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The Oracle of Stamboul

3.5 of 5 stars 3.50  ·  rating details  ·  2,154 ratings  ·  641 reviews

An elegantly crafted, utterly enchanting debut novel set in a mystical, exotic world, in which a gifted young girl charms a sultan and changes the course of an empire's history

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 o

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published February 8th 2011 by Harper (first published 2011)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Oct 23, 2010 Michael rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  (Review from the author)
If I am not for myself who will be for me?
I was quite excited to read this novel about Turkey (especially after hearing an interview with the author on NPR) and anticipated losing myself in the magic of Eleonora's adventures. Instead, I was struck by huge bricks of wordiness and insignificant (read: unnecessary) characters. Every time the story started to pick up pace and get more interesting, poor word choose or a dry situation would kill the moment.

A few things were unclear to me, including Eleonora's native tongue. I couldn't tell wh
Mal Warwick
Sheer Reading Pleasure

If you enjoy reading for its unique possibilities — mellifluous language, vivid imagery, immersion in places and circumstances you might never experience — then you’ll love this book. From the very first page, The Oracle of Stamboul will draw you relentlessly into the world of the Ottoman Empire in its twilight years of the 1880s. You’ll meet an extraordinary child, Eleanora Cohen, and you’ll be present with her from the violence of her birth in Rumania through her ninth y
"The Oracle of Stamboul" by Michael David Lukas is not just a novel, it is a literary portal that transports you to the streets of Turkey in the late 1800's. And while you are there, Michael David Lukas takes you on a magical journey - with his beautiful prose, he builds the city around you, surrounds you with the smell of its spices, and the warmth of its people. It is this particular quality in Lukas' writing that really gives this novel its edge.

Eleanora Cohen is born to Yakob Cohen on a tra
A magical novel, short but fulfilling; great atmosphere and prose, it just took over my reading from the moment I opened it. I will add the full FBc reviews soon, but so far I would say that the blurb is reasonably accurate but it cannot convey the beautiful writing and magical recreation of a world long gone that the novel manages in a reasonably historical accurate way with hints of the fantastic, though still staying within the possible

As promised FBC Rv below:

INTRODUCTION: The Oracle of Stam
Laura C.
I think perhaps that Michael David Luka, the author of “The Oracle of Stamboul” might be the king of the simile. For example: “Hoopoes covered the town like frosting, piped in along the rain gutters of the governor’s mansion and slathered on the gilt dome of the Orthodox church.” Or “ At one point, in what might have been a dream, a deer glanced past her window, its eyes reflecting some hidden luminosity like a string of lighthouses multiplied along the shore. Or “The morning pressed its face to ...more
Ashley Hill
The book is well-written and just interesting enough that I finished it. The premise is interesting, and I actually had a lot of hope for it in the opening. But as I read on, I just found it kind of lacking. Really, I'd say it's an interesting book wherein nothing really happens.

I didn't find the main character very believable as an eight-year-old girl, even as an exceptionally gifted one, and none of the other characters really held any interest for me. I would find myself wondering about their
I wavered between giving this book 4 stars or 3 stars. Three quarters into the book, I was certain it would be just short of a 5 star, the thing keeping it from being on the top was plausibility. The protagonist was an 8 year old Jewess savant from Romania, living in Stamboul and giving military advice to the Sultan. It was just a bit too fantastic. Still, at that point, it was holding my interest.

I found the ending to be unsatisfying. The author could have tied up a few loose ends to finalize t
I was completely charmed by this unexpected fairy tale of a novel which tells of a young stowaway in a rug-seller's trunk who travels by boat to Stamboul, the city at the intersection of Europe and Asia. Stamboul is a city shrouded in mystery & incense, colored with bazaars & sunsets, and clamorous with music & many tongues. It may be universal that children, unfettered as they are by knowledge of the world, nourish the seed of hope that they might be discovered to possess unusual sk ...more
I am so disappointed. Until the last two chapters of the book, I was captivated by Eleonora's story. Lukas has a gift as a story-teller. He creates interesting characters and his writing is rich in imagery and imagination. The plot he weaves is intricate and evocative. With a background rich in the cultural and political history of Stamboul, the story draws the reader into its web, creating a tension and a feeling that one is moving to an exciting, earth-shattering climax. It's unfortunate, then ...more
Jeannie Mancini
Disappointing Debut

In the year 1877, Eleonora Cohen was ushered into the magnificent and opulent world of the Ottoman Empire to the smell of witch hazel, the sound of thunderous hoof-beats from Russian invaders, the flapping of wings from flocks of mysterious birds, and to the bright flashes of lightening striking. The Tartar midwives holding her up to the sky said she was the long awaited Oracle from a prophecy dictated long ago a by a king upon his deathbed. He foretold there would be a baby g
Reading Teen
Okay, firstly, this book was a bit slow. Doesn't catch you attention right away. But, if you can get past this, The Oracle of Stamboul is very well written. I realized very early on that if you read this book out loud, it's very fun. It has words that are fun to say, especially if you say them in a fake British accent. You know, not that I tried it...

