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This is a beautifully written, wonderfully detailed book. Kostova paints a picture with each chapter so that you can visually picture everything happening. You feel as much the outsider as Alexandra, trying to make heads or tails of this country with a language that you don't speak that sounds nothing like English and doesn't even share an alphabet. You gradually are given the story of the man whose ashes Alexandra is carrying around. There is a bit of mystery to this story. This novel takes your through most of the 20th century.

Politics play a large part in this book, both present and past. This takes place in but hits close to home with the current anti-immigration movements in the EU and US. It takes its time, moving from location to location, time to time. The ending isn't believable but it is satisfying. Ther are way too many coincidences and lots of leaps of faith required. View all 7 comments. This is a very different book, but it contains much that is very special indeed and is — as you would expect — beautifully written. The story begins with a young American woman named Alexandra Boyd, who has travelled to Sofia in Bulgaria, in order to teach and to recover from the loss of her beloved brother, Jack in a hiking accident.

It is obvious that Alexandra blames herself for the loss and that she has travelled to Sofia, largely as it was a country that Jack always wanted to visit. On her very first day, in the first in a long line of odd events, she is taken by her taxi to the wrong hotel. Tired, disorientated and yet knowing that she cannot afford the expensive hotel she has been dropped at, she turns to take another taxi. While waiting, she speaks to a group of people, including an elderly couple and another man. One of their party is in a wheelchair and, while assisting them into a taxi, Alexandra finds herself left behind with one of their bags.

Burdened with her own luggage, she does not realise this until she is in her own taxi, driven by the man who is to become her companion on the strange journey she is about to embark on. For, inside the bag is an urn, containing the ashes of a man named Stoyan Lazarov and Alexandra and cab driver, Bobby, set off to find the relatives of Stoyan Lazarov and return them. Along the way, Alexandra will discover the life story of the man whose ashes she carries so carefully and, through his life story, the history of the beguiling, beautiful and, often difficult, history of the country that is Bulgaria.

It is also the story of how Alexandra herself comes to terms with her own history and a place for herself in the world. This is a very moving, quietly deceptive novel, which you need to take at a slower pace — very much character, rather than plot, driven and masterfully written. I received a copy of the book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.

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View all 11 comments. The language in this book is beautiful, mesmerising and detailed. If you wish to get lost in the wonder of Bulgaria, then this is the closest you'll get to the experience of being there without actually going. It made me want to pack bag and head off into the unknown, to feel that sense of trepidation and excitement that only happens when you go to a place you've never been before and don't speak the language.

The words are perfectly crafted and e The language in this book is beautiful, mesmerising and detailed. The words are perfectly crafted and evocative, but they have no real meaning as a function of the overall narrative. Unless you consider again the value of the language, so much of it is unnecessary. The plot never finds itself, it has wandered so far from the path that the reader feels adrift. Those intrepid ones who stick it out till the end are far from rewarded, it stretches the boundaries of belief too far. ARC via Netgalley Mar 29, Susan Johnson rated it it was amazing Shelves: net-galley , favorite-books This is a love story to the country of Bulgaria.

It's a place I can safely say, I have not thought much about before this book. It's always been one of those gray places behind the Iron Curtain to me but I have a different view now. It's a place of history and great beauty and a wonderful place to explore. Alexandra is still recovering from the sudden and unexpected death of her brother in a tragic accident when she decides to go to Bulgaria, a place he had always wanted to visit.

She is going t This is a love story to the country of Bulgaria. She is going to teach English there. Nothing goes right. The taxi takes her to the wrong hotel and she runs into some people having problems getting in their taxi so she helps out. When they leave she discovers she has one of their bags and it contains human ashes. Alexandra makes it her mission to return the ashes. She runs into a helpful taxi driver who remarkably speaks English. They go on an adventure to discover the people and return the bag but it turns out there is much more to the story and they are being pursued and the people have mysteriously disappeared.

As she wanders around Bulgaria it enfolds in front of us. There are villages with stone houses built into mountains, wooden house villages by the sea and monasteries. It becomes apparent that this is a moving travelogue to Bulgaria disguised in a mystery. It's very effective. They learn more about the man whose ashes they have and the history of Bulgaria unfolds. It centers around Russian labor camps where enforced labor was used to mine rocks. I must be getting old because man's inhumanity to man becomes harder and harder to understand and what happens in the Labor Camp is inhuman.

