The Oracle of Stamboul
Gotham Teacher Michael David Lukas has recently seen the publication of The Oracle of Stamboul
(HarperCollins), his novel about an eight-year-old girl who becomes an advisor to the sultan of the Ottoman Empire and ends up changing the course of history.
The San Francisco Chronicle
declares, “Lukas brings a raconteur’s sense of storytelling, a traveler’s eye for color, and a scholar’s sense of history,” and the Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman
calls it, “a charming tale of passion and intrigue.”
Here is a brief glimpse:
Apart from her father’s stories, Eleonora’s first memory was of an incident that took place just after her fourth birthday. It was on that halcyon blue afternoon in early fall that she first realized the power of her concentration. Barefoot and dressed in a simple red cotton smock, Eleonora sat cross-legged under the tomato vines, digging a hole in the wet, clumpy earth with her fingers. There was a warm breeze blowing up the hill, the hoopoes were chattering amongst themselves, and from the back steps one could see all the way to Navodari. She had just scooped up a shiny gray pillbug and was watching it unfurl itself in her palm when she heard a rustling at the edge of the garden. It was a deer, tentatively poking its head out from the forest. She watched it take a step forward into the onion patch, then half a step back. To see a deer in the garden was not unusual, but there was something about this particular young buck that caught her attention. After observing the animal through the tomato vines for a few moments, she decided to investigate.
Brushing the pillbug back into its hole, Eleonora stood and crossed the garden. The deer did not move, though it seemed anxious being in such close proximity to a human. Standing at the edge of the onion patch, less than an arm’s length away from it, she could feel its warm, sour breath on her forehead. She looked up into the polished granite of its eyes and brought her hand, slowly, to rest at the base of its neck. Still it did not move. Beyond the quivering of its nostrils and the soft rise of her own breath, both stood completely still.
Then, in one motion, the buck stepped back and lowered its antlers, lifting its left leg like a soldier presenting his weapon for inspection. Eleonora immediately saw the cause of the animal’s distress and she knew what she would need to do. Just above the hoof lay a barb, a twisted piece of metal buried deep in flesh. It looked as if it had snapped off of a fence, or perhaps some hunting implement. Brushing a strand of hair out of her eyes, Eleonora took the injured limb in her hand and inspected the wound. The veins around it were pulsing frantically and a white froth bubbled up against the metal. The deer’s leg hair bristled as she brought her free hand towards it. She blinked and with one swift tug, removed the barb.
Watching the deer bound off through the forest, Eleonora quivered at the thought of what she had just done. The hoopoes above her broke into a chorus of throaty chirps and the very crunch of the underbrush sounded like subtle applause. Her ovation, however, was not long to last. A moment later, she was caught up by her armpits and carried to the bathroom.
“You must never,” Ruxandra said, pulling her frock up over her head. “Ever do that again.”
From The Oracle of Stamboul
© 2011 by Michael David Lukas. All rights reserved. Reprinted courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers and Michael David Lukas. For more on Michael and his book, go here: www.michaeldavidlukas.com