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Wildwood #2

Cybele's Secret

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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. . . .

432 pages, Hardcover

First published November 1, 2007

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About the author

Juliet Marillier

76 books11k followers
Juliet Marillier was born in Dunedin, New Zealand and grew up surrounded by Celtic music and stories. Her own Celtic-Gaelic roots inspired her to write her first series, the Sevenwaters Trilogy. Juliet was educated at the University of Otago, where she majored in music and languages, graduating BA and Bachelor of Music (Hons). Her lifelong interest in history, folklore and mythology has had a major influence on her writing.

Juliet is the author of twenty-one historical fantasy novels for adults and young adults, as well as a book of short fiction. Juliet's novels and short stories have won many awards.

Juliet lives in a 110 year old cottage in a riverside suburb of Perth, Western Australia. When not writing, she tends to her small pack of rescue dogs. She also has four adult children and eight grandchildren. Juliet is a member of the druid order OBOD (the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.)

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,046 reviews
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
March 22, 2019
3.5 stars. In this Renaissance-era sequel to Wildwood Dancing (a wonderful fantasy that I highly recommend!), Paula, one of the younger sisters of the heroine in the first book, travels from Romania to Istanbul to help her merchant father with trading goods. Various adventures and a love triangle ensue.

I've talked with a few people who liked this one better than Wildwood Dancing, but it didn't quite do it for me. It felt a little bit by-the-numbers. I bogged down about 2/3 through and had a fairly hard time (while I was off popping down Kindle freebies like so much candy) making myself come back to Cybele's Secret and finish it.

I did like the exotic setting, historical Constantinople, and the pirate, Duarte Aguiar, with his quest of honor. Things I didn't care for so much:

*Impetuous heroine who does stupid things, even when I'm telling her not to.
*Love triangle, complete with
*Magical quest with several kinds of meaningless tests and trials. I've seen it too many times in YA fantasies lately. (I know, the author tried to explain why the tests were meaningful and necessary, but on a visceral level I just wasn't buying it.)
*Needless dithering over whether Paula's and Stoyan's social strata were too far apart.

I also had a bit of a hard time with Paula choosing I think I need another sequel with the other guy's ongoing story.

It's very different from the first book in this series, but it's a good follow-up that isn't just a retread of Wildwood Dancing.
Profile Image for Hannah.
797 reviews
October 5, 2012
LOVED, LOVED, LOVED THIS even better then the first book in the series (Wildwood Dancing). Perhaps more importantly (at least from my perspective), this book is not only a 5 star read, but is making me a big fan of two genres that I typically have major issues with and generally don't enjoy reading (YA and fantasy).

Marillier blends exotic fantasy with solid writing and creates worlds and characters that I admire and believe in. Her heroines are smart, resourceful and independent but still manage to retain their sense of being a young lady with higher goals then merely "getting the guy". Her heroes are swoon-worthy, intelligent, and tough and treat the heroine with respect and admiration mixed with just the right amount of romantic intrigue that a YA reading audience expects. This is a clean read, but it's not a dry one. Stoyan and Duarte bring plenty of sexy banter and romantic tension to the inevitable love triangle aspect of the story, and it's a good writer that can make the reader want both of them to capture our heroine Paula's (pronounced "Pow-la"'s) hand and heart at the end.

But Cybele's Secret is so much more then just a romance. In fact, the romance element really takes a back seat to the unfolding drama of the fantasy. There's deception, a treasure hunt, a mythical quest and a trial-by-fire that all our main characters will have to prove themselves by. The last 3 chapters are non-stop nail biters. I literally couldn't put the book down until the end. In addition, Marillier takes the reader on an armchair tour of the historic city of Istanbul, Turkey, with all it's rich and exotic east-meets-west cultural backdrop.

If you enjoyed Wildwood Dancing, you won't be disappointed in this second installment in the series. And there are some pretty tantalizing clues that the third book in the trilogy is going to be just as fantastic as the first two. Count me in for the ride, I can't wait to see what adventures little Stela is going to get up to and how she will hopefully bring about a reunion for all five sisters in the other kingdom.

