Secret Sacrament by Sherryl Jordan, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Secret Sacrament

Secret Sacrament

by Sherryl Jordan

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The powerful Navoran empire exists side by side with the traditional Shinali clan. Caught between them is a young healer trapped in a tangled web of politics, prophecies, and dreams. Is Gabriel truly the hero of an ancient prophecy foretelling the destruction and rebirth of Navora? In this vividly realized fantasy world, a decadent empire and a society of


The powerful Navoran empire exists side by side with the traditional Shinali clan. Caught between them is a young healer trapped in a tangled web of politics, prophecies, and dreams. Is Gabriel truly the hero of an ancient prophecy foretelling the destruction and rebirth of Navora? In this vividly realized fantasy world, a decadent empire and a society of hunter-gatherers are both struggling to survive. The fate of both civilizations depends on one man's willingness to accept his destiny—against all odds.

About the Author:
Sherryl Jordan lives in New Zealand and is the author of the award-winning booksThe Raging Quiet, Winter of Fire, Wolf-Woman, and The Juniper Game.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The citizens of Navora have pushed the native Shinali off their land, but when a prophecy foretells that a Navoran man will help the Shinali reclaim what was theirs, the empire will stop at nothing to thwart his destiny. PW said the novel has "enough drama, twists and turns to keep readers glued to their seats." Ages 12-up. (Feb.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
To quote from the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, January 2001: Jordan presents a fully realized alternative society in this fantasy. As in her other novels, there is a high level of emotional intensity, which is supported by beautiful language and passionate young characters who are driven to make their worlds better. Gabriel is the hero of Secret Sacrament. He lives in a society filled with ambitious, learned people who dominate all other cultures surrounding them, including the Shinali, a tribe of people considered savage. The story begins with a horrific scene when seven-year-old Gabriel witnesses an attack on a young Shinali woman; he is unable to help her but lives with that guilt for the rest of his life. From this woman Gabriel obtains an amulet made of carved bone, and this links him to the Shinali in ways he senses but doesn't understand. Most of the action takes place the year Gabriel is 18 years old, chosen to be a healer of minds and bodies. He is an interpreter of dreams, which takes him into the presence of the Empress, winning her support but alienating the most powerful court officials. His beloved brother is assassinated, mistaken for Gabriel, and at the time of the funeral Gabriel has his first real contact with the Shinali people, falling in love with Ashila. Later Gabriel is named a traitor and flees his own people to be with the Shinali. The unfolding events fulfill a prophecy the participants are aware of but don't fully understand. Since Jordan is from New Zealand, it is tempting to interpret the Shinali as Maori and Gabriel's society as the white colonists. In fact, we could probably see the Shinali as based on all aboriginal people whose beloved land has beenwrested from them by more powerful people, but whose strength lies in their spiritual connections to one another, to their land, and to their gods. This rich fantasy is filled with beauty, doing what fantasy does best: examining classic motifs of heroism, corruption of the good, sacrifice, and sacrament. KLIATT Codes: JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 1996, HarperCollins, 495p.,
— Claire Rosser
Seven-year-old Gabriel Eskban Vala, a Navoran merchant's son, hides himself instead of running for help when he sees a Shinali woman raped and beaten. Before she dies, the woman presses a bone amulet into his hand. The amulet enables him to see glimpses of her homeland and visions of the future. Seven years later, Gabriel begins to study medicine and is elected to take Healer Vows at the Citadel, Navora's most prestigious school of physical and spiritual healing. Skilled at interpreting dreams, Gabriel becomes a favorite of the empress, leading to his downfall. His readings implicate powerful, unscrupulous men who plot his death. Running for his life, he is protected by the Shinali, a gentle farming people, and falls in love with Ashila, a Shinali healer. When the Navoran empire attempts to eradicate the Shinali, Gabriel willingly sacrifices his life to protect them, fulfilling a prophecy pictured on the amulet that he was given as a child. Not since Morgan of Patricia McKillip's Riddle Master of Hed (Atheneum, 1976) has there been such a sensitive, self-sacrificing hero as Gabriel. Life's unexpected turns find him determined to do the right thing, making up for that one time when he failed to bring help to the dying Shinali woman. His character is well defined but unsentimental. His decisions are based on a strong sense of right and wrong. The story is believable, gripping, and hard to put down. This volume, a rare combination of superb writing, sustained action, and excellent characterization, will find a wide audience. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades10 to 12). 2000 (orig. 1996), HarperCollins, 337p, . Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Nancy K. Wallace SOURCE: VOYA, June 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 2)
