Cybele's Secret

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Scholarly eighteen-year-old Paula and her merchant father journey from Transylvania to Istanbul to buy an ancient pagan artifact rumored to be charmed, but others, including a handsome Portuguese pirate and an envoy from the magical Wildwood, want to acquire the item, as well.
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Scholarly eighteen-year-old Paula and her merchant father journey from Transylvania to Istanbul to buy an ancient pagan artifact rumored to be charmed, but others, including a handsome Portuguese pirate and an envoy from the magical Wildwood, want to acquire the item, as well.
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Editorial Reviews

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 certain—the 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

Kirkus Reviews
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.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375833656
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 9/9/2008
  • Series: Wildwood Dancing Series , #2
  • Pages: 448
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 820L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 10.88 (h) x 1.33 (d)

Meet the Author

JULIET MARILLIER is the author of several highly popular fantasy novels for adults, including the Sevenwaters Trilogy and the Bridei Chronicles. She is also the author of the teen novel Wildwood Dancing, featuring many of the same characters as Cybele's Secret.

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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.


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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 68 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 68 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 13, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Wonderful in Every Way!!!

    I enjoyed Wildwood Dancing immensely, and finding out that Cybele's Secret was coming out was thrilling! I read it in a short time and wished it had not ended! It is such a wonderful book; the characters are wonderful and easy to relate to. I fell in love with Stoyan the moment he come into the story. Throughout, the whole book it remained exciting and different. I have read nothing like this before, it is unique in every way! I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a good, wholesome romantic and adventurous story. Marillier, has once again written an extraordinary tale! I can't wait to read this over and over again!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 27, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Lynn Crow for

    Paula couldn't be more excited to be arriving in Istanbul with her merchant father, where she'll be assisting him in obtaining a valuable and mysterious artifact of the ancient goddess Cybele. If all goes well, she may finally be able to pursue her dream of starting a book-trading enterprise. <BR/><BR/>To her dismay, trouble awaits them the moment they disembark. Her father's trusted trading adviser has been murdered, and the secrecy surrounding the artifact has grown even more difficult to penetrate. If Paula's suspicions are correct, the glimpses she's caught of her sister, who vanished into the Other Kingdom several years ago, mean the folk of magic and myth have their own stake in the unfolding events. <BR/><BR/>Complicating matters are a dashing ex-pirate with an intense interest in Paula, who may or may not be as ruthless as he is charming, and the powerful yet gentle bodyguard Paula's father hires to watch over her, whom Paula cannot help feeling drawn to despite knowing they are worlds apart. As Paula struggles to make sense of the signs her sister sends her and to help her father obtain Cybele's Gift, the three are pulled into a quest more dangerous than any of them could have imagined. <BR/><BR/>Not all friends can be trusted; not all enemies are what they seem; and the folk of the Other Kingdom don't often give second chances. It's up to Paula to get her companions through this adventure alive, and to find the right path for her own heart. <BR/><BR/>Fans of Marillier's WILDWOOD DANCING will enjoy catching up with the family via Jena's younger sister, and happily devour this new tale of the Other Kingdom. Though somewhat slower-paced than WILDWOOD DANCING, CYBELE'S SECRET doesn't skimp on adventure or romance. Paula is a strong and resourceful heroine, who admits her mistakes when she makes them and doesn't let her fears stand in her way. The settings are so vivid readers will feel as if they're traveling through Istanbul and the Other Kingdom with them. <BR/><BR/>If you loved WILDWOOD DANCING, don't hesitate to snatch this one up!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 29, 2014

    I Also Recommend:

    Juliet Marillier is the best

    I had read the predecessor to "Cybele's Secret" because I saw it in a bookstore and liked the author. Also, I found it interesting that the book was inspired by the fairy tale of the twelve dancing princesses. At first I didn't realize that there was a sequel. It did not appear to be available in any store I visited, perhaps because it was published a number of years ago. I'm very glad that I tracked it down online. Juliet Marillier creates great characters and stories in all her novels, including this one. She is influenced by old myths and fairy tales, but she gives them new life in her fantasies. This book is supposedly for children, but that didn't stop me from enjoying it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2013


    The first book was a little slow in the beginning, but the more I read it, the more I just couldn't put it down. Very good book altogether.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2012

    One of my favorite books. Like Wildwood Dancing it was worth eve

    One of my favorite books. Like Wildwood Dancing it was worth every penny. I just wonder when and if a third book will come out Cybele's Secret ends implying there is a third but it has been a couple years and I can't find anything on the internet about another book.

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  • Posted March 30, 2011

    I got the book because I liked the cover.