***Extra kudos to the mind-blowing cover illustrator for both books in this series. These are, without a doubt, some of the most beautiful and intricately designed book covers I have even seen. Take a long look at the illustration and you will find many details from the storyline. The artist put so many hidden gems into the cover that I found myself going back again and again to study it, and ended up finding more and more things I had missed earlier. An absolute treat for the eyes.
Profile Image for Cassie.
47 reviews23 followers
January 9, 2008
Whenever I pick up a sequel book, I’m always hesitant, fearing the book simply won’t be as good as the first one. Thankfully, Cybele’s Secret lives up to the standards set by Wildwood Dancing. All the charm and wonder of Wildwood Dancing is here, and Marillier expertly builds on the magical framework she established in the first book, this time weaving in pagan cults and pirates. Unlike Wildwood Dancing, Cybele’s Secret doesn’t build off of any particular fairy tale, but instead uses the trials the Other Kingdom likes to set as the basis for an entirely unique tale.

The description alone is reason to pick up this book. Marillier lays out Istanbul in wonderful detail and vivid color. I like to get a glimpse into other cultures in my reading, at least when the author does it well. A good mix of the new and familiar can help the reader experience a place they’ve never been. This means using colloquial phrases and foreign words in the correct balance—just enough to give the flavor, without making the reader flip to a glossary ever five minutes. And of course, things need to be clear in context.

I’m betting most readers of Wildwood Dancing are eagerly awaiting this book. It’s just as good as you’re hoping, except when it comes to the release date. American fans will need to buy the book online from Australia or wait until Fall of 2008 in order to get their hands on a copy. I’m not sure why it’s been delayed so long, but reading an Australian copy isn’t hard, the only real differences (and you’ll probably have noticed the differences if you’ve read any English language books published outside the US) are that you only get single quotes for dialogue and some oddly spelled words.

This is one of those sequels that stars a character who was minor in the first book. Paula was certainly in Wildwood, but as the younger sister of the main character, and her impact on the story was minimal. So this book builds off of the world and family relationships established in Wildwood, but it can also stand on its own. All of what the reader needs to know about the girls earlier adventures in the Other Kingdom is recounted throughout the novel. In some ways, though, I think this might be an easier book to give to friends that you want to read Wildwood Dancing. The first relies a lot on magic, faeries, and the Other Kingdom, where as this book is much more about mystery and intrigue, with the Other Kingdom as simply an instigator.

The cover is once again beautiful and filled with hidden secrets. Like with Wildwood, I often found myself flipping back to the cover as more things became clear. Like many pieces of art, the cover tells a story of its own. I would be enchanted by it if I happened to come across it as a painting in a gallery.

Overall, this book was everything I hoped it would be. I finished in two nights (silly day life keeping me away from reading -_-) and was enthralled the entire time. From beginning to end, the tale is artfully woven with hints and intrigues. Looking at a few fan reactions on Marillier’s message board, some saw plot twists coming, while others were as surprised as I was. I like to think I got all the plot twists at just the right moment—early enough to go “I figured out what’s happening next!” with a gleeful giggle, not but not early enough that anything seemed predictable.
13 reviews3 followers
April 20, 2015
I was terribly disappointed with this book. I got the impression that the author spent a lot of time and thinking on Wildwood Dancing, but she had neither of these to spare for Cybele's Secret.

1. We were constantly told that Paula was super smart. What we saw was that she was a bit of a ninny.
At one point, Paula (the heroine)'s father is severely beaten and left unconscious in an alley. Paula believes she knows exactly who did such a heinous act. So what does she do? She leaves her bodyguard behind, and goes off to confront the evil man alone. On board his ship. Armed with phrases in the family of 'how dare you?' and nothing more.
Apparently, in Paula's superior scholarly mind, a woman can nag a villain into "see[ing] the error of his ways."

2. a. Other reviewers seem to really like Marillier's descriptions of Istanbul. I don't agree. It seems Istanbul is a very closed society, run on strict religious (Muslim) lines. Except, the only people Paula ever meets- and some of these are super powerful people- are Europeans. At one point, the author even lists some of the most influential people in Istanbul. These are a Genoese trader, a Greek lady and another European of non-Muslim descent.
The heroine seems to have met NO Turks and NO Muslims. To be fair, I gave up after getting 60% through. (The heroine should have been dead after nagging a bad guy anyway).

b. In another incident, Paula discusses Janissaries with Murat. Upon learning how brutal the system is, Paula says so. And Murat replies with something like, "this is a city full of secrets." Except everything he just told her was a matter of public record and general knowledge. However, I suppose it's important to make The East secretive. Because, otherwise, those Easterners may seem just like Us.
(PS I suppose I should just note that while it is true that Jannisaries were taken from Christian families until the 17th century, historians don't think they were castrated and made into faceless storm troopers. Janissaries were allowed to own wealth, position and also allowed to marry.)

