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Cybele's Secret    by Juliet Marillier order for
Cybele's Secret
by Juliet Marillier
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The front cover of Cybele's Secret informs us that it's a companion novel to Juliet Marillier's excellent Wildwood Dancing (a retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairytale of twelve dancing princesses). That tale focused on Jena and her four sisters in the crumbling castle of Piscul Dracului, in Transylvania. The motherless girls had found a portal into the Other Kingdom where eldest sister Tatiana fell for Sorrow, one of the Night People, and remained with him when her siblings were barred from further otherworldly ventures.

As this new story opens six years later, the sisters badly miss Tati, but now bookish Paula accompanies their father on a trading mission to Turkey, with a specific purpose, to secretly acquire a statue of the Anatolian earth goddess Cybele, 'the fabled treasure of a lost faith.' En route they encounter a pirate ship, whose handsome captain, Duarte da Costa Aguiar, acquires a red headscarf of Paula's blown to him by the wind. In Constantinople, Paula's father hires a tall, young, scarred Bulgar named Stoyan to guard her safety. Stoyan is on his own mission, to locate his long-lost brother, who was taken by the Turks as part of a levy for the sultanate.

Soon Paula makes the acquaintance of famed female scholar, Irene of Volos, who invites her to her home and offers the use of her library. There, Paula finds secret clues in an old manuscript and has visions of her sister Tati, who tells of quests to be fulfilled and rewards to be won. The plot thickens as merchants seeking the statue are threatened and killed. Paula meets the pirate captain again and finds herself attracted to him, while she also grows closer to Stoyan. She feels that parting from him would be 'like discovering a new book, a compelling one full of suprises, and then, just when I was becoming absorbed in the story, having it snatched away, half read.'

Then Paula does something impulsive that sends her, Stoyan and Duarte away from Constantinople on a thrilling Indiana Jones style adventure to find Cybele's statue, with surprising villains on their heels. As the story unfolds, Paula must make a choice of loves and must also learn the value of true wisdom over the scholarship on which her life has been built so far. I highly recommend Cybele's Secret, which is very different from Wildwood Dancing, but equally good.

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