The Oracle Betrayed (The Oracle Prophecies Series #1)

The Oracle Betrayed (The Oracle Prophecies Series #1)

by Catherine Fisher

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The High Priestess interprets the wishes of the god as conveyed through the Oracle. Mirany serves the High Priestess. But when the god speaks to Mirany, she realizes that the High Priestess does not hear him, that she is manipulating the choosing of a new God-on-Earth for her own gain.

Mirany must join forces with Seth, a young tomb-robbing scribe who knows the


The High Priestess interprets the wishes of the god as conveyed through the Oracle. Mirany serves the High Priestess. But when the god speaks to Mirany, she realizes that the High Priestess does not hear him, that she is manipulating the choosing of a new God-on-Earth for her own gain.

Mirany must join forces with Seth, a young tomb-robbing scribe who knows the secrets and hidden passages of their land, if she is to defeat the treachery that grips the kingdom. But they have powerful enemies who will stop at nothing to destroy them.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"Between what I speak and what people hear yawns a vast divide," says the voice of the god to Mirany, a trusted servant, in Welsh author Fisher's sprawling, atmospheric adventure. Set in an ancient culture that blends elements of Greece and Egypt, the novel shifts between the third-person narratives of Mirany, one of the Nine young women who serve the Oracle, and Seth, a scribe who has promised a map of a royal tomb to a vicious gang of thieves. Archon lives a life of seclusion, receiving commands from the god and passing them on to the people through his Speaker-he has no other human contact. Before the Archon dies in a sacrificial ceremony, he passes a note to Mirany, warning that the Speaker is fabricating the words of the god in order to manipulate the masses and tells Mirany she can trust his musician, Oblek. Meanwhile, the people and the land suffer through a crippling season of drought. As Mirany boldly strikes out on her own to find Oblek, she crosses paths with Seth. Fisher constructs a fascinating cosmology, doubly so because of the gravity she grants it. This is no cautionary yarn about the perils of blind faith: Mirany begins as a doubter, despite her placement in the role of priestess of the Oracle, while the corrupt Seth believes there is a god, contrary to his dark actions. Mirany's journey to faith leads her to realize that the rituals do have meanings beyond the symbolic. A crisp, quick-moving narrative and fully fleshed out characters will keep readers hooked to the remaining installments in this trilogy. Ages 10-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
When shy Mirany is chosen to be Bearer for the god, everyone is surprised, including Mirany herself. She soon finds out that there is a plot in the temple to gain control by hand-picking the new Archon, the incarnation of the god on earth. When the god starts speaking to Mirany, though, she realizes that she must overcome her meek nature and find the true Archon. A lot is at stake in this choosing, since there has been no rain for a very long time and the proper Archon can correct this. Aided by various people in the temple, Mirany manages to locate the boy Archon. Getting him to assume his proper role in the temple, proves more difficult as Mirany has to figure out who she can and cannot trust within the temple hierarchy. She discovers that she was chosen to be a puppet, but is determined to make things right within the temple. Full of twists and turns, Fisher's novel is engrossing and well-written. 2004, Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins, Ages 12 up.
—Amie Rose Rotruck
In a world devastated by drought, Mirany is privileged. She is one of the priestesses of the god. As the youngest of the Nine, she is an overlooked and undervalued nobody, until the day that the Bearer-of-the-God dies. Then Mirany is unexpectedly promoted and tossed into a betrayal that goes to the heart of her people's beliefs. She will have to join forces with Seth, a young scribe whose loyalties are uncertain, to find the boy who is to be the Archon, the living incarnation of the god, and to help him end the deadly drought. In the process, all that she knows to be right and true will be turned upside down. An intriguing fusion of fantasy with the cultures of Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt, this book is Fisher's first to be published in the United States. As the beginning of a trilogy, it necessarily ends abruptly, but until that point the action is fairly nonstop. The plot is quite easy to follow, despite multiple characters including three gods and despite having to pick up details about the culture without the author spelling out everything. Fans of historical fantasy will find much to enjoy here. The main characters, especially Mirany, are interesting and sympathetic, and several secondary characters are very well fleshed out, keeping the story from becoming predictable. It is recommended for larger collections with many fantasy readers, but anticipate purchasing the second and third volumes as well. VOYA Codes: 4Q 2P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, HarperCollins, 352p., andPLB Ages 11 to 18.
—Snow Wildsmith