And it is at the Labor Camp that the story really speaks to me. It shows what as humans we are able to endure. How people are treated so harshly and yet survive. I can tell you that I don't feel like I could endure long with a breakfast of a polluted cup of water with a smear of jam on the lip and then go out break up stones. Yet they do day after day. It also speaks to what sustains us in times of trouble. What makes you get out of bed every morning and live through the trials. I am in awe of what people can do.

The ending was a little pat to me but it didn't matter. It's almost besides the point because the story is about so much more. It speaks to the human soul. I loved this book and it will stay with me for a long time. View all 15 comments. Jun 15, Judy rated it it was amazing Shelves: 21st-century-fiction , historical-fiction.

In each book, we have a literary writer who also never fails to include mystery, romance and the sense of a thriller while covering parts of history that at least I did not know before. Alexandra Boyd is similar to other female characters in Ms Kostova's books. At first I found her a little too bewildered and passive, but then at the beginning of the story she had just arrived in Bulgaria after more than 24 hours of air travel, jet-lagged, under slept and a stranger to the country. As the novel progressed she proved to have a strong sense of what she felt was right and to follow that sense despite fear and doubt.

The ashes she mistakenly came to possess on that groggy morning in Sophia turn out to be the remains of the talented violinist Stoyan Lazarov, who was prevented from living the life of a celebrated touring musician because of the political turmoil of his home country. He spent years in Communist work camps where his hands were ruined and his dreams destroyed.

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In order to return the musician's remains to his family, Alexandra must learn the history of Lazarov's life and penetrate a great deal of secrecy and fear. She turns out to be a determined young woman with an abundance of courage. Once again I learned the history of a country I could barely find on a map. There is so much to learn about the world that I don't like to spend time berating my ignorance.

A novel that can teach me so much in under pages while keeping me on the edge of my seat the whole time as well as introducing me to such vivid characters is something extra special. I even got some insight into the current political scene in the world. Highly recommended. View all 4 comments. I received a copy of The Shadow Land from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I love historical fiction and I especially love it when there are parallel past and present stories being told.

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Unfortunately, in this case, The Shadow Land is slow and very wordy. Her writing, when it is not overly descriptive and repetitive, is lovely but there are so many instances where an editor could have gone in and easily slimmed things down. I think the biggest issue for me is the modern day portion of the story. It is so monotonous and exasperating at times. The past story is more interesting but I found navigating through the present narrative turned me off the book.

The present account follows Alexandra Boyd who has come to Sofia, Bulgaria, for a position teaching English. After an interesting chance meeting with an elderly man and woman and the younger man accompanying them, she gets a taxi to take her to her hostel. On the way, she discovers she has accidentally picked up one of their bags and, when she opens it, she discovers an urn full of ashes inside. The only clue she has is an engraving: Stoyan Lazarov. She asks the taxi driver to take her to the police but instead of leaving the bag and urn with them, she decides to take them with her and try to find the owners.

The taxi driver, a man named Bobby, agrees to drive her to the monastery that the younger man had mentioned they planned to visit. This is where I started to tune out. Bobby is oddly accommodating in her need to traipse around Bulgaria. They begin at an address provided by a policeman as a possible starting point for them to find information on the trio.

After they visit that address, they ping all over the countryside, visiting various people who relate the sad tale of Stoyan Lazarov, a violinist. But it just drags. I felt like there was a lot that could have been removed and it would not have affected the plot. Another thing that really bugs me is the tenses. I also think I was maybe mislead, or read too much into, the book description.

It made me believe it would be on the suspenseful side but there was no suspense, just some major doses of corruption. The Shadow Land is definitely a miss for me which is disappointing as I was really looking forward to getting lost in this story, instead I just wanted to get away from it. View all 10 comments. I loved this title despite being as aforementioned a plot heavy reader and hopefully others will too.

Shelves: netgalley , e-europe-crime. This book takes place entirely in Bulgaria.

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It starts with an American woman, Alexandra Boyd, dropped off at the wrong hotel by a taxi that is now gone. She is trying to decide how to get another taxi and get to the hostel where she has a reservation when she steps up to stop an elderly woman from falling. The two men with her thank her before they get into their taxi. She asks permission to take their picture and they leave after she takes the picture. Only then does she discover she has mistak This book takes place entirely in Bulgaria.

