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The Oracle of Stamboul    by Michael David Lukas order for
Oracle of Stamboul
by Michael David Lukas
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

Set in the late 1870s in Stamboul (Istanbul) in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, this riveting debut novel not only captures the atmosphere of the exotic European crossroads but also introduces a young girl who is utterly captivating.

Eleonora Cohen is an exceptional child whose remarkable talents attract the attention of some very important people. The eight year old daughter of a doting father, Yakob Cohen, the child is recognized early on as a true prodigy.

After her mother dies in childbirth, the youngster loses her father in a boating accident in Stamboul and is raised by her father's close friend, Moncef Bey.

When Bey asks an American minister and academic, who also just happens to be an undercover agent, to tutor the girl, Eleonora not only hones her academic skills but she also unwittingly becomes caught up in the volatile politics of the country.

Because it is impossible to keep an individual with her skills under wraps, Eleonora soon attracts the notice of Sultan Abdulhamid II, who is in desperate need of unbiased advice.

Although the members of his court are against it, the Sultan consults with the young girl on some thorny political matters dealing with neighboring countries. When Eleonora's counsel turns out to be right on the mark, the Sultan is in a quandary. Will he acknowledge the young woman and bring her into his household or banish her, as some recommend, from the country?

In a startling turn of events, Eleonora determines her own destiny and takes matters into her own hands after the Sultan decides on a course of action.

This is an evocative novel that combines history, politics, and a rich ambiance with an understated heroine who captures the hearts of not only characters she comes in contact with in the novel but also the reader. Once you meet this wonderful child you'll discover you care about her deeply.

The only problem this mystical tale poses is the unhappy realization that at the end of the story you realize that, in all likelihood, you won't meet Eleonora again. So, unless Michael David Lukas can figure out how to create a sequel to this work, you'll have to unfortunately say good-bye to the young Oracle of Stamboul.

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