c. We are repeatedly told that there are no women on the streets of Istanbul. Because Muslim women don't leave the harem.
Except, we already know that Istanbul had large populations of non-Muslims, and Europeans. Even today, the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox church is in Istanbul. This story was taking place before there was an independent Greece.
But apparently, these women didn't venture out either.
Harems were real, I know. But harems existed in rich households. Poor women went out into the streets to work. That's just life. That was how life was in Medieval Europe as well. Rich ladies travelled in litters and with retinue. Poor women walked from their home to their place of employment. So, sure, maybe Paula didn't see many ladies of rank on the street, but Paula herself was a trader's daughter, no matter how rich, she would have smelled of the shop to any ladies of rank in her native lands and here.

In Book 1, we are told that Transalvania is under Ottoman rule still, so I'm thinking, before the 18th century.
But they eat a porridge of cornmeal (bk 1), so it's after the New World is discovered; and Istanbul is ruled by Turks - so after 1453.
But then, the Jannisaries are still taken from Christian families- so before the 17th century.
So I imagine Transalvania would still be quite feudal. Then, is it ok for Paula to continue her sappy relationship with a peasant born hired gun? I'd find it quite unacceptable.
In this book, I am given a wealth of ideas on how awfully closed and stratified Turkish society was (without me ever encountering a living Turk), but how about Transalvanian society? Would a woman who grew up in a castle, not a noble, but a very wealthy land owner (in a feudal society?) not know how to deal with servants because she's not used to them? Really?

4. What was the story again?
Paula goes to Istanbul; stays cooped up; visits a suspiciously know-it-all, interfering lady; gets visions of her sister, Tati; attracts two men. In the background is a goddess from times of yore. There must be something else happening to make it all seem do-or-die, but that was all lost somewhere between her bodyguard's lectures and her pirate's intellectual chess playing.

Profile Image for Di Maitland.
266 reviews79 followers
July 17, 2021
3.5*s. This book is currently out of print so I was thrilled to have received it as a gift from my mother, sourced from Better World Books (a bookseller I highly recommend).

Cybele's Secret is the sequel to Wildwood Dancing, though the books follow different characters. I would recommend reading Wildwood Dancing first as a) it's the better book and b) you'll get more from the story, knowing the sisters, but it's not necessary.

"As a dream, it has practicality. At least you did not tell me you hoped to wed a prince and live in a castle." "Actually, I do live in a castle." I felt obliged to mention this. "But there's no prince, and the place has leaky roofs and collapsing floors. Like Murat, It's a jewel in its own way. One of a kind."

The story begins six years after Wildwood Dancing and follows Paula, now 17, the second youngest of the five sisters and a scholar through and through (we followed Jena, the second oldest, in Wildwood Dancing). Paula is travelling from Romania to Istanbul with her father, Teodor, a merchant looking to buy a rare and valuable religious artefact, said to have near-magical properties.

When competition for the artefact becomes deadly, Teodor hires Stoyan, a Bulgan guard to protect them and to show them the city. Even he, however, cannot protect Paula from the advances of charming businessman and maybe-pirate, Duarte da Costa Aguiar. It seems the Otherworld has plans for the three of them, though, and they must learn to work together or risk losing more than just the artefact.

For me, the real delight of this book was being able to explore historic Istanbul (the author says early Ottoman period but don't ask me when that is). I luxuriated in the hamam (bathhouse) with Paula and ooh and ahhed over the silk stalls.

I really liked Paula. She's kind and polite but has a good strong backbone and a fierce independent streak. I appreciated that, whilst her love clearly lay with books, she was just as happy–and as capable–tromping up a mountain.

"Black or white?" I asked him calmly. "For a villain such as Duarte da Costa Aguiar, it must be black, of course. For an innocent maiden held captive on a pirate ship, pure white."

Duarte was a fiery soul: charismatic and flirtatious, clever and competitive. He's used to having his way with both women and trade deals, and couldn't seem to help but push Paula's buttons. Stoyan, the more mellow of the two, was where my heart lay, however. He's strong but uses his strength to bolster and encourage others, allowing them the space to thrive and the comfort of his shoulder when they needed it. If I had to take just one of Marillier's male protagonists, it might be him.

"Paula, this may be a very big city, but in certain circles news travels fast, and gossip even faster. I heard he was showing a marked interest in you. I was told the good senior and your large watchdog exchanged glances like sword strokes while you busied yourself intimidating the hapless merchants of the çarsi. I wish I'd been there to see it."

