Review: The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas
Author: Michael David Lukas
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: August 30th, 2011
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Source: Copy provided by TLC Book Tours
During the violent and destructive summer of 1877, Eleonora Cohen is born during an invasion of her home city of Constanta. With the help of two mysterious midwives who show up just minutes before the birth and a flock of hoopoes flying overhead, Eleonora is welcomed into the world at the unfortunate cost of her own mother's life. As a consequence, her father Yakob sends for his sister-in-law Ruxandra, a harsh, strict woman, to assume the role of stepmother and caretaker of the house.
By age eight it is quickly understood that Eleonora is quite a gifted child. She is somewhat of a savant and possesses amazing verbal and written language skills, memorization and recitation capabilities. It is this ability to understand and analyze that helps Eleonora make the decision to stow away in a trunk on the steamer her father is taking to the city of Stamboul, where he will be staying with Moncef Bey, in the hopes of selling his lush carpets. What she finds outside the Bey's home is a vibrant and magical city full of intriguing and clandestine characters who will go on to shape her decisions and her life.
When I finished The Oracle of Stamboul I knew immediately that I would be placing this one among my favorites of 2011. Once engrossed within the exotic, decadent city I was unable to put the book down. Lukas has created such a well-written and lyrical historical novel without venturing into textbook territory, and the language was descriptive in a simple way that allowed for a smooth read. As someone unfamiliar with the region, the sights and sounds of Stamboul are described in vivid detail and provide an excellent atmosphere and backdrop to such a mystical story.
Not long after starting the novel, I quickly fell in love with Eleonora. While precocious and extremely intelligent, her true character is brave, kind and strong with an excellent moral compass. Her personality definitely calls to people in a way that makes them stop and take notice.
She brought a childish, though astonishingly precise, logic to bear on the world around her, and the intensity of her presence, that indescribable inner radiance and clarity, drew people to her from across the marketplace...Her love of books, specifically classic literature, made this child prodigy even more relatable. Besides Eleonora, I found the characters to be genuine although a little underdeveloped, but not in a way that negatively impacted my reading experience.
The story is told through the eyes of Eleonora which adds to the introspective feel of the novel. Many tragic events that unfold are not action driven, but the quiet, simple nature only added to my enjoyment. I found the pacing of the plot very measured and deliberate. Sometimes the best book is one that patiently reveals the direction of the story. I loved that Lukas allows the reader to just sit back and enjoy without being given the pulse-pounding action and plot twists that many readers have come to expect. There are underlying hints of deception, mystery and spying that add a touch of intrigue to story as well.
Overall, I highly recommend this book. There was just the right amount of magic with the focus falling mainly on Eleonora's growth as a person. I do wish that the prophecy surrounding her birth and 'purpose' would have been elaborated on a little more, but I appreciate Lukas' choice to keep the mystical angle more subtle. Other than that minor complaint, I loved The Oracle of Stamboul and wish I had been able to spend longer in Lukas' wonderfully created world.
About Michael David Lukas
Tuesday, August 30th: The Lost Entwife
Wednesday, August 31st: Books Like Breathing
Thursday, September 1st: Jenny Loves to Read
Friday, September 2nd: Wordsmithonia
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: Café of Dreams
Friday, September 16th: Bookfoolery and Babble
Monday, September 19th: The Book Nerd Club