a novel
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2017
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Reviews

Booklist Reviews

On her first day in Bulgaria, American Alexandra Boyd acquires the ashes of violinist Stoyan Lazarov when she encounters a trio of Bulgarians and inadvertently keeps their bag. Boyd searches the country for Lazarov's family while sinister forces attempt to prevent her from exposing devastating truths. Occasionally reading like a travelogue, this novel is replete with extensive character description and authorial flourish. The pacing is leisurely, with recurring visits to previously encountered locales and expository characters, before a dénouement that carefully threads together and ties off all story lines. Historical detail and a dual-time-period narrative is achieved with Lazarov's memoir of 1950s Communist Bulgaria, a tale strongly reminiscent of Holocaust fiction, adding appeal for fans of that genre. Kostova's phenomenally successful debut, The Historian (2005), was an international, period-jumping, doorstop literary thriller that relied heavily on epistolary elements. Her second novel, The Swan Thieves (2010), followed structural suit, and after seven years, her highly anticipated latest stays true to an exceedingly appealing pattern. Recommend Kostova's latest to readers seeking outstanding and suspenseful historical fiction. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Substantial prepublication buzz about best-selling Kostova makes this a must-buy for fiction collections. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Library Journal Reviews

This third novel from the author of the New York Times best-selling The Historian finds a young American woman in Sofia, Bulgaria, helping a family into a taxi and realizing too late that she has kept one of their bags. The bag contains an ash-filled urn labeled Stoyan Lazarov, which leads our heroine to a particularly dark moment in Bulgarian history. With an eight-city tour.. Copyright 2016 Library Journal.

Library Journal Reviews

Alexandra, an American in her mid-20s, has decided to start life anew in Bulgaria. Soon after she lands in Sofia, her plans go awry when she discovers a stranger's bag among her own. Even more troubling, inside the bag is a box of cremated remains. While attempting to return the box, Alexandra becomes embroiled in a mystery that encompasses Bulgarian history from before World War II to the Bulgarian coup d'état of 1944 that led to a communist state and through the present. On her adventure through the Bulgarian countryside, she is accompanied by an enigmatic taxi driver and meets many other interesting, rich characters. VERDICT This third novel from Kostova (The Historian; The Swan Thieves) will delight the author's fans. A slight hint of the mystical will appeal to readers who enjoyed Deborah Harkness's "All Souls" trilogy, while the mystery and thriller aspects will keep fans of Dan Brown and Umberto Eco reading. A fantastic book club pick. [See Prepub Alert, 10/17/16.]—Elizabeth McArthur, Bexar Cty. Digital Lib., BiblioTech, San Antonio

Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

A compelling and complex mystery, strong storytelling, and lyrical writing combine for an engrossing read set in the former Soviet-bloc nation of Bulgaria. Not long after Alexandra Boyd's 2008 arrival in Sofia to teach English, she ends up with the wrong suitcase, which holds the remains of one Stoyan Lazarov in a carved box. She is determined to return it to the elderly couple traveling with their son, a handsome man who eventually haunts her dreams. Helping her on this quest is Asparuh Iliev, aka Bobby, an inscrutable taxi driver who believes in his nation's beauty but fears for its future under the possible leadership of a powerful and wealthy politician whose anticorruption campaign is gaining political traction. They learn Lazarov was a talented violinist who faced political oppression. A parallel story line tells of Lazarov's life. His attempt to become a concertmaster by currying favor with his orchestra's Communist conductor has tragic consequences, setting up Kostova's (The Historian) most emotional and harrowing moments. (Apr.)

Copyright 2017 Publisher Weekly.

School Library Journal Reviews

Alexandra, 26, is headed to her new job teaching English in Bulgaria when, exhausted from hours of traveling and confused at having been dropped off at the wrong hotel, she reaches out to help an elderly woman get into a cab. As the car pulls away, Alexandra hails a taxi to take her to her hostel but discovers that she has accidentally picked up the old woman's satchel, which contains a beautiful box labeled with the name Stoyan Lazarov and filled with ashes. This is the story of her hunt to track down Stoyan Lazarov's family and return his remains to them. After checking in with the local police, Alexandra and her cab driver, Bobby, set off to locate the urn's owner. Following a slim trail of clues, they learn that the Communist takeover of Bulgaria came with an iron fist that enslaved thousands of suspected resistors, including the gentle Stoyan Lazarov. The more clues they uncover, the more the past catches up with them, until they, too, become a part of the mystery and find themselves in grave danger. This novel brings a horrific period of history to life, encapsulated in a mystery and stoked by Alexandra's determination to return Stoyan Lazarov to his family regardless of the danger. Interweaving tales juxtapose the past with the present as the mystery unfolds. VERDICT Those who enjoy a deep dive into the complicated lives of people both historical and contemporary will love this book.—Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA

Copyright 2017 School Library Journal.

Author Biography

Elizabeth Kostova is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Swan Thieves and The Historian. She graduated from Yale and holds an MFA from the University of Michigan, where she won a Hopwood Award for Novel-in-Progress. She is also co-founder of the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation for Creative Writing in Bulgaria. - (Random House, Inc.)

Annotations

After accidentally taking a package from a family she shared a cab with in Bulgaria, a young American tourist sets out to return it to them. - (Baker & Taylor)

"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"-- - (Baker & Taylor)

Accidentally taking a parcel from a family with whom she shared a cab, a young American tourist in Bulgaria is horrified to discover that the parcel contains an urn of ashes and embarks on an effort to return it to its family, making astonishing discoveries along the way. By the award-winning author of The Historian. - (Baker & Taylor)

From the #1 bestselling author of The Historian comes a mesmerizing novel that spans the past and the present—and unearths the troubled history of a gorgeous but 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 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.

Praise for The Shadow Land

“A compelling and complex mystery, strong storytelling, and lyrical writing combine for an engrossing read.”—Publishers Weekly

“In The Shadow Land, Elizabeth Kostova, a master storyteller, brings vividly to life an unfamiliar country—Bulgaria—and a painful history that feels particularly relevant now. You won’t want to put down this remarkable book.”—Claire Messud, author of The Woman Upstairs

“In this brilliant work, what appears at first a minor mystery quickly becomes emblematic of a whole country’s hidden history. Lyrical and compelling, The Shadow Land proves a profound meditation on how evil is inflicted, endured, and, through courage and compassion, defeated. Elizabeth Kostova’s third novel clearly establishes her as one of America’s finest writers.”—Ron Rash, author of The Risen - (Random House, Inc.)

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