Cybele's Secret - Juliet Marillier

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Cybele's Secret - Juliet Marillier

At seventeen, scholarly Paula embarks on an adventure - a trip to Istanbul with her merchant father, Teodor, to purchase an ancient artefact known as ...

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Review of "Cybele's Secret - Juliet Marillier"

published 29/06/2009 | magdadh
Member since : 30/11/-0001
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Pro fun & educational
Cons writing a bit stilted, anachronistic language
very helpful
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"Turkish Delights (Cybele's Secret - Juliet Marillier)"

"Cybele's Secret" is a sequel to "Wildwood Dancing", an earlier teen fantasy adventure set in Romanian forests. It can be easily read as a stand-alone-novel. It's narrated by Paula, the scholarly of the sisters that were introduced in the previous novel, and it follows her on a trading trip to Istanbul with her father. It's not a normal trip, though, as they are looking to purchase a mysterious and ancient artifact known as Cybele's Gift. It links to mysterious old cult, possibly undergoing revival and has supposedly magical powers, able to bring amazing rewards, but in the wrong hands capable of inflicting great misery.

There is a strong adventure element in"Cybele's Secret": it reminded me of the travel-and-exploration novels I read as a child in which a character, usually a young one, visits exotic locations and learns about different places and cultures, often while performing feats of bravery and/or chivalry. The evocation of Ottoman Istanbul is excellent in "Cybele's Secret", and the "edutainment" parts link fairly seamlessly to the main narrative. I enjoyed that a lot, and I also liked the narrator and the main character: strong willed, confident, intelligent and mostly sensible, but not without weaknesses to overcome (after all, an adventure without moral and character trial is an empty one). The love angle is subtle, but exciting enough, what with a dashing, cultured, nobleman-pirate (!!) and a dependable and astute but illiterate Bulgar bodyguard.

Those expecting an instant plunge into the world of the supernatural and fey like it happened in the Wildwood Dancing are likely to be disappointed: there are only hints and glimpses at first, though later parts of the book make up for it and I thought the introduction-to-Istanbul buildup was good in itself.

My main gripe with "Cybele's Secret" and the main reason for removing half a star from the rating is the level of anachronism in it, mostly relating to the theme of female empowerment. Both Paula and other characters espousing these ideas speak (and sometimes even think) like modern sociologists: "I am a strong supporter of opportunities for women, which places me severely out of step with the culture in which I live." There is nothing wrong with the idea there but the way it's expressed sounds completely wrong for the time and the setting of the novel. I found the constant use of the word "culture" in its modern, socio-anthropological sense particularly grating.

"Cybele's Secret" is set in time unspecified, but considering that Paula's father wears merchant robes, there is no sight of steamships and the Sultan resides in the Topkapi Palace, author's afterword refers to early Ottoman, my own guess was some time in the 16th or 17th century. The dialogue is generally slightly stilted and unnatural: this can be possibly explained by the fact that it's often conducted in Greek, which is not the first language for most involved, but still jars; and some of the narration is the same.

Apart from that, though, "Cybele's Secret" is a very enjoyable adventure fantasy with a strong romantic streak. It reminded me of Dan Brown (but, despite occasionally stilted style, it is considerably better written) and had some of the same spirit that animated Indiana Jones films (though much less masculine action). I liked it better than the first book from the series, mostly because of the adventure in exotic locations element being so prominent, and readers who like a puzzle, a romance and an exotic setting will enjoy it too.

288 pages, Tor hardback

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Comments on this review

  • TheHairyGodmother published 06/10/2009
    Excellent review :)
  • mumsymary published 30/06/2009
    Good one .
  • blackmagicstar4 published 29/06/2009
    Nice review x
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Product Information : Cybele's Secret - Juliet Marillier

Manufacturer's product description

At seventeen, scholarly Paula embarks on an adventure - a trip to Istanbul with her merchant father, Teodor, to purchase an ancient artefact known as Cybele's Gift.

Product Details

Publisher: Tor, Tor Books

Title: Cybele's Secret

Author: Juliet Marillier

Type: Fiction

ISBN: 0330438298

Genre: Fantasy fiction, Children's

Edition: Paperback

EAN: 9780330438292, 9783304382980

Subgenre: Science fiction


Listed on Ciao since: 07/05/2009