KLIATT - Donna Scanlon
Marillier follows up on the sisters of Wildwood Dancing. Six years have passed since eldest sister Tatiana joined her true love Sorrow in the Other Kingdom, and Paula, the scholarly daughter, is accompanying her father to Istanbul to act as his assistant. His primary interest is in an artifact called Cybele's Gift, a relic of an ancient cult. Paula's father hires a bodyguard for her, a young Bulgarian named Stoyan who accompanies her everywhere, even to the house of Irene of Volos, a Greek scholar who has opened her library to Paula. While perusing the manuscripts, Paula has odd glimpses of messages and people that seem to call to her from the Other Kingdom. She senses that Tatiana, or Tati, is behind these messages and that she is in need of Paula's help. Before long, she, Stoyan, and the charming Portuguese pirate Duarte Aguiar are off on a quest that will take them into the heart of the Other Kingdom, where Paula will find that things are seldom what they seem. Marillier is a master of lucid storytelling, and the narrative here is beautifully written. Paula's first-person narration lends immediacy to the story and gives much more insight into her character than a third-person narrative would. The characters are well drawn, evocative and memorable, and neither characterization nor plot dominates. Rather, they mesh together into an engrossing story with both the hallmarks of folklore and its own fresh perspective. This title is a good pick for any library, especially those with a following for fantasy. Reviewer: Donna Scanlon
Children's Literature - Kathleen Foucart
In this companion to Marillier's 2007 work Wildwood Dancing, Paula takes up the tale of five sisters whose lives intertwine with the Other Kingdom. On a merchant trip to Istanbul with her father, Teodor, Paula begins to notice a mysterious figure clad all in black with eyes the color of her missing sister, Tati's. Upon arrival in the city, Teodor discovers that his long-time business partner was murdered only a few days before, and so Teodor insists on finding his daughter a bodyguard for the duration of their stay. Paula decides to hire Stoyan, a large, intimidating-looking young man who proves determined to keep her safe, but he is not the only man to suddenly enter her life. Duarte, a so-called merchant with more of a pirate's reputation, also has focused his attention on Paula, though Paula suspects it is because he also plans to bid on Cybele's Gift, the mysterious pagan artifact that all the religious authorities in Istanbul are intent on destroying. Soon, Paula, Duarte, and Stoyan find themselves ensnared in events outside their control, and only one thing is certainthe Other Kingdom has something to do with it. Though some parts of the story seem a bit slower, they provide important clues to the exciting conclusion to the story of Cybele's Gift, and patient readers will be rewarded with both a fantastic adventure and a truly romantic tale. Reviewer: Kathleen Foucart
VOYA - Sarah Flowers
This delightful companion novel to Wildwood Dancing (Knopf, 2007/VOYA February 2007), takes place several years later and features Paula, the second-youngest of the five Transylvanian sisters who once had the ability to pass into the Other Kingdom of the fairy folk. Paula, now eighteen, accompanies her father on a trip to Istanbul, where he hopes to acquire a rare artifact known as Cybele's Gift, and Paula hopes to have an opportunity to visit some libraries and meet some female scholars. It soon becomes apparent that they are not the only ones interested in Cybele's Gift, and Paula finds herself making a strange journey that again involves the Other Kingdom. Paula's ability to decipher clues, with the help of her bodyguard Stoyan and the dashing pirate Duarte, ultimately lead her to a place where she can help her sister Tati and bring Cybele's Gift back to its rightful place. The first third of the book, as the story is set up, is a bit slow, but it picks up speed as Paula is drawn into the mystery of Cybele's Gift and into relationships with Stoyan, Duarte, and Irene of Volos, a wealthy Istanbul patroness of the arts and of women scholars. Paula is an engaging heroine who uses her wits, learning, and knowledge of the Other Kingdom but also accepts help when she needs it in this worthy stand-alone sequel. Reviewer: Sarah Flowers
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up
Several years have passed since the passageway to the Other Kingdom closed for the five sisters introduced in Wildwood Dancing (Knopf, 2007). Two are married with children, and Tati still has not been seen since she followed her true love into the other world. Cybele's Secret is told by scholarly Paula. Following an accident, she is required to travel with her father to Istanbul in order to assist him in procuring a mysterious religious artifact. Upon their arrival, it becomes clear that there are many who desire Cybele's Gift; not only is the artifact valuable and viewed as a good-luck charm, but also a new cult that practices ritual sacrifice to Cybele is rumored. Soon Paula embarks on a quest to an unfamiliar part of the Other Kingdom. At stake are the life and happiness of her sister, the unfulfilled debt of a friend, and the possibility of true love. Although the fantastical elements of this tale are brief until the last quarter of the book, the plot holds together, providing a sufficient complement to Wildwood Dancing . Paula is not featured extensively in the first book, and although her fierce independence, intellect, and physical attributes are similar to those of the previous narrator, Jena, it is still a pleasure to hear her voice. The Turkish culture is well researched and skillfully incorporated, bringing a richness to the scene in which the plot effortlessly arcs.-Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO
Bewitching despite flaws, this companion to Wildwood Dancing (2007) picks up six years later. Younger sister Paula, who debated philosophy in the Other Kingdom while her sisters danced, now assists Father on a trade journey to Istanbul. They seek Cybele's Gift, an ancient pagan artifact so threatening to the Muslim political powers that all inquiries must be covert. Personal guard Stoyan sleeps protectively across their doorway and escorts Paula to the lone library open to female scholars in this restrictive city. A shock at the artifact's unveiling leads Paula, Stoyan and condescendingly flirtatious pirate Duarte on a journey underneath a mountain, fulfilling quest tasks set by the Other Kingdom. Such challenges supposedly give mortals "wiser hearts," but these riddles and tests have tepid answers. The story takes too long to find momentum, and Marillier troublingly casts both feminism and Islam in a bad light, heavily exoticizing Istanbul. However, despite these weaknesses, genuine emotion and Paula's alluring love story create a memorable page-turner. (Romanian glossary, not seen) (Fantasy. 11-14)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, Booklist, July 1, 2008:
“Teens who didn’t know Marillier when they started this sandalwood-scented adventure will rapidly place her alongside the likes of romantic-fantasy idols Shannon Hale and Sharon Shinn.”
