Beautiful and enjoyable but underdeveloped.

The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas

The story of Eleanora Cohen, a ten year old savant, sounded irresistible and would have been if the story had developed its full potential.

Eleanora never knew her mother, but grows up to have a thirst for reading and knowledge doting on her father. When he has to go on a business trip to sell carpets, Eleanora decides to stowaway and escape her (wicked) stepmother, who had stopped her reading, and thus Eleanora’s adventures begin. No sooner is she reunited with her father and installed at the home of his business partner, than she loses him too, and the poor girl is all on her own in late 19th century Instanbul. Luckily Moncef Bey, her father’s business partner, becomes a surrogate father to her, warning her not to ask what he does when he goes out. Her tutor, a Reverend, turns out to be a spy for the Sultan, and tells him about the wise but sad little girl and her guardian and she is summoned to him to the palace…

The imagery in this novel is beautiful, and the flock of purple and white hoopoes that follow Eleanora everywhere including across the sea are an lovely and exotic detail. The setting in Stamboul with the beleaguered Sultan feels quite ‘fin de siècle’. The problem is that Eleanora ends up rather bland; her grief when she loses her father strips her emotional core from her, indeed she stops talking for a long period of time too. Moncef Bey is not enough of a rebel – realistic but not so exciting. The Sultan is interesting, but spends most of his time thinking or trying to escape his mother.

The first half of this debut novel promised much, but not enough happened in the later stages to make it a completely fulfilling read. (6.5/10)

Source: Review copy from Amazon Vine.

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The Oracle of Stamboul


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