The Oracle of Stamboul is a lovely novel. That sounds trite,
but I can't think of a better way to describe it. The language and
imagery are simple, elegant, and affecting. The characters are clever
and enjoyable. The plot is fun. Eleonora is not a typical child. She may
be the fulfillment of a prophecy, is a prodigy that teaches herself to
read in seven languages, stows away in a trunk to join her father in
Stamboul, and finds herself at the very center of political intrigue
that marks the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Oracle feels like a well-worn
classic, but there's nothing stale about it.
(Neat trick with citations from The Hourglass, a book which doesn’t exist!)
“This majestic debut follows Eleanora Cohen, an eight-year-old prodigy who, through a strange turn of events, leaves her life in Constanta and becomes an adviser to the Sultan. Lukas deftly evokes the sights, smells, sounds, and textures of 19th century Stamboul. The reader sees the world through the eyes of a small, precocious child as she negotiates with the larger forces of history. This is a stunning and thoroughly engaging read that will reach beyond the typical genre of historical fiction.”
— Rachel Marcus, Pegasus Downtown, Berkeley, CA
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.