In this rich first novel set in 1877, a young girl, Eleanora Cohen secretly follows her rug-trader father and stows away on a ship bound for the city of Constanta in Stamboul. Eleanora is no ordinary child. She was born prophetic and with the intelligence of a savant. Once in Stamboul, she goes to the home of Moncef Bey, a wealthy friend of her father who lavishes Eleanora with rich clothes and a great many books. Unexpectantly, her father dies in a boat accident and Eleanora is left under the kind guardianship of Bey. Alone in the world and overcome by grief, she withdraws and no longer speaks. But a child savant cannot be inconspicuous for long and she soon comes to the attention of the Sultan himself.
This tale has a charming, almost magical feel about it. With its innocent quality, endearing young heroine, and exotic surroundings, it can easily be read and enjoyed by young adults as well as adults. It is a gentle read and the tale flows seamlessly from its pages. The ending left me with the impression there is a sequel in the works, which I look forward to reading. I highly recommend this book for people of all ages. A wonderful debut novel.