Children's Literature
Gabriel Eshban Vala is an unusual young man. Born into a wealthy Navoran family, he has dreamt from the age of seven that he would become a healer. When he is accepted at the Citadel, the school for healing, and finally convinces his family that his visions of healing are true visions, Gabriel feels that his dreams are coming true. The second thread of the story deals with the Navoran Empire, which is much more corrupt than it appears. The corruption comes from the inside, from the Empress' most trusted advisor. The final thread of the story concerns the aboriginal Shinali nation, the tribe whose land has been taken over by the Navorans and now consists of just one clan. The Shinali have a traditional vision of the tribe's death and eventual rebirth into a combined Navoran/Shinali group. An eagle will precede this rebirth, but whether it is a real bird or a man is not clear¾to the tribe, anyway. An experienced reader will understand perfectly before the book is half read. The author is a New Zealander, which makes her tale even more relevant. Although the story is a little too obvious at times to an adult, it will be a page-turner for younger teens. There is love of all kinds in the story but very little graphic sex, and what there is, is totally believable. Gabriel is an authentic character, as are most of the other main characters. 2001 (orig. 1996), HarperCollins, . Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Judy Silverman
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-A young and talented healer tries to save two civilizations in this absorbing fantasy. As Gabriel learns the healing arts from wise masters, he also becomes inescapably involved in the treacherous politics of the Navoran Empire. The Empress trusts the young man's ability to interpret her dreams, while her jealous advisor Jaganath tries to discredit, corrupt, and even murder him. The villain also means to destroy the neighboring Shinali people, most of whose land the imperialistic Navorans captured years ago. Gabriel, however, develops strong ties to the native people. He respects their rights generally, then becomes personally involved as he falls in love with Ashila, a young Shinali woman. As Jaganath's hold over the Empress increases, Gabriel tries to help the Shinali find a peaceful solution. He cannot prevent the bloodshed, but eventually the young man paves the way for a more positive future by making a tragic personal sacrifice. Jordan deftly conveys the historical and political background of her world, showing the contrast between the Shinali and Navoran peoples, and the appeal that both societies hold in the mind of the protagonist. Gabriel is an engaging hero, determined to act nobly, and yet caught up in events that often make his decisions agonizingly difficult. Though at first he seems almost too saintly, his struggles to balance personal principles with the cruelty of the real world bring out his human frailties and raise powerful questions about fate, duty, and courage.-Steven Engelfried, Deschutes County Library, Bend, OR Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Gardners Books
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Trembling, the boy crouched in the shadow of the bridge. He pressed his hot, wet face against the ancient stones and fought to stop the waves of nausea that swept through him. Behind him towered the vast outer wall of the city, crimson-drenched in the sunset. From cobbled roads far beyond the wall came the rumble of chariot and wagon wheels, and the neighing of horses. The whole city of Navora seemed to vibrate and boom within its walls, like a mighty heart preparing for the night. There was something ominous in that quiet thundering, and the boy shrank from it, pressing himself harder against the bridge. He discovered a deep crevice in the stones and squeezed himself into it. Hidden, safe for the moment, he wiped his grubby hands across his eyes and enjoyed a momentary respite from his troubles.

Glancing behind him, he saw the darker stones of the ancient northeast corner of the city, marking the outer confines of the prison. The stones in these mighty prison ramparts had only slits for windows. On the wide crests of the walls guards walked, crossbows gleaming as the sunset struck them. The boy shivered, thinking of the stories he had heard about the inside of that place. People never came out, it was said, except to be buried or beheaded.

