"On the carriage ride back from the palace, Eleonora saw Stamboul in a new light. The waterfront mansions, the old men fishing over the side of the Galata Bridge, the thrush of commerce in the markets, even the sea birds tooling overhead, everything was imbued with the scent of possibility. She thought of the line from Lieutenant Brashov's speech to his brother, just before his death: 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 really more like a tunnel, and it was constricting about her with every step she took."

--an exerpt I picked from The Oracle of Stamboul




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 of Tartar midwives who arrive just minutes before her birth. "They had read the signs, they said: a sea of horses, a conference of birds, the North Star in alignment with the moon. It was a prophecy that their last king had given on his deathwatch." But joy is mixed with tragedy, for Eleonora's mother dies soon after the birth.

Raised by her doting father, Yakob, a carpet merchant, and her stern, resentful stepmother, Ruxandra, Eleonora spends her early years daydreaming and doing housework—until the moment she teaches herself to read, and her father recognizes that she is an extraordinarily gifted child, a prodigy.

When Yakob sets off by boat for Stamboul on business, eight-year-old Eleonora, unable to bear the separation, stows away in one of his trunks. On the shores of the Bosporus, in the house of her father's business partner, Moncef Bey, a new life awaits. Books, backgammon, beautiful dresses and shoes, markets swarming with color and life—the imperial capital overflows with elegance, and mystery. For in the narrow streets of Stamboul—a city at the crossroads of the world—intrigue and gossip are currency, and people are not always what they seem. Eleonora's tutor, an American minister and educator, may be a spy. The kindly though elusive Moncef Bey has a past history of secret societies and political maneuvering. And what is to be made of the eccentric, charming Sultan Abdulhamid II himself, beleaguered by friend and foe alike as his unwieldy, multiethnic empire crumbles?
I must admit, I partially picked this book because of the cover.  I'm so not a "don't judge a book by it's cover" kind of person, I mean, that is what the cover is for right?  It also sounded like an interesting, easy read. I started reading and got into it right away.  It allowed me to explore an unknown land in my imagination and get involved in the life of an impecable girl.  I enjoyed it all the way through... that is, until the end.  I was only a few pages from the backside of my book and felt as though I were in the middle of the story. I didn't know how in the world the author would finish out this story in just a few short pages! 
Well, my suspicions were correct.  It was as though I was walking along this beautiful piece of land to just come to a drop off. Over. The epilogue ties up the loose ends -- in a "I better explain this stuff" kind of way.  Not satisfying. However, I do still recommend the book because I truely enjoyed it overall.

I'm pretty sure this one will end up under a lamp to be used as decoration -- it's not one I plan to give away.


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