Blending the mythology of Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt, Fisher has created a society where the god speaks through an oracle, and a select group of nine masked priestesses enact the mysteries of their religion. Mirany, timid and terrified, is the most unlikely of the Nine, having come to her position through the scheming and bribery of her father. Her first year as Embroideress-of-the-God's Clothes had not been difficult, but when she is elevated to the Bearer-of-the-God, the one who is required to bear the god's incarnation as scorpion or snake, Mirany questions why she of all the others has been chosen. Their land suffers from a great drought, and pleas to the Rain Queen have gone unanswered. Only when the Archon, the God-on-Earth, passes Mirany a note and a warning before he is sacrificed does she recognize that all is not as it seems and that politics, religion, and treachery are feeding each other. Her doubts grow even stronger when she realizes the Speaker-to-the-God is a fraud, and she alone hears the god's voice that instructs her to seek out the new Archon before a puppet is selected by the scheming High Priestess and her accomplice, General Argelin. Mirany grows in strength and character throughout the novel's adventures and rituals. By the end of this fast-paced and intriguing tale, readers will be primed to revisit Fisher's rich blending of cultures in the second book of the trilogy. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2004, HarperCollins, Greenwillow, 341p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Michele Winship
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-There's trouble in the Two Lands, a desert country imagined as an amalgam of ancient Egypt and Greece. Parched by drought, its poor and starving people look to their god to find the Rain Queen who will bring them water. Embodied in generations of mortal men called Archons, the god is served by nine young women. Foremost among them is the Speaker, who is corrupt, in love with a power-hungry general, and plots to betray the Oracle by installing a puppet Archon. Before the old Archon dies, he enlists the help of the meekest, newest member of the Nine, mousy Mirany, to foil the Speaker's plans. As the plot twists and turns, suspense is ratcheted up by the use of one-sentence paragraphs and cliff-hanger endings. Mirany grows quickly (and rather improbably) into a tough, wily conspirator, aided by a group of companions, each of whom has a personal agenda. The scribe Seth wants to help his sick sister. Oblek, the musician to the old Archon, wants to meet his beloved master reincarnated in a new body. Both Mirany and Oblek hear the god speak through Alexos, a 10-year-old destined to be the true Archon. Can they defeat the powerful forces against them? Will the Rain Queen ever visit the Two Lands? The answers lie deep in the unknown tunnels and tombs of the City of the Dead. Action trumps character development in this page-turning fantasy, while an open ending paves the way for subsequent volumes.-Margaret A. Chang, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The US debut of a respected British fantasist offers a richly imagined adventure with overtones of ancient Greece and Egypt. When Mirany, the most awkward of the scorpion god's Nine priestesses, stumbles on a conspiracy to elevate a false Archon (the god's human incarnation), she finds human treachery more perilous than divine wrath. Prompted (possibly) by the god's voice, and aided by a young scribe of flexible morals and a drunken, vengeful musician, Mirany scrambles to find the legitimate Archon before drought devastates the land-and the plotters have her buried alive. Deceptively simple language shapes this numinous fantasy to work on many levels, from a thrilling adventure of intrigue and magic to a subtle probing of questions of faith, choice, and destiny. Fisher draws her players with skillful economy-her heroes are likable but realistically flawed, her villains despicable and menacing without being stupid-and their actions flow naturally from their characters and circumstances. Abrupt changes in voice and setting serve to intensify the liminal atmosphere and rising tension to a climactic triumphant release, with a brief, genuinely chilling denouement. A tale that will linger long in readers' memories; fortunately, the sequel is already on its way. (Fantasy. 10+)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Oracle Prophecies Series , #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.88(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Oracle Betrayed

The First House
Of the Sting of the God

Even gods dream.

I dream of water, of how it falls, the plop of the great hot drops on the desert, the hollow pits they make in the sand; how the parched land drinks them instantly.

I am a god; my dreams should come true. But then, water is different, water is she, and there's no control over her.

I think I have lines on my body, and great scorched places and pustules that burn like volcanoes. Or sores. Or deserts.

I puzzle myself. Am I single or double? Light or light's shadow?

And the tunnel leads up to the world and I climb and scuttle through it, and come to where you live. And one of the problems of divinity is that people expect something huge and powerful.

And an instant result.

