The Shadow Land

Available in Paperback on March 13, 2018!

"...a must-buy for fiction collections."Booklist

"This third novel from Kostova will delight the author's fans... A fantastic book club pick." — Library Journal, Starred Review

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 find the family and return this precious item, she will first have to uncover the secrets of a talented musician whose life was shattered by oppression.  And she will discover all too quickly that this knowledge is fraught with its own danger.


Kostova is a clearheaded, elegant writer with a sneaky gift for incorporating the history and culture of a place into the nooks and crannies of a book that never feels bossy or expository.
The New York Times
In the second part of the novel, several chapters go back to Stoyan Lazarov and his enigmatic sister-in-law Irina Georgieva’s life during World War II, and in these, Kostova captures not just the rhythms of Bulgaria’s everyday past, but its proud and uneven political history, too. Not only do these scenes provide that grounding I mentioned earlier — they allow Kostova to show us her deep love for her adopted homeland. Her wonder at its survival and abiding mysteries is summed up in what Bobby says to Alexandra, about midway through their odyssey: ‘My country has come a long way in a short time, in spite of everything. I think we have something special to give the world — culture, and lessons from history. And beauty. It would be tragic for us to go backward. We have already suffered too much.’
Kostova has created a rich group of characters and paints the landscape and cityscapes of Bulgaria vividly, but allows them to retain their mystery and their sense of otherness for the young American. We take that sense of mystery back to our own realities, wonderfully dazed by the experience of the book.
Ann Arbor Observer
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
The Shadow Land is thrilling, and not just as a gripping tale. It’s also thrilling to watch such a talented writer cast her spell. The central character actually begins this deft novel in an urn, only to emerge as one of the most memorable characters I’ve encountered in a long time.
— Richard Russo, author of Everybody’s Fool
Transporting . . . draws us into Bulgarian history and character revelation like an elegant, mysterious labyrinth. Page-turning, evocative, and richly imagined.
— Dominic Smith, author of The Last Painting of Sara de Vos