Thursday, February 24, 2011

Review - The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas

The Oracle of Stamboul. Michael David Lukas

TITLE:    The Oracle of Stamboul
AUTHOR:    Michael David Lukas
INFO:    Paperback, Fiction, 300 pages
PUBLISHED:   HarperCollins, 2011
ISBN#:   978-0-06-203683-4
HOW I GOT IT:   Received from TLC Book Tours for Review and Tour

FROM GOODREADS:  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.

When Yakob sets off by boat for Stamboul on business, eight-year-old Eleonora, unable to bear the separation, stows away in one of his trunks. On the shores of the Bosporus, in the house of her father's business partner, Moncef Bey, a new life awaits. Books, backgammon, beautiful dresses and shoes, markets swarming with color and life—the imperial capital overflows with elegance, and mystery. For in the narrow streets of Stamboul—a city at the crossroads of the world—intrigue and gossip are currency, and people are not always what they seem. Eleonora's tutor, an American minister and educator, may be a spy. The kindly though elusive Moncef Bey has a past history of secret societies and political maneuvering. And what is to be made of the eccentric, charming Sultan Abdulhamid II himself, beleaguered by friend and foe alike as his unwieldy, multiethnic empire crumbles?

The Oracle of Stamboul is a marvelously evocative, magical historical novel that will transport readers to another time and place—romantic, exotic, yet remarkably similar to our own. 

MY TAKE:    The entire experience with this book (an advanced reader's edition) started from the moment I began unwrapping it.  The outside packaging was sumptuous.  The book comes encased in an elegant marbled eggplant-colored box/book cover made of heavy card stock.  It is lined in a gold paper and has a stylish seal of a bird (that we later find out is the hoopoe from the story.)   This rich treatment of the packaging signified to me that the actual book inside would be something special.  It truly was an impressive beginning to a magical journey.

Besides Eleonora, there are many full-faceted characters in this lovely tale.  Eleonora's guardian Moncef Bay and her tutor, Reverend Muehler are both interesting and intriguing.  Throughout most of the story, the reader wavers back and forth as to what these men are really up to.  Mystery abounds!  Another fascinating player is the Sultan.  While the POV is primarily Eleonora's, we are also privy to his thoughts at times.  He is a very astute man who is much more in tune to what is going on around him than he is given credit for.  His love of nature is also endearing.

I don't want to get too much into the plot as I hate giving anything away.  This is a story the reader needs to savor on their own, without spoilers.  It is a fast, fun read that will definitely provide an afternoon of pleasure.  The end was satisfying, yet did make this reader hunger for more. I am hoping there is more to come from this author in the near future. I would love to continuing reading about Eleonora and her further wanderings.  Mr. Lukas has left that bit of wiggle room at the end of this rich adventure for further stories.

I was amazed by the fact that this is the author's debut novel.  He writes with a voice that brings to mind the storytellers of old ~ he draws you into the story, to become a part of the journey.  It is easy to visualize the setting and the people without having a lot of needless extra descriptions thrown at you.  He has the gift!

Out of 5 JEWELS, I give it:

From the TLC site:  Michael David Lukas has been a Fulbright Scholar in Turkey, a late-shift proofreader in Tel Aviv, and a Rotary Scholar in Tunisia. A graduate of Brown University and the University of Maryland, his writing has been published in the Virginia Quarterly Review, Slate, National Geographic Traveler, and the Georgia Review. He has received scholarships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and the Elizabeth George Foundation. He currently lives in Oakland, CA, less than a mile from where he was born. When he isn’t writing, he teaches creative writing to third and fourth graders.

For more on Michael David Lukas, check out his websiteYou can also see more of the great reviews that The Oracle of Stamboul is receiving at some of these other tour stops:

Tuesday, February 22nd: The Feminist Texan [Reads]
Wednesday, February 23rd: My Two Blessings
Wednesday, February 23rd: Man of La Book
Thursday, February 24th: One Book Shy
Friday, February 25th: Rundpinne
Friday, February 25th: Staircase Wit
Monday, February 28th: A Fair Substitute for Heaven
Click for the Full Tour Schedule

Thank you to the ladies of TLC Book Tours, the author and his publisher for giving me the opportunity to review this exciting new book.

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~~~~~ Disclaimer:  All opinions expressed on this blog are 100% my own.  I do not receive monetary compensation for my reviews but do utilize affiliate links.  I may receive books in  order to facilitate a review, but this does not guarantee a good review - only a completely honest one.  Each review post denotes how I obtained the book.


  1. I love it when the experience of a great book begins before you even open the cover - what a treat! I'm so glad you enjoyed this one. Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  2. This was a great novel to open up -- the packaging was divine - and the novel as tasty as the appearance!


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