The Oracle of Stamboul

Michael David Lukas, Author
Michael David Lukas, Harper, $24.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-201209-8
Reviewed on: 10/11/2010
Release date: 02/01/2011
A girl changes the course of the Ottoman empire in Lukas's middling debut. Eleonora Cohen—born in 1877 Romania, prophesied to alter history, and gifted with great intelligence—stows away at age eight to follow her father to Stamboul. Her first weeks there are a whirlwind of beautiful new dresses and cultural experiences, but the idyllic adventure takes a terrible twist after her father is killed in an accident and Eleonora is taken in by her father's wealthy and politically slippery friend. She proves to be a quick study, and once her tutor alerts the palace of Eleonora's immense intelligence, she finds herself in attendance at the sultan's court, commenting on a political standoff between the Ottoman empire, Russia, and Germany. As the sultan's interest in her grows, so, too, does her reputation and importance, though Eleonora is unsure if her new role is what she wants from life. The backdrop is nicely done, but Lukas can't quite get his characters to pop or the plot to click; indeed, the buildup of Eleonora's oracle-like powers culminates in a disappointing fizzle. It's well intentioned, but flatly executed. (Feb.)
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