Read an Excerpt
The deck tilted to port, and I tilted with it, grabbing at a rope to keep my balance. One day out from Constanta, the wind had turned contrary and the waters of the Black Sea rose and fell under the Stea de Mare’s belly like a testy horse trying to unseat its rider.
“You have excellent sea legs, Paula,” my father commented. He stood perfectly balanced, a veteran of more merchant voyages than he could count. This was my first.
The sail crackled in the wind. The crewmen, grim-jawed and narrow-eyed, were struggling to keep the one-master under control. When they glanced my way, their expressions were hostile.
“It unsettles them to have a woman on board,” my father said. “Ignore it. It’s superstitious nonsense. They know me, and you’re my daughter. If the captain doesn’t like it, he shouldn’t have accepted my silver.”
“It doesn’t bother me, Father,” I said through gritted teeth. Having good sea legs didn’t mean I relished the bobbing motion of the boat or the constant drenching in salt spray. Nor did I much care for the sense that if the Stea de Mare sank, these sailors would put the blame on me. “Is this going to delay us, Father?”
“It may, but Salem bin Afazi will wait for us in Istanbul. He understands what this means for me, Paula–the opportunity of a lifetime.”
“I know, Father.” There was a treasure waiting for us in the great city of the Turks, the kind of piece merchants dream of laying their hands on just once in their lives. Father wouldn’t be the only prospective buyer. Fortunately, he was a skillful negotiator, patient and subtle.
When he had first agreed to take me with him, it had been to allow me to broaden my horizons now that I was in my eighteenth year, to let me see the world beyond the isolated valley where we lived and the merchant towns of Transylvania that we sometimes visited.
But things had changed on the journey. Just before we were due to embark, Father’s secretary, Gabriel, had tripped coming down a flight of steps in the Black Sea port of Constanta. The resultant broken ankle was now being tended to in the physician’s house there while the Stea de Mare bore Father and me on to Istanbul. It was most fortunate that I spoke perfect Greek and several other languages and that I had Father’s full trust. While I could not take Gabriel’s place as his official assistant, I could, at the very least, be his second set of ears. It would be a challenge. I could hardly wait.
The wind had brought rain, the same drenching spring rain that fell on our mountains back home, flooding streams and soaking fields. It scoured the planks of the deck and wrapped the ship in a curtain of white. From where I stood, I could barely see the sail, let alone the bow cutting its way through choppy seas. The crew must be steering our course blind.
Father was shouting something above the rising voice of the wind, perhaps suggesting we should go below until things calmed down. I pretended not to hear. The tiny cabins we had been allocated were stuffy and claustrophobic. Being enclosed there only emphasized the ship’s movement, and one could not lie on the narrow bunk without dwelling on how exactly one would get out should the Stea de Mare decide to sink.
“Get down, Paula!” Father yelled. A moment later a huge, dark form loomed up behind us. A scream died in my throat before I could release it. Another ship– a tall threemaster, so close I screwed my eyes shut, waiting for the sickening crunch of a collision. It towered above us. The moment it hit us, we would begin to go down.
Running steps, shouts, the clank of metal. I opened my eyes to see our crew diving across the deck, snatching implements to fend off the approaching wall of timber. Everyone was yelling. The helmsman and his assistant heaved on the wheel. I clutched on to Father, and the two of us ducked down behind the flimsy protection of a cargo crate, but I couldn’t bear not knowing what was happening. I peered over the crate, my heart racing.
Aboard the three-master, a motley collection of sailors was busy hauling on ropes and scrambling up rigging while an equally mixed group had assembled by the rail, long poles extended across and downward in our direction. There were about two arm’s lengths between us.
“Poxy pirate!” I heard our captain snarl as he strode past. A shudder went through the bigger ship, as if it were drawing a difficult breath, and then the two vessels slid by one another, a pair of dancers performing a graceful aquatic pavane.
The wind gusted, snatching my red headscarf and tossing it high. As the scrap of scarlet crossed the divide between the boats, I saw a man set a booted foot on the rail of the three-master and swing up with graceful ease to stand balanced on the narrow rim. He took hold of a rope with one casual hand, then leaned out over the churning waters to pluck the scarf from midair while the ship moved on under full sail. The sailor was tall, his skin darker than was usual in my homeland, his features striking in their sculpted strength. As I stared, the fellow tilted himself back with the ship’s natural movement and leaped down to the deck, tucking the red scarf into his belt. He did not glance in my direction. The big ship moved away, and I saw its name in gold paint on the side:Esperança.
“Close,” muttered Father. “Altogether too close.”
Despite my pounding heart, I felt more intrigued than frightened. “Did the captain say pirate?” I asked, unrealistic images of weathered seafarers with exotic birds or monkeys on their shoulders flashing through my mind.