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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Review: Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas

Late in the summer of 1877, a flock of purple-and-white hoopoes suddenly appears over the town of Constanta on the Black Sea, and Eleonora Cohen is ushered into the world by a mysterious pair of Tartar midwives who arrive just minutes before her birth. "They had read the signs, they said: a sea of horses, a conference of birds, the North Star in alignment with the moon. It was a prophecy that their last king had given on his deathwatch." But joy is mixed with tragedy, for Eleonora's mother dies soon after the birth.

Raised by her doting father, Yakob, a carpet merchant, and her stern, resentful stepmother, Ruxandra, Eleonora spends her early years daydreaming and doing housework—until the moment she teaches herself to read, and her father recognizes that she is an extraordinarily gifted child, a prodigy.

Three Reasons Review

1.)  1.) Reasons you chose this book

I accepted this book for review because the synopsis was intriguing, the cover beautiful, and Stamboul does not usually serve as a setting for my usual reads. 

2.) Reasons you liked or disliked this book

I loved this book!  From the moment I started and met Eleonora I was hooked.  Eleonora’s entrance into the world was marred by tragedy however her birth is an important one.  There is a mysterious prophecy surrounding the circumstances of her birth, and as Eleonora grows up, you realize she is one super special girl.  Her intelligence is astounding and she is described as a savant.  So when some of the events in the book occur you have to remember that although she is 8, she is a very smart 8 year old.  Wise beyond her years, although not in the ways of the world.  Elenora adores her father and when he travels to Stamboul she follows him.  Maybe not the wisest choice in the world, but one that provides Eleonora with a glimpse of a possible future.

As events occur in Stamboul, the reader follows along with Eleonara and we learn a little but not much. I imagine this was how Eleonora felt and that’s why some things are not fully explained.  She becomes a pawn in the machinations of covert affairs in Stamboul at the time, and although she is book smart, she does not know the ways of the world yet, and thus makes some mistakes.  By the end, Eleonara learns enough to know that she will have to make her own way in this world if she wants to have any choice in the matter.  Choice and freedom is I think what she has wanted for a long time.

Stamboul and this time period, the 1870’s, is interesting and I don’t know much about either in this part of the world.  This book has inspired me to research this further, and you know I love books that make me do that.  Lukas’ writing painted beautiful pictures for me and allowed me to experience how Eleonora felt.

The only aspect I disliked was how the story didn’t fully explain things, like the prophecy.  It just kind of hung out there in the air, with no real explanation.  However, I now think it’s because we are reading this story from Eleonora’s point of view.  She didn’t know so why should we.

3.)Reasons you are recommending this book

I am recommending this book because even though it is not a very deep book, the story moves along swiftly, and I became invested in Eleonora.  Time and place melted away as I was reading it and before I knew it I was finished.  I was disappointed the story was over and for me that is an excellent read.

My Rating: 97/100

For more information about the author, please visit his website.
You can also visit the tour home page.

Publisher: Harper Perennial
Genre: Historical fiction
Paperback, 320 pages
Book Source: TLC Book Tours
2011 Challenges Met: HF

Her is a list of the other stops on the tour:

Tuesday, August 30th: The Lost Entwife
Wednesday, August 31st: Books Like Breathing
Thursday, September 1st: Jenny Loves to Read
Friday, September 2nd: Wordsmithonia
Tuesday, September 6th: Literature and a Lens
Wednesday, September 7th: Lit Endeavors
Thursday, September 8th: Rundpinne
Friday, September 9th: Let Them Read Books
Tuesday, September 13th: Raging Bibliomania
Wednesday, September 14th: JenandthePen
Thursday, September 15th: CafĂ© of Dreams
Friday, September 16th: Bookfoolery and Babble
Monday, September 19th: The Book Nerd Club

Thanks TLC for my review copy :)