She Speaks to the Archon

The Procession was at least halfway down the terraces before Mirany stopped trembling enough to walk properly. It was hard to see clearly through the eye slits; the mask was too big, the slits too far apart. And in the sweltering heat, the dust rising in clouds, the flies, the shimmering mirage of the road, everything was bewildering. She flipped hair out of her eyes, tight with dread, her whole body sheened with sweat. Just as the back strap on her sandal started to chafe, the Procession shuffled to a stop. They had reached the Oracle.

Rattles, drums, and zithers were silenced on one note.

In the terrible still heat, Chryse whispered, "My arms are burning."

She had oddly fair skin. Maybe, generations back, her people came from the mountains.

"Put anything on them?" Mirany said breathlessly.

"Aloe oil."

"That won't help." Her voice was tight.

Through the mask of the Taster-for-the-God, Chryse looked at her kindly. "Don't be scared, Mirany. You'll be all right."

If I survive. Behind, as she glanced back, the long ranks of troops were clanking to a halt, glittering in their bronze, their general, Argelin, grim on his white horse, and in front of them the six men that carried the Archon's litter had paused, too, lowering the golden canopy thankfully onto the track, rubbing their aching shoulders. The old man must be heavy.

But then, he wouldn't be going back.

The Speaker turned. "Mirany." The great mask she wore was the only one of the Nine with an open mouth. It muffled her voice; made the familiar name sound strange, a breathy, unfamiliar summons. As if the god was speaking then, for a moment. Until she snapped, "Follow me. Only you," and it was Hermia again, acid and watchful, and Mirany saw her eyes gleam dark through the narrow slits.

Giving the end of the garland to Chryse, Mirany stepped out, silent. She felt shriveled with dread, sick with it. The narrow path that led off the road was made of cobbles tightly placed together, and wasn't straight but wound round into the olive trees through a doorway of three great stones. On the smooth lintel the scorpion and the snake were carved, fighting their eternal battle. Uneasy, Mirany glanced up at them. She had passed the doorway many times, but had never entered it. The Speaker, already through, turned, impatient. "Quickly!"

Mirany took a deep breath, and followed.

She was in the enclosure of the Oracle.

They walked down the path. In the sizzling heat Hermia said, "Are you afraid?" "Should I be?" Mirany whispered.

The mask swiveled. "I'll assume that was a serious question, and not impudence.

Indeed you should. Yours is a dangerous honor for a girl so inexperienced." She knew that. She had never, never thought it would be her. When Alana had died, all the girls had whispered about who would be next Bearer, but when Hermia had sent for her this morning and told her she'd been chosen, she hadn't been able to believe it. Neither had anyone else.

The terror had come later, growing all day. Now, despite the heat, her hands were so chilled she could hardly feel them, so she rubbed them together and asked the question she already knew the answer to. "Will I be doing it today? Carrying the god?"

"If he wills it." Hermia sounded amused.

Fear tasted sour. A prickling, her heart thudding, and that sickening, sweating emptiness. She swallowed a huge lump of it in her throat but it was still there, choking her, and the gold and scarlet mask was a stifling hand over her breathlessness.

Up here the noise of the Procession had faded; it was as if the path under the stone door had led them both abruptly out of the Island into another, hushed place, where only cicadas hissed in the prickly furze. Stumbling, Mirany felt a sticky strand of hair fall in her eyes. It was coming loose, like it always did. Then she thought, All right, so you're terrified. But at least you'll see the Oracle.

The others had arguments, in the Lower House, late at night. About whether the Oracle was a statue that spoke or a spring that bubbled up out of the ground. Whether it thundered with a roaring voice, or whispered like leaves in the wind, while Hermia went into a trance and moaned and shrieked. Too shy to join in, Mirany had listened, and thought her secret, wicked thought. Now she'd finally see. But she'd never be allowed to tell them about it.

Juniper and stunted bushes of thyme and artemisia scorched the heat with scent. The path coiled round on itself like a sleeping snake, and the underbrush stirred and crackled with the god's life, small scurryings, slither of scales, the quick green scuttle of a lizard.

The Oracle Betrayed. Copyright © by Catherine Fisher. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Catherine Fisher's acclaimed works include Darkhenge, Snow-walker, and The Oracle Betrayed, which was a finalist for the Whitbread Children's Book Award. She lives in Newport, Wales.

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