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CYBELE’S SECRET by Juliet Marillier – double review!

For Paula, accompanying her merchant father on a trading voyage to Istanbul is a dream come true. They have come to this city of trade on a special mission to purchase a most rare artifact—a gift from the ancient goddess, Cybele, to her followers. It’s the only remnant of a lost, pagan cult.

But no sooner have they arrived when it becomes clear they may be playing at a dangerous game. A colleague and friend of Paula’s father is found murdered. There are rumors of Cybele’s cult reviving within the very walls of Istanbul. And most telling of all, signs have begun to appear to Paula, urging her to unlock Cybele’s secret.

Meanwhile, Paula doesn’t know who she can trust in Istanbul, and finds herself drawn to two very different men. As time begins to run out, Paula realizes they may all be tied up in the destiny of Cybele’s Gift, and she must solve the puzzle before unknown but deadly enemies catch up to her. . . .

Title : Cybele’s Secret
Author : Juliet Marillier
Series : Wildwood (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 432
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Alfred A. Knopf
Release Date : September 9, 2008

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★.5  / ★ ★ ★

Hollis’ 2.5 star review

Well, on the plus side, if you intend to binge this series, you won’t find too much same-y by reading them back to back. In fact.. there’s hardly any same-y at all! It might as well be a different series altogether.

Another plus? We are in another different and infrequently-used setting for this book. Whereas we started in Transylvania in Wildwood Dancing, in Cybele’s Secret we journey to Istanbul. But where previously we spent a lot of time in the Otherworld, amongst the fae, or a drafty castle, this time we visit the heat of the markets, the quiet of the libraries, and maybe even spend some time on boats. Paula, too, is different from Jena — the former a scholar, the latter the head of the household, the responsible one — except in the part that frustrated me about both characters : judgey judgey judgey. 

But that makes for a good segue into the characters. Did I like.. any of them? Honestly, I did like Paula at first. But eventually she became a little one-note. And then she did something that had me banging my head against the wall and we never recovered. Of her two love interests, one looks real good on paper, and did all the right things, but honestly he was a little bland. A little sad. But, shockingly, ended up saving the day in ways that had nothing to do with his bodyguard-acquired muscles. And the other, the dashing and devilish pirate? Oh yeah, he was my favourite. Not really as a love interest, because I couldn’t understand why he would be drawn to Paula, but as a character. 

There was no painfully painful villain in this book, thank goodness, but the villain of the piece is somehow both too well hidden and also too obvious and it made for a weird confrontation. Which wasn’t helped by a surplus of monologues to explain all the mustache-twirling that had happened off-page. And their fate? Pretty lame.

Plotwise, things went about fairly smoothly if often in a repetitive matter. We had some mysteries to solve, a sprinkling of clues to follow, all very vague. All doled out in tiny increments. Until basically the big finale where much is revealed and many faerie-style trials must be endured. Though, I’ll be honest, it mostly seemed like an exercise in running around nonstop. But in hindsight, book one was also a little repetitive. It was just more exciting, even during the frustrating bits, than this one.

I wasn’t mad at the ending, and actually thought the pseudo-third act conflict appropriate considering the chosen love interest’s various tasks and responsibilities, but at this point I just wanted to get things over with and move on. I was wanting to round up on this because it’s Marillier but this might be the weakest of any of her stories and I just can’t quite do it. I’m sad to not have discovered a new favourite series but it was different and it was fun to experience it with my buddy so it definitely wasn’t anywhere near a total loss. This just won’t make it onto my Must Read Marillier list or be one I recommend.

Micky’s 2.5 -3 star review

Perilous times
Triangular shaped connections

Le sigh. After really enjoying Wildwood Dancing and getting attached to those sisters and moreso, the setting, this was a stark change. The story transported the reader to busy busy historical Istanbul where women could not safely exist and tensions seemed to be high. Istanbul has some dark resonating experiences for me personally, so I don’t think that endeared me to it. I missed the woods, the sisters and the fair folk.

The story took Paula and her father in the direction of bidding for a much sought after relic, a bodyguard, a posh pirate and the mysterious Cybele. Cybele was an ancient goddess and there were insects (indraws breath, hyperventilates at the scuttling and crawling, erases images). I went with the flow for the first third of the book, liking the direction. From after half way, I found Paula left all sense behind, acted like a teenager and it was hard to add up the actions that ensued.

Now to the humble bodyguard and the posh pirate…I liked both these characters but didn’t appreciate the triangle. The journey with these three was something close to annoying but not quite there. At the culmination however, I got an unexpected punch of the feels that left me overall on a happier note.

I was left somewhat disgruntled with the lack of tie-up on Tati (yet again) and it doesn’t appear there are any more books to come in the series, so I guess that is that.

I dragged my heels on this buddy read because from that third of the book point, I found this slow and difficult to pick back up. Not my favourite Marillier by any means but I’ll favour the first book in my memories.


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