The Oracle of Stamboul

The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas is a picturesque historical fiction set around the Ottoman Empire in 1877 at the brink of the Russo-Turkish War. The book centers around a young girl, Elenora Cohen, whose birth is marked by strange signs and prophecies. A flock of purple and white hoopoes take up residence near her house marking her as unique even before she develops reading and writing skills at a young age showing her to be a prodigy. Her father, a carpet merchant, dotes on her and when he sets off for Stamboul, Elenora stows away on his boat. Arriving in the city, and entering the home of her father's wealthy business partner Moncef Bey, Elenora is swept up in the world around her and her remarkable talents soon catch the eye of the Sultan himself.

I really liked the scenery and the historical setting of this novel, but I was expecting a little more depth to the characters and more development of the intrigue in the plot. I loved that the story focused on Elenora but the mysterious aspects of her birth were never explained or fully developed. I also liked the interaction between Elenora and the Sultan, but again, I wish their relationship had been given more time to expand. I was really drawn into the stories of the supporting characters - Moncef Bey and Elenora's tutor Reverend Muehler - as well. Lukas did a nice job weaving their subplots into the main story and I was very intrigued by them both.

While there were things I wish had been done differently, I still rather enjoyed this book. The writing was well done and it is a fast paced story. The Ottoman Empire was a unique setting, as it seems rarely chosen in historical fiction works, and I enjoyed the details of the political climate and the pictures of Turkish life. As a debut novel, The Oracle of Stamboul was definitely a book that will have me remembering Michael David Lukas' name for seeking out his future works.

6 Response to "The Oracle of Stamboul"

  1. Anonymous Says:
    February 26, 2011 at 1:15 PM

    Good review, I believe we both had the same idea about this book (my review is here

  2. Sam (Tiny Library) says:
    February 26, 2011 at 3:52 PM

    I so want to read this one, mainly because I love the Ottoman Empire. If you like non-fiction as well, Lords of the Horizon by Jason Goodwin is a good history book about the Otttomans.

  3. Danielle Zappavigna says:
    February 27, 2011 at 1:11 AM

    I just can't decide if I want to read this or not. Your review is great, it helped me understand more about what this book's about which some of the other reviews I've read left me feeling a little cloudy about it - cheers! I think this might be one of those books that if I find a second hand copy I might read it, but won't be rushing out to pick one up. Life's too short for mediocre reading :-)

  4. Prem Saisha says:
    February 27, 2011 at 5:05 AM

    WOW. I would really love to read this book,it would be nice to read about my ancestors.. :)

  5. Deborah says:
    February 27, 2011 at 7:39 AM

    That book jacket is beautiful.

  6. Anonymous Says:
    March 3, 2011 at 9:43 PM

    I've been wondering about this book for awhile and am so glad you reviewed it. :)

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