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? - Amazon.comWhen I first read the description of this book I was intrigued by the time period and the mystery around Eleonora. I definitely got entranced in this book while reading during my commute (almost missed my stop twice!). Each character within the book had a different relationship with Eleonora. Eleonora's reaction to her father's death was reasonable, but thought that after weeks of no talking either The Bey or Mrs. Damakan would have curtailed this behavior.
It was refreshing to see that within the Ottoman Empire there was the same push and pull within the royalty and their advisers as other empires. I'm not terribly familiar with the Ottoman Empire so it's hard to tell if this detail is part of the history or fiction. I was a tad disappointed that Eleonora really only advised the Sultan on one issue. To me the premise of impacting history meant advising on multiple situations.
The plot line with the American professor was a little strange and out of place and I could never figure out what his end goal was tutoring Eleonora. Loved the uncertainty and uneasiness surrounding Eleonora's gift and cultural heritage which just added to the political turmoil of the time period.
I'm giving away my ARC copy of this book to one lucky reader. Submit your entry below by Tuesday, February 15th at 11:59 pm EST.
Check out my fellow TLC Book Tour hosts for this book:
Katie's Nesting Spot
One Girl Collecting
Confessions of a Rambling Mind
Update: Giveaway is closed and a winner has been chosen. Using Random.org, Hannah won the book!