Michael David Lukas created some interesting characters for this book. They were well developed, and the main character, Eleonora, kinda reminded m
It is marvelous when
a book transports me to a different time and place with people I want to spend time with,
I turn the final page satisfied but yet long for more, and
I immediately want to share the experience with a friend.

The book is wonderful, the story enchanting, and I'm convinced this book is a winner. It is one that I personally will provide copies to our public and the school libraries.

But this time, I'd like to share a bit more. Although I normally don't post about the phy
Barring some kind of miracle, this looks like it's shaping up to be a 2 star book. This is normally the kind of book that I gradually stop reading. You know, you read a few pages and find you can't concentrate on what's going on because it's not holding your interest. So, you set it aside for a while. Then, you pick it up, same thing- read a few pages and put it down. Gradually, it becomes a few days, then a week until you pick it up and it eventually gets forgotten and buried under Mount TBR. S ...more
Chance Maree
Oct 06, 2011 Chance Maree rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bored history scholar
I was ready to be charmed. After reading too much violence and gore lately, I was ready for history and subtle intrigue. Unfortunately, The Oracle of Stamboul was flat and lifeless for me. The descriptive writing was nice in places, but I never felt the heartbeat of the characters. They moved about as sketches, or ghosts of the past without the writer revealing what lay beneath their skin.

The dialogue was mechanical and often annoying. Mr. Lukas has a habit of describing a situation, then givin
Jenny (Reading Envy)
A story of a young girl who learns at an insane speed, and seems destined to have a role in late 19th century Turkey's political turmoil.

I enjoyed it but it doesn't really feel all that Turkish, in the end. You could have picked Eleanor up and dropped her into any exotic location with a sultan/king/emperor and the story could have been the same. I think the author wrote the book to get to write Istanbul but it wasn't essential for the story somehow.

And while it isn't classified YA, it had that f
Darkpool (protesting GR censorship)
Wow. Beautifully written. The author uses the most delicious metaphors, and I found myself breaking off reading at times to re-read & savour some of the more striking ones. Not quite sure why it's taken my 3 weeks to read this - it's not a difficult book by any means, and the story was a bit thin in places in retrospect. Looking forward to more from this author.
Shellie (Layers of Thought)
Mar 24, 2011 Shellie (Layers of Thought) rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: historical fiction/magical realism lovers
Recommended to Shellie (Layers of Thought) by: TLC blog tours
4.5 stars actually.
Original review with additional historical bits at Layers of Thought.

A poetic page turning historical début with an unusual and precocious young girl as the main character. All set in an exotic, magical, yet politically volatile country and time.

About: When Eleanor Cohen is born there are auspicious signs that she is not your normal child. She is to be a prodigy with gifts of memory, languages, extreme intelligence and something which is just a tad mystical. Set in the late 18
Can I just say how much I love the feel of this book? I usually get library copies of books, which means they have those weird plasticy hardcovers. But paperbacks are more my style and this one just felt so nice (the pages are raggedy like old-school books and the cover is textured). It’s so pretty (of course I proceeded to spill on it about three times so it’s not nearly so pretty anymore). It was just a joy to hold in my hands. Does that sound weird? This is why I will never accept e-readers a ...more
The Oracle of Stamboul is a gorgeously written book. It brings the old city of Stamboul to life in a vivid and breathtaking way, down to the scents in the air and the patterns of the carpets. Unfortunately, despite the lushly rendered setting, this is one of those novels in which not much happens.

Perhaps that is not a fair criticism of a book wherein a child is born amidst signs and portents, discovers that she has mental abilities beyond her years, runs away from home in a steamer trunk, buries
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
This book is like a divine dessert: decadent, delicious, and portioned just enough to make you wish there was another mouthful. Lukas' writing style is playful without being ridiculous (see my Teaser Tuesday for a taste); it's really straight up enjoyable. Pleasurable!