Only then does she discover she has mistakenly taken one of their bags. She opens it and discovers an urn of ashes. The book goes back and forth between her efforts to return the urn and the arrest of the dead man in by the Bulgarian secret police on false charges.

The narrative of the horrific labor camp to which Stoyan Lazarov is sent is not for a squeamish person. There are some sinister men following Alexandra and her taxi driver friend as she tries to return the urn The two narratives do connect at the end of the book for a very satisfying ending. This book brought back memories of my two months in Bulgaria, volunteering as a UN Sanctions Assistance Monitor in the summer of during the Bosnian war. Some memories: Shopska salad--greens. Excellent and very cheap wine. I was at a restaurant with colleagues.

I ordered a glass of wine. I spoke almost no Bulgarian. The waitress spoke very little English, but told me that I could not order a glass of wine. Alexandra visits a fictional monastery driving through fictional mountain villages that are familiar to me.

They built the wall and they made it fall down one little piece at a time. Violinist "He said the violin should be able to tell the truth and it should be able to cry. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me this book. Jan 09, Erin Dunn rated it did not like it Shelves: dnf. The Historian is one of my favorite novels, but this one did not do it for me.

The writing in this one killed me from about page two. I feel like unimportant things are described in too much detail. The writing droned on and on. I felt like I had been reading forever and I wasn't very far in. This book to me did not feel like the same writing that I loved in The Historian. Not everyone can be Tolkien and not every book needs that level of description. I couldn't get into this one at all so I figure why keep going if I already really dislike it? SecondDNFOf I can't personally recommend this one, but if the blurb sounds good and you can handle long winded descriptions then maybe you'll like this one more than I did.

View 2 comments. I do not really know how to write a review about this book; not when I am still in the throes of it and all the emotions that it continually evoked in me. There was just an onslaught of emotion throughout this whole book and to say I have serious book hangover now is really a complete understatement. Maybe in a few days or weeks or months, I will be able to look back at this book and write a review that will do it justice.

Or maybe I will just tell everyone I know that they MUST read this I do not really know how to write a review about this book; not when I am still in the throes of it and all the emotions that it continually evoked in me. As soon as possible. So they too can be changed by this book as I was.

View all 5 comments. Mar 27, Cat Tutt rated it really liked it. I'm giving this one 4 stars, however it's pulled up from 3 based on the wealth of historical knowledge written into it. I'm a big fan of historical fiction, particularly when it's deftly done so that a good deal of historical information can be woven in with the story without feeling like a textbook, which Ms Kostova achieved. But, it was a little slow moving and boring.

Her first book, "The Historian", is one of my favorite books of all time. So I was really excited to get my hands on this one, I'm giving this one 4 stars, however it's pulled up from 3 based on the wealth of historical knowledge written into it. So I was really excited to get my hands on this one, and had very high hopes. It didn't live up to my expectations. It wasn't bad I think a good chunk of pages could easily have been condensed out of it without losing any of the story elements, and have made it move along at a more page-turning pace.

Really, though, the amount and depth of knowledge Ms Kostova displays of Bulgaria and communist Bulgaria must have taken a fair bit of time to acquire. She uses the information easily and with good detail, really bringing it to life for me. While I might not suggest this book to an adrenaline junkie, lovers of history and knowledge might appreciate it very much. Thank you for making this available. Visit my blog at www. Apr 16, Jennifer rated it liked it Shelves: listened-to-audiobook , historical-fiction , read , stand-alone-novel , mystery , travel-adventure.

I found the combination of these parallel stories made for a long and slow read in my opinion. Once the historical flashbacks started, I only wanted to read that story. It was much more engaging than the present-day mystery that seemed to go on and on with little progress. Personally, I didn't care about the mystery component, I would have been happy to just read Stoyan's story only. His parts were so well-written that I had to fight frustration to be pulled back to present-day.

Disobey, redeem yourself, perish. View all 13 comments. Feb 20, Eryn rated it really liked it Shelves: arc-and-netgalley , almost-favorites , historical-fiction , mystery , reviewed , cover-love , 4-stars , owned. This does not persuade my actual opinion of the novel. Well, that was lovely. As soon as I started this novel, I knew I was going to love it.

