Friday, September 9, 2011

Blog Tour Review: The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas

From the Back Cover:

Ushered into the world by a mysterious pair of Tartar midwives late in the summer of 1877 in the town of Constanta on the Black Sea, Eleonora Cohen proves herself an extraordinarily gifted child—a prodigy—at a very young age. When she is eight years old, she stows away aboard a ship, following her carpet merchant father, Yakob, to the teeming and colorful imperial capital of Stamboul where a new life awaits her.

In the narrow streets of this city at the crossroads of the world, intrigue and gossip are currency, and people are not always what they seem. But it is only when she charms the eccentric Sultan Abdulhamid II—beleaguered by friend and foe as his unwieldy realm crumbles—that Eleonora will change the course of an empire.

My Thoughts:

Eleonora Cohen was born in a small Turkish village during the middle of a Russian invasion and an epic storm, attended by a pair of strange Tatar women who claimed a prophecy led them to her. And it did not take long for Eleonora to prove she was no ordinary child. Followed by a flock of birds wherever she goes, she can charm animals, learn languages with astonishing speed, decipher complicated puzzles, and at eight years old is addicted to novels. When her father plans an extended leave of absence from their small village to travel to Stamboul, Eleonora is determined not to be left behind.

A whole new world of possibility opens up in Stamboul, where Eleonora leaves an impression on everyone she meets, including the Moncef Barcous Bey, who may or may not be plotting a political rebellion; the Reverend James Muehler, who may or may not be an American spy; and Abdulhamid II, the Sultan himself, who may or may not be a fit ruler. But when a sunset pleasure cruise turns into a tragic accident, Eleonora finds herself vulnerable to those who would use her talents for their own purposes, and in danger of losing herself to her sorrows and self-doubts.

The best part of this book for me was Eleonora. It's easy to fall in love with a character who falls in love with books! She's such a quiet little girl, and given to so much introspection. My heart ached for her loneliness and confusion, and the weight of so many cares on her little shoulders. I was happy to watch her slowly re-awaken to her potential, but I was disappointed that the prophecy and the mystical elements surrounding her were never fully fleshed out or explained. I didn't get a sense of resolution or meaning. I was also disappointed to look up both The Hourglass, the book that so captivated Eleonora, and the shipwreck that changed her life, only to discover that both were fictional. This novel is pretty light on history, actually, and the events that are covered don't take place in Stamboul, but are sketched out in exposition.

There's a conversation with Michael David Lukas in the back of my book, in which he says, "It is, I hope, an enjoyable read and a mostly accurate picture of the Ottoman capital in its last days." And overall, I did find The Oracle of Stamboul to be an enjoyable read. Lukas has a very warm, welcoming writing style, and the sights, sounds, and scents of Stamboul come to life on his pages. I would have preferred a meatier storyline and a more concrete sense of purpose and direction, but I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in the Ottoman Empire, and in something a little different and exotic.

My Rating:  3 Stars out of 5

The Oracle of Stamboul is on a blog tour!
Click Here to view the TLC Book Tours schedule.
Click Here to visit Michael David Lukas's website.


  1. Eleanora seems like an enchanting child - I'm glad you enjoyed her! Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  2. I agree that it is very easy to fall in love with a character that loves books. I haven't heard of this one before, it sounds good.

  3. I loved the imagery in this one and much of the story. It only fell flat for me in parts of the plot that were never wrapped up or were left rather vague.


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