The setting is an era that I'm unfamiliar with but find wholly appealing -- 19th century Turkey -- and Lukas offers gorgeous passages that place the reader squarely in Stamboul. There's international intrigue and a host of characte
A very pretty book. Late 1800's. Eleonora is born in Romania and proves early on to possess a precocious and brilliant mind. She learns to read at 7, stows away on a ship to flee a life of ironing and sweeping, and ends up in the ancient city of Stamboul, or Instanbul, center of the crumbling Ottoman Empire. From there the story gets progressively larger. (I have to go and check this place out. I've been reading about it so long. I guess it must be kind of trashed now after all these years of be ...more
A fantasy set in late-Ottoman Stamboul [Istanbul], telling the story of a young girl, daughter of a Jewish carpet merchant in Constanta, Romania. From strange portents at her birth, she is thought to be the fulfillment of a prophecy that she will influence the history of the world. A flock of purple and white hoopoes has been with her since her birth and remains with her, overseeing her throughout the novel. She stows away in one of her father's steamer trunks when he has to make a business jour ...more
Feb 03, 2011 Melissa rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Melissa by: Mark Ferguson @ Harper Books
Quite interesting. A bit of realism, a bit of magical realism, a bit of historical fiction. I'm still digesting this one but it is safe to say that it is an enjoyable book to read. I plowed through the first 160 pages or so to come up for air and find that the bathwater had gone cold and the cats were howling to be fed.
Mar 04, 2011 janine rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: younger readers
First, a disclaimer: I was very grateful to receive Michael David Lukas's first novel, The Oracle of Stamboul as part of the Goodreads Giveaway/First Reads program. It was an absolute delight to drive to the airport on a cloudy, miserable day about a week ago and pick up my copy of the novel. To add to my anticipation: the cover of the book is stunning. As was the packaging in which it came.

Which is why I really wish I could give this first novel a rating higher than 3 stars. The book is no doub
Summer Nettleman
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
CoffeeBook Chick
When a flock of hoopoe birds arrive at the time a young girl is born, midwives descend upon a home to usher in the birth of a child born under these prophesied events. The mother dies after childbirth and Eleonora, a gifted child, grows up with her attentive father and strict stepmother. When her father has to sail to Stamboul (Istanbul) on business, eight-year-old Eleonora becomes a stowaway on the boat to escape the overbearing stepmother who believes Eleonora should only focus on housework in ...more
I did so like the gentle but effective writing of this story. It portrays the story of a young savant/genius who is left an orphan and ultimately winds up as an advisor to the sultan. While the book is encased in magic and mystery, the story clicks along thanks to the wonderful prose of the author.

While to book is simple, for there is not much there except a bit of intrigue and the precociousness of our heroine, Eleanora, there was a sense of peace to this tale. Eleanora only a girl of eight ha
This is a delicious book--one of those books I stay up till the wee hours of the morning reading. Eleonora is exceptional. Born to fulfill a prophecy, a brilliant savant and young girl who faces odds yet has the spunk to do what she wants, Eleonara lives to meet her destiny. Does she actually meet that destiny? Does she fulfill the words of the prophecies?

"The Oracle of Stamboul" brings to life a crucial time in the life of Instanbul. It encompasses the ending of the Ottoman empire, the relaxati
Apr 23, 2011 Vicki rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Vicki by: IndieBound Next List
Kind of Matilda meets every Disney movie from my childhood. Eleonora’s birth is foretold by an unnamed long-dead Tartar king, and she’s exceptional in every possible way – beauty and an inexplicable (and unexamined / unexplained) affinity with animals à la Snow White, savant-like intelligence and a voracious appetite for books à la Belle, fearlessness and adventure-seeking (plus sneaking away from home; dressing as a boy) à la Mulan, unsympathetic and cold-hearted stepmother à la Cinderella, lac ...more
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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 ...more
More about Michael David Lukas...
Reader's Digest Select Editions, Volume 317, 2011 #5: Now You See Her / The Peach Keeper / Buried Secrets / The Oracle of Stamboul

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“She hadn't lied. She hadn't betrayed anyone's trust; still, she felt she had done something wrong. Or rather, she had not yet done the right thing. Was there a difference between these two sins?” 17 likes
“With every choice, even the choice of inactivity, we must shut the door to a host of alternate futures. Each step we take along the path of fate represents a narrowing of potential, the death of a parallel world. The path of fate was more like a tunnel, and it was constricting about her with ever step she took.” 9 likes
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