Turning from the prison, he scanned the evening skies and the deserted banks of the River Cravan. The setting sun struck his eyes, changing their vivid, translucent blue to violet. His fair hair shone with red-gold lights, and clung about his wary face in long, damp curls. Satisfied that he was alone, he settled more comfortably into his hiding place and listened to the river gurgling over the rocks asit tumbled, close to the shadowed east wall, on its way to the sea. He could smell the sea, if he sniffed hard; could smell the rank odor of the oyster shells piled two hundred years deep along the beach, and the salty air blowing in from the ocean. He loved the sea and loved the times his father took him out on the oyster boats. It was wonderful to watch the young men and women dive deep, deep into the murky waters, and come up again with string baskets full of rough oyster shells. Some of the oysters would be sold for food in the marketplace, but many would be left in piles on the beach to putrefy. Much later Gabriel would sit on the beach with his father and watch the people remove the precious pearls from the soft rotting flesh.

“These little stones,” his father had once said, holding one up into the sun, “these are what began this great city of ours. One day, over two hundred years ago, a great navigator came to this land, and he found barbarian fisherfolk dwelling in caves under the cliffs, living off whatever the sea could provide. The fisherfolk traded with the navigator. For knives and bows and arrows, they gave him some of the strange, pale pearls they fished from the sea. The navigator took the pearls back to his own country and told of the distant land they came from, with its beautiful harbor and clean blue waters.

Then other people sailed here, built a village on the harbor edge, and fished for the pearls themselves, trading them with passing ships. They became very wealthy, for the pearls were much prized. More people came, and more, and took over the harbor and the coast. The tiny village became a town. But the barbarians didn't want to share their fishing waters, and there was war between them and the newcomers. The barbarians lost and were driven away from the coast. The new town flourished. And now look at Navora: the largest port in the world. Center of all trade, all knowledge, all wealth. Center of the Empire. And at the heart of it, a little pearl. Never forget that, Gabriel. It's what's at the heart of things that matters.”

Gabriel did not forget. But lately he had heard his father say that the oyster beds were becoming depleted, and the oyster business would not last much longer. Gabriel's mother wanted to go inland to farm or grow an orchard, but his father was determined to put his wealth into trading ships, and to sail to alien lands. There was seldom harmony between his parents now, and Gabriel and his three younger brothers were in trouble more times than they were out of it. They had learned to creep about unseen and unheard, but this evening they had landed in trouble with a crash that had shaken the whole house and brought the slaves running.

The boys had been playing with a ball inside, and Gabriel had got excited and thrown it so hard it bounced off a wall and toppled a marble statue from its pedestal. The statue had broken into pieces on the polished wooden floor. It was only a small image of the Empress Petra, but Gabriel's father treasured it.

He had always said that if a slave ever broke the statue, the culprit would pay for it with his life. He had not said what would happen if one of his own sons broke it, and Gabriel did not stay to find out. He had fled to this forbidden place outside the city walls, where even his father would never dream of looking for him. In this dangerous, desolate place, the river stank from the city's sewage, diseased beggars came to die, and women abandoned their unwanted newly-borns. Here the city's trash found its final home or was washed in the river's flow out to the beaches beyond, where it rotted in the sun, was picked clean by gulls, or was sucked out to sea by the tide. For one wild moment the...

Secret Sacrament. Copyright © by Sherryl Jordan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Sherryl Jordan is the author of several critically acclaimed and award-winning books, including The Hunting of the Last Dragon, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults; The Raging Quiet, a School Library Journal Best Book and an ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults; Wolf-Woman, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults; Winter of Fire, an ALA/YALSA Recommended Book for the Reluctant Reader and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults; and The Juniper Game, a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age. She is also the author of Secret Sacrament, the prequel to Time of the Eagle and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. She lives in Tauranga, New Zealand.

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