Sadly, where this book fell flat was the quest. It felt flat, artificial and far too self-conscious. Granted, a portion of this artificiality is intended–designed, as the quest is, by the Otherworld–and I did enjoy, to an extent, the meta discussion of the nature of quests. However, overall, it just didn't work for me. It took too long to come to materialise, the tension wasn't right, the stakes seemed dubious and the goal frivolous. A shame as I found a portion of their journey quite exciting.

All in all, not one of Marillier's best. It was certainly enjoyable, and the setting was divine, but I wouldn't recommend it widely. If you're wondering where to start with Marillier, you're better off reading Daughter of the Forest and later seeing if you enjoy Wildwood Dancing.
Profile Image for Lark.
487 reviews15 followers
February 12, 2013
I was so close to giving this book 1 star because I started to dislike it so much towards the end. But no, I reserve one star for books that have horrid sentence structure, improper grammar, and just poor story-crafting skills. This book has no issues in terms of those three things.

However, I did not like this book. It was okay, but I can't say I liked it. The plot was too contrived. I was not engaged. The mystery and intrigue about the artifact wasn't interesting enough - I didn't care about it, why should I? She gave me no reason to care if we found it or not, other than that was their purpose. There wasn't enough importance to Cybele. Who cares? There was no reason to. It didn't affect any character at all. Poor motivation for the entire plotline of the story.

The characters were okay, but rather bland. There was no twist or turn to their personality. Of course Paula is a scholar and she proves it. Stoyan: of course he has depths and a intuitive mind, rather than just being a muscled body-guard. Of course Duarte is more than just the rakish pirate. It bores me to death. There was no spark in any of their interaction. Paual's voice wasn't exceptional either. It really almost just felt like Jena's except with a more scholarly take.

I think Marillier is weakest in dialogue. The words feel fake, the interactions don't seem real. There is no hidden intention or subtlety. Every character says exactly what is on their mind. It gives everything a very 2-D feel. The romance was too obvious. I felt like there was no spark between the characters. There is no tension, no tug or push and pull. It was just... boring.

I also figured out the big reveal very early on as well, which made the story infinitely more boring.

The father character was worthless except as a prop and an excuse to get Paula to Istanbul.
The tasks are ridiculous, just like Wildwood Dancing. There is no purpose to them beyond that fairy tales have them and they are expected. It is too easy to get past these stupid tests.
It is like Marillier has a preconceived notion of what should happen in a fairy tale novel and just inserts in random tasks and challenges just so. It says it tests for courage and faith and all that crap, but honestly? Not really. The characters breeze through the tests and trials in mere paragraphs. Ugh.

The ending sucked. What a disappointment. It's also like Marillier crams all the romance into the last 1/8 of the book. Everything is resolved except the romance. It pisses me off, really. It makes things so much more annoying when a book ends on finding "true love" when the entire book wasn't even really about true love. And why the heck do these strong women always waste away from true love? It's like it's a necessity in her books. Ugh.

I had to push through to finish - I almost wanted to drop the book halfway.

What I do like... the world building. She writes the backdrop of the story well. You can see the marketplace, the baths, the library. It's barely enough for me to hang on.

1.75 stars if that's possible? I guess 2 stars because I'm not really on a 0.25 scale. Recommended for people who read Wildwood Dancing and really want to finish the series. Not recommended for people who want a gripping book. Sorry if you are both types.
Profile Image for Grace.
246 reviews161 followers
October 23, 2008
I don't think Juliet Marillier wants me to get any sleep.

When I read _Wildwood Dancing_, the accompanying first volume in this series, I ended up staying up quite late to finish the book, something I've almost never done as an adult. (I can count on one hand the number of times) Well, true to form, book 2 also left me stifling a late-night yawn with one hand, and flipping pages with the other.

The book is well-written throughout, but when Paula is in Istanbul, it starts to drag just a little bit. But just at the moment I felt slightly restless, the book shifted into high gear (about midway through) and became impossible to put down.

