The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova | If I could take out all of the good parts and make a book out of it, I would!

There are times when books seem alright at the beginning, then you slowly start to hate every moment of reading it, but afterwards come some parts that you enjoy very much and then an ending you just want to get it over with ASAP, like ripping off a bandage. Maybe you’ve never had such experience before, but I sure have and I am here to share it with you.

«The Shadow Land» is a mystery historical fiction set in Bulgaria, following adventures of young american woman, Alexandra, on her arrival to a foreign country.

31394293Alexandra 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.

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Bulgaria, adventure, mystery – all of this sounds amazing and incredibly interesting! However… it’s not as simple as that. This time I will reverse my review pattern and start with things I disliked (because there were too many of them and I need to get them off my chest!)

WHAT I DISLIKED:

1 – Tedious and ongoing descriptions. I am not sure if it was the unfamiliar writing style that took me forever to read through, or if the story was simply too descriptive, all I know is that the book could have had way fewer pages and the plot would not suffer from it at all.

I am all about descriptions when the authors keep the pace of the story relatively quick. Unfortunately, I didn’t find that in this book. But if you enjoy slightly slow-paced novels, this might be a book for you.

2 – When the main character does not provide much to the story, it might be time to give him / her some “spices” in their personality. I can’t say that Alexandra was unintelligent, but I can’t call her very bright either. During the whole story she is relying on Bobby – to find out what to do next, to come up with a plan, to speak to people, to analyse the situation, to drive her around – the list goes on!

Her background was interesting and somewhat mysterious, but nothing too exciting was done about it and it didn’t develop into anything other than occasional tears or sad thoughts by our main character.

3 – Related to the previous passage, this bullet point is all about the only question I had in my mind during the whole reading experience: “Why is she running around Bulgaria looking for people she doesn’t know just so she could return a bag? Even if there is something special in it.

It is still difficult for me to wrap my head around the fact that a young woman, who comes to Bulgaria to teach at a university, had very little money to spare, would decide that the best option would be to find these people on her own without involving the police.

Don’t get me wrong, from the plot building point of view, she had to do it this way otherwise there would be no story to tell… but Why?? WHY??? If someone understood this better than I did, please let me know.

4 – How convenient Bobby was, in all aspects.

Need a ride? Sure!

Need someone to help you locate these mysterious couples? No problem!

Oh, and surprisingly I have all the time in the world, and also I am very good with seeing things other people don’t!

Besides other very convenient traits! (I decided to not mention all of them, as I consider that to be a minor spoiler.)

5 – For some reason everyone in the story was very affectionate towards Alexandra. Sometimes after few hours, and sometimes after a few minutes of meeting her. This sudden love for our main character is one of those unexplainable things that kept happening over and over again.

WHAT I LIKED:

1 – The actual reason why I was reading this book – the story of Stoyan Lazarov. Incredibly well written, heartbreaking and astonishingly real! My absolute favourite part of the whole book and the only thing that kept me reading until the end. Narrated by multiple characters, his presence in the book was beyond anything and anyone else, and I’d prefer a book solely about him, without Alexandra on the horizon.

My rating:

⭐⭐ / 5

Thank you Text Publishing UK and NetGalley for providing the digital ARC of this book. It might seem that I disliked most of the book, but it was actually quite an experience! Plus, there are always so much more to discuss when the book is not quite what you like or were hoping for.

The story of Stoyan Lazarov made it hard to put the book away, not completely erasing all other imperfections, but giving enough drive to read it until the very end.

Let me know in the comments down below if you read any books by Elizabeth Kostova before and what you think about them! Also, if historical fiction is something you are interested in.

With love,

Alex

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