The Shadow Land

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 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.

Do not read Kostova’s Shadow Land thinking it is in the same vein as The Historian or you will be disappointed. Instead know going in you will not find any suspenseful thrillers, mystical elements from the Historian, movie style action sequences or soap opera drama; what you will find is a poignant and beautiful story about a woman needing atonement for a perceived wrong doing. It is a slow buildup rather than a fast pace attention grabber and when the conclusion comes it does so with a whisper rather than a bang. In fact if you begin to speed read or gloss over sentences, paragraphs or even whole chapters you will miss vitally important story elements because they often happened so quickly I had to reread sections to find what I missed.

This is a story about suffering that accompanies loss and the repentance that follows. It is a story about a woman’s journey to find acceptance with herself and the importance of family. It is a story about a country, its politics, its wars and most importantly its beauty.

Shadow Land is that painting that grabs you as you’re strolling through the museum which you would’ve passed because it’s not as flashy as the other pieces. As you stand there staring at it you feel it speaking to your soul, pulling at you so that it can allow its story to unfold.

Let Shadow Land pull you into its beauty with Kostova’s poetic and descriptive writing style, its lyrical dialogue and long reaching story arch.

 Thank you to Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine for allowing me to review this book.

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*synopsis and pic from

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