The way Elizabeth Kostova's flawless writing paints an image in your mind is absolutely remarkable. Honestly, I enjoyed nearly every moment of this book. I enjoyed the history, the rare but exhilarating thriller scenes, the constant mystery, and even the I received a copy of The Shadow Land from Ballantine Books NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I enjoyed the history, the rare but exhilarating thriller scenes, the constant mystery, and even the slow-burning romance. Ah, this was quite an enjoyable read. Some people might compare this novel to The Historian , but not me. To put it simply, I didn't enjoy that novel as much, which is why I'm really glad I gave this book a chance - even though I didn't have the greatest success with her novels prior. And who knows? Maybe I'll even go back and re-read The Historian because of how amazing this story was. Honestly - I'm still in awe. Another thing I might add is, that even though this was beautiful - it's certainly not for everyone.

If you don't enjoy books with "little action" and a "slow burn" then, this isn't for you. But even still, I dare you to give it a chance. It might just be one of my favorite Historical Fiction novels I've read recently. But now I just have to wait for the release date, so I can have the physical copy of the book!

Lastly, thank you to Ballantine Books for giving me the opportunity to review this. View all 3 comments. Mar 24, Maureen Carden rated it it was amazing Shelves: netgalley , supense , historical , political. Dorothy's quest to meet The Wizard. As I am writing this, all proud of my cleverness I realize there is a character named The Wizard.

Our Dorothy, Alexandra, is a young woman newly arrived in Sofia, Bulgaria to teach. Alexandra is also on a pilgrimage of sorts for her brother who died young in a hiking accident. Alexandra is almost destroyed by her burden of guilt. So when by trying to do a good deed for a small little family group, she ends up with c Dorothy's quest to meet The Wizard. So when by trying to do a good deed for a small little family group, she ends up with cremains, Alexandra is horrified. Unh uh, no way is she going to bear this guilt.

Alexandra meets up with her Scarecrow, a taxi driver named Bobby, who joins her on this quest to find three people in Bulgaria when she doesn't know their name, phone, or address. Although she soon catches a break on the name.

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Bobby is the ultimate Scarecrow with skills and secrets of his own. Everyone should be so lucky as to have a Bobby in their life. A journey of light and darkness. Early on they discover the name of the man whose remains they hold, Stoyan Lazarov, a violinist of exceptional skill. It is his story we begin to learn. The story of his incredible skill as a violinist, his abiding love for his Vera, and his long dark journey into the hell of the Bulgarian gulags. Alexandra and Bobby find themselves in danger almost from the beginning. It takes a long while to discover by whom and even longer to discover why.

As Alexandra and Bobby begin to meet Stoyan's family and friends, they discover his journeys into hell are almost balanced by the beauty of these F and Fs. Kostova paints her characters as lovingly a Sargent or a Casset. There is a distraction at first when some of the chapters are told by Alexandra's POV, This distraction soon disappears.

This about the only discordant note I can think of. I don't think I have to words to describe Kostova's description of Stoyan's music. Her descriptions, are, well, music. But all of Kostova's descriptions are lovely. Sometimes I just skim wordy descriptions, in Kostova's case I savor her words.

For all the right reasons, this book takes commitment. It is a journey well worth taking. Thank you to NetGalley for a chance to read this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. Apr 07, Christine Zibas rated it it was amazing Shelves: books , favorites , giveaways-i-ve-won.

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People say that it is the place where anything will happen. Can happen, he corrected himself. Really, who among us knows much about Bulgaria? If the descriptions in this book are any indication, many more readers may be setting their sights on this fascinating if largely unknown nation.

One of the most profound statements in th "Do you like Bulgaria? One of the most profound statements in the book comes from Alexandra's main Bulgarian companion a poet and taxi driver in which he tells her that in her country, no one cares about history and in his, no one can escape it. In particular, Alexandra becomes unexpectedly wrapped up in an adventure not of her own choosing.

She's outside a hotel and spots an elderly couple having trouble getting into a taxi and goes to help them. She unwittingly ends up with one of their suitcases, and spends the rest of the book trying to return this to them. From one end of the country to another, Alexandra follows the clues.

