Kostova spent ten years researching The Historian, traveling widely in Eastern Europe, learning languages and gleaning stories from obscure but picturesque places. Of all the attractions of this smart and frightening page-turner, one of the greatest is her description of places in Turkey, Bulgaria, Hungary, and the south of France. For instance, she describes a Bulgarian monastery that may or may not hide the tomb of Dracula:
[It] sat among high barren hills, partly forested and partly bare rock, close to the narrow river; even in early summer, the landscape was already dry, and I could easily imagine how the monks must have valued that nearby source of water. The outer walls were the same dun-colored stone as the hills around them. The monastery roofs were fluted red ceramic tiles. . . . The entrance to the monastery was a yawning archway, as perfectly dark as a hole in the ground.