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 instead of books. Upon arriving in Stamboul, she is welcomed into the home of her father's business partner, and her life expands. Surrounded by the tools of knowledge, her intellectual genius flourishes, one in which this eight-year-old girl speaks multiple languages, can write passages verbatim from Virgil's The Aeneid, and breaks code with the ease of an expert. Soon, her interaction with the Sultan grows into an advisory capacity, and the future of Stamboul is affected. Could she fulfill the prophecy?
Mastering the brilliance of historical fiction and vivid imagery, Michael David Lukas has crafted an elegant debut novel set in Stamboul, and I was absolutely drawn in from the first page. With rich and vibrant colors combined with the grittiness of life in the late 1800s in Turkey, and with just a dash of magical realism, the book resonates with the flourish of beautiful imagery. Each character is intense and genuine, and it's clear that research has been carefully documented. I had an incredibly difficult time putting this book down once I was caught up in the new life of a little eight-year-old girl (who is essentially a savant) and with the fluidity of the events and descriptions of her experiences and most especially, her abilities. I have a sneaking suspicion that there might be a follow-up to this book (this just may be, though, since I enjoyed this book so much, more of my own wish to travel back and escape into Eleonora's world again). This debut author has prepared readers for a long career and I anticipate more of his work!
One of my favorite passages:
In its time, the sun rose unsteady from a distant corner of the sky, and with it the fog lifted. Already the Bosporus was teeming, packed with fishing boats, caïques, and the occasional lumbering steamer. On the shore, under the shades of cypress trees, miniature people hawked and haggled, bustled, bargained, and prayed. Three gargantuan turtle-domed mosques glinted in the rising sun, their minarets piercing the sky like bayonets, and there, at the confluence of waters, was the most glorious building Eleonora had ever seen. Gardens upon gardens, arches, balustrades, and clerestories ringed by a gleaming white marble wall and watched over by a regiment of glass towers, Topkapi Palace, the residence of His Excellency Sultan Abdulhamid II, sat perched on the rim of the Golden Horn, a testament to inconceivable wealth. (Chapter Seven)
It's pretty safe to say that I loved this book...
About the Author
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 Loaf Writers' Conference, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and the Elizabeth George Foundation. He currently lives in Oakland, CA, less than a mile from where he was born. When he isn't writing, he teaches creative writing to third and fourth graders.
Find out more about Michael at his website by clicking here.
Many thanks to Trish with TLC Book Tours for giving me the opportunity to read this book!
Please take a look through the upcoming tour schedule to read more reviews!
All of the tour stops for this book can be found by clicking here.
Monday, February 28th: A Fair Substitute for Heaven
Tuesday, March 1st: Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, March 2nd: Simply Stacie
Thursday, March 3rd: Janet Boyer Blog
Friday, March 4th: Kelly’s Lucky You!
Monday, March 7th: Book Journey
Tuesday, March 8th: Coffee and a Book Chick
Wednesday, March 9th: Teresa’s Reading Corner
Wednesday, March 9th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Monday, March 14th: Like Fire
Wednesday, March 16th: The Whimsical Cottage
Monday, March 21st: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Wednesday, March 23rd: Layers of Thought
Coffee and a Book Chick