As readers learn more and more about the fate of the man behind the ashes, the story becomes darker, but no less meaningful. This is a rich tale with plenty to share, and not all of it is goodness and light. It is certainly worth the journey, however. What Kostova has to share with her readers is profound, and there's even a little twist at the end, just to round things off. A wonderfully written, important book. Mar 19, Snooty1 rated it it was amazing Shelves: books , advanced-copies.


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There is a character in this novel, that completely captured my heart; a person that you never meet in the book When someone draws loyalty throughout their entire lives; a sense of reverence from those in their lives it seriously melts my heart. We are transported to Bulgaria, and a trip a young Alexandra Boyd needs to make to start her own healing process in her life. Once there, she very quickly meets a man and his family and by accident keeps one of their bags. Inside that bag is an invaluable find I truly feel that I am a better person for reading this novel. The only issue I had with it was that it was a tad long-winded in the descriptions department.

Feb 19, Carlos rated it liked it. First I have to thank Netgalley for giving me the chance to review this book that is not coming out till a couple of months from now.


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One of the main issues I had with this book started as soon as I began to read it , the catalyst that launches the plot of this book is not believable at all and every part that follows from there on is tainted by this lack of cohesion at the begging of the book. That aside, the book gets better from then on but it is not a fast paced book, there are lot of mentions about the setting Bulgaria and Vienna which I liked I have a soft spot for Eastern Europe as a setting in any book , but there are also moments between the 2 main characters that deal with post war politics and the history of communism in the lower countries which can get a little bit boring.

The conclusion is satisfactory because it ties all the loose ends in the story , I just wished it had a strong beginning so I could bump its rating , but alas it did not. Hopefully some of these issues will be fixed in the final edition. Jun 25, Jenny Reading Envy rated it liked it Shelves: read , reviewcopy , netgalley , location-bulgaria , around-the-world , ebooks. I have grown accustomed to complex novels that still move quickly, usually discussing art or literature in some way.

I was disappointed by The Shadow Land. It is very clear that the author has fallen in love with Bulgaria and a Bulgarian! So she created this novel as a framework. The first half of the novel contains a lot of movement from place to p I was curious about this novel after reading both The Historian and The Swan Thieves by this author. The first half of the novel contains a lot of movement from place to place, I imagine because she wanted to write about some of these places with such rich history, but some of these places have no bearing on the outcome of the story.

The characters are too obviously pawns and the events are too implausible. Some opportunities were missed - the main character is there to teach English yet everyone she meets speaks good enough English, even the elderly. I'm pretty sure the timeline of her adventure overlaps with when she was expected in the classroom but this is not addressed. Her taxi driver has indicators of revolutionary activity at least resistance but this is pretty much dropped midway through the story and was possibly the most interesting story line to me.

One story that seems to tie everything together is told unevenly, and contains the elements of most confusion. I can see why the author is in love with this place. But I think the story she chose to tell inside of it was not a success. Thanks to the publisher for granting access through NetGalley. Tires screeched, doors opened, weapons were cocked. From where he lay, Riley could hear police officers barking orders while others ran up the stairs.

In no time, they were banging on his door. After years of criminal activity, his luck had run out. The day was March 28, For British author French, this is familiar territory. In his latest opus, French tells the story of a colorful cast of Shanghai misfits with his customary verve and flair. In , after a five-year stint with the U.

Navy, spent mostly in Manila and on patrol boats on the Yangtze, Riley returned home to Oklahoma. He found a job as a cab driver, but willy-nilly got involved in a kidnapping that landed him a year jail sentence.


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In the first instance of what turned out to be a long streak of amazing luck, he managed to escape his bonds. To avoid future identification, he burned his fingertips with acid, adopted a new name — Jack Riley — and fled the country. When he landed on the Chinese coast in , he was already on the lam.

True to form, his first business venture was to run a dive bar, the Manhattan, which he won playing dice. Drawing on his contacts in the U. Navy and by bribing pliant sergeants, Riley began smuggling slot machines on government supply ships — later, he shipped drugs to the U. He put some of the machines in his bar, but rented out the vast majority, taking a large share of the profit.

Soon, every nightclub, tavern and speakeasy had them installed. They would last for years. Things started to go south in August , when the Imperial Japanese Army launched a full-scale invasion of the lower Yangtze. Kenji Doihara, a notorious opium addict dispatched from Manchuria to take command of the area. To sap the will of the people, Doihara encouraged drug trafficking, prostitution and a gamut of other crimes and vices.