Set in the heart of the exotic Ottoman Empire during the first years of its chaotic decline, Michael David Lukas’ elegantly crafted, utterly enchanting debut novel follows a gifted young girl who dares to charm a sultan—and change the course of history, for the empire and the world. An enthralling literary adventure, perfect for readers entranced by the mixture of historical fiction and magical realism in Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red, or Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Lukas’ evocative tale of prophesy, intrigue, and courage unfolds with the subtlety of a Turkish mosaic and the powerful majesty of an epic for the ages.
A girl changes the course of the Ottoman empire in Lukas's middling debut. Eleonora Cohen born in 1877 Romania, prophesied to alter history, and gifted with great intelligence stows away at age eight to follow her father to Stamboul. Her first weeks there are a whirlwind of beautiful new dresses and cultural experiences, but the idyllic adventure takes a terrible twist after her father is killed in an accident and Eleonora is taken in by her father's wealthy and politically slippery friend. She proves to be a quick study, and once her tutor alerts the palace of Eleonora's immense intelligence, she finds herself in attendance at the sultan's court, commenting on a political standoff between the Ottoman empire, Russia, and Germany. As the sultan's interest in her grows, so, too, does her reputation and importance, though Eleonora is unsure if her new role is what she wants from life. The backdrop is nicely done, but Lukas can't quite get his characters to pop or the plot to click; indeed, the buildup of Eleonora's oracle-like powers culminates in a disappointing fizzle. It's well intentioned, but flatly executed.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Oracle of Stamboul
The cover drew me to the book to start, and I found the topic fascinating. It is a look into a culture and time in history I had not read much about before. I chose it for my book group, and look forward to their responses. Eleonora was a brave and exceptional little girl, who took what life threw at her and, with some help and guidance, made her own path into the world.
The Oracle of Stamboul
I loved the visual imagery in the book. I thought the Hoopoes were especially intriguing. About two thirds through I felt like this was the beginning of a trilogy. It was very well written, but I expected it to go further. Perhaps it will.
The Oracle of Stamboul
Fascinating story and characters. I certainly hope there is another book soon to follow.