    This book had the potential to be really, really good. Maybe it was a little slow, but it still could have been a great fantasy. The only real problem is that Marillier depicts a Turkish Istanbul as a place that is so completely anti-female it's not even funny, while if she had actually looked into it she may have found that it was actually far more open to women than Western Europe. (Yes, in real life women could have gone out BY THEMSELVES if they wanted to. And they did. All the time.) It may be a fantasy book, but if you're going to set it in real world places you should at least know what you're talking about. It's not like any of this sexism even adds to the plot anyway because it'd still make sense for the young heroine's father to not want her going out alone in a large and unfamiliar city. In fact, many things that happen in the story would have made more sense had Marillier portrayed the city correctly.

    Anyway, if you can get over the pointlessly prejudiced and stereotypical portrayal of a Muslim city (that once again, was actually not nearly as sexist as other places, like Western Europe, in that general era) and the general slowness of the novel, then you might really enjoy it.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 27, 2011

    this book was great!!

    i really enjoyed this book and was not dissapointed. it is a lot like wildwood dancing, except better. a must read, however, you should read wildwood dancing first.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2010

    I Also Recommend:


    Wildwood Dancing and Cybele's Secret are the most amazing books I have read. I'm a huge reader and these books are by far my favorite. You should have no doubts at all!! I absolutly love these books, and I cannot wait for the 3RD!!!!

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  • Posted July 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:


    The world created in Cybele's Secret is exotic and exciting! You fall in love with the rich characters, are enthralled by the riddles, and are instantly excited by the juicy love triangle. In short I read it all too quickly and other books are hard to read when they now are held to its standard.

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  • Posted April 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Cybele's Secret

    Cybele's Secret is beautifully written and entirely unforgettable. The story will capture your heart and you imagination. I would recommend this book for anyone who has read Tamora Pierce, Melissa Marr, or Lesly Livingston.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2008

    I Also Recommend:


    "Cybele's Secret" was really good. I read it in less than a week and loved every minute of it! I like it more than "Wildwood Dancing" and I think that Marillier could definitely add another book to this series... I hope she does! I recommend this book to anyone.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    An Enchanting Book...

    I don't know how to put my love for this book in words. I was quite enchanted by this book. I know this sound like cliche, but this book captured me so much that it felt like I was apart of the story. Ms. Marillier's characters are full of depth and make you feel for the characters completely. Wildwood Dancing and Cybele's Secret are in another league compared to some other fantasy books. A myriad of fantasy books today are missing the unique quality that Ms. Marillier's books have. Cybele's Secret is a story that I will never forget and will re-read many times in years to come. I only wish that there was a guy out there for me like the character Stoyan! I hope that Ms. Marillier will add another engaging book to this series. I do recommend this book to any fantasy or fairy-tale book lover like me, you will not be disappointed.

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  • Posted November 21, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Yay for Mysteries!

    I really liked how Paula had to unravel Cybelle's sercret, I love books were character have to put the pieces together.

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  • Posted November 11, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    reading teen

    I LOVED THIS BOOK! This is the sequel to Wildwood Dancing (also amazing. I'm sorry to say, but at first when I found out this book was about Paula I was dissapointed. I never really liked paula in wildwood Dancing, I always liked Tati and Jena. But once I got into the first couple pages, I changed my mind. Paula is not just smart, quiet, and sensitive, she's so much more that you find out in the book. Juliet Marillier (one of my fav authors) creates the characters, like Stoyan, Paula, Irene, and Duarte, the setting, and the plot perfectly. I loved the ending, which forced a smile on my face because I was so happy how it ended. It a perfect fantasy type book mixed with romance set in Turkey back in the 16th century. By the way, the covers on this book and wildwood dancing are by Kinuko Y. Craft who has amazing paintings if you go check the website. Also, the covers seriously have about every main event or thing that happened in the book. Same with Wildwood Dancing

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2008

    Wonderful, but I'd expect nothing less.

    Juliet Marillier has the un-canny knack at twisting history into present and fantasy into a reality, I feel strongly connected to all of her characters (even the villains) because I am allowed to see their inner psyche. Cybele's Secret is no exception. I started reading Marillier when she first published Daughter of the Forest, and eagerly awaited all new publications... I couldn't wait for Cybele's Secret to be released in the States so I purchased it overseas. I won't ruin the book for those who have to wait until September, but I will say that you won't be disappointed, new myths and cultures are introduced, you will get to meet several new characters, including a few love interests, and also a few surprise visits from Tati. Needless to say this book will be a page turner, and like all her other books a cause for lost sleep, but I couldn't find a better reason to stay up!!! Meanwhile, I can't wait until November when Heir to Sevenwaters will be released!!! Happy reading everyone.

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    Posted December 31, 2009

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    Posted December 6, 2008

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    Posted March 26, 2009

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    Posted August 22, 2010

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