I especially enjoyed this book due to the way I could personally relate to the protagonist. However, I still feel that the first book in the series has a slight edge in my estimation of it, and is a little bit better written in general. Perhaps this is because Marillier utilizes the "two big handsome men vie for the attentions of the lady who never knew she was beautiful" plot for this book...a plot that is featured in nearly every historical Christian romance I read as a teen, and of which I've had my fill for a lifetime.
Profile Image for Josie.
1,485 reviews31 followers
January 23, 2009
Oh goddd. I wanted to like this book more, for Katie's sake, but I just couldn't do it. :| The whole thing with Stoyan was just so awkward that I couldn't bear it. Right from the start I kept a little running tally in my head of all the Moments between Paula and Duarte/Stoyan, even though I knew she'd go for Stoyan in the end because he's the faithful, decent bloke. And therein lies the problem. I didn't like Stoyan. I'm not a fan of muscley men to begin with, but Paula never shut up about how big he was, etc etc, so that by the end of the book I was picturing this enormous man with a tiny head. asldkjfh it ruined the book for me, okay.

I didn't like the plot much either. "The Other Kingdom" felt like an excuse for "it's magic, therefore it doesn't have to make sense". What was up with ~the woman in black~ and the tapestry of the dancing sisters? Tati's role could have been chopped out, she was that useful. (Also, there's no real closure to that at the end! Cybele's gift is given back to the mountain people, but there's nothing about the sisters seeing Tati again. They just know and hope she'll find a way now that her quest is complete. Um, right.) The trials that Paula, Stoyan and Duarte have to go through in the mountain felt completely random. That scene where Paula has to stand on Stoyan's head while he punts a boat around a lake so she can collect insects on her body. I just. I don't even know what to say. I very nearly put the book down at that point. :|
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for h o l l i s .
2,476 reviews1,893 followers
February 10, 2023
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.

2.5 stars


This review can also be found at A Take From Two Cities.
107 reviews
March 3, 2009
I have come to realize I need to explain my three-star-rating here, because it is lower than many others rate this book. To begin with, I enjoyed the story - it was fun, and despite a slightly slow start, there was a lot of action and the all-important romantic angle to be enjoyed as well. Paula and both her love interests (I can't remember their names and don't have the book here with me) were very likable characters, and everything turned out well.
It wasn't a page-turner for me, however, even during the book's climax, mostly because I had lost the sense of conflict and purpose in the story. The folk of the Other Kingdom seem to follow no rules set up for them by the author. They seem to have power to do anything and work the lives of the humans like the strings of a puppet. Why did Tati have to complete some challenge just to visit her sister Paula? Because the Others like to set quests before granting a gift or favor? Why did Paula have to experience her own part in the quest? For character developement? Why would the Others care about that? Or was it soley for the Others amusement? Maybe I just don't get the book. The Others were in control and I didn't believe they would let anything bad happen to Paula (she was their friend from childhood, after all) and so there was no sense of danger to keep me turning pages feverishly, worried for her welfare...
Wildwood Dancing, on the other hand, was about three kids who each asked for a gift from one of the Others and were granted their desires, but things turned out much differently than they anticipated. The story is based in part on that old adage: be careful what you wish for...I could see the point behind their experiences.
Anyway, there you have it. I'm probably missing something that everyone else sees clearly - don't laugh too hard.
Profile Image for Alana.
130 reviews62 followers
March 13, 2009
It was an interesting read. I was compelled to get through it but I wouldn't say it was great. The whole thing with Stoyan... why?!

The book felt so contradictory, on the one hand you had the scholar Paula who is this forward thinking, brainy, almost feminist woman, who travels all the way to Istanbul and ends up acting as her fathers assistant in a society where there are huge inequality issues with women, and then as the book progressed she seemed to become less like this and more like No man has ever looked after me before and weepy and really quite stupid. I liked her more at the beginning than I did by the end which was quite unusual.

And why oh why didn't she choose Duarte? I thought there might still be a chance until she told him about the other kingdom and he scoffed at the idea. Stoyan was such an awful character though. I couldn't really get a feel for him after from him being very tall, serious and solemn. Duarte was so much more colourful, so much more likeable. I was genuinely disappointed when I saw the direction the story was taking.

The Cybele thing was quite interesting. A bit strange. I found Irene a great character. I didn't trust her from the start. I thought she was developed quite nicely and by the end I found myself kind of intrigued by her whole existance.

and as for Tati... sigh

I expect that will all be wrapped up in Stela's book. One can only hope.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Marquise.
1,747 reviews610 followers
February 1, 2017
While not as spectacular and engrossing as Wildwood Dancing, this second installment in the series was still very enjoyable to me, and is on the whole a more than correct follow-up.

After this, I'm starting to think Marillier has a couple of authorial quirks she would gain much from if improved on: her tendency to write dramatic love triangles, that thankfully don't wander into full-blown soap opera melodrama, to be fair, so for the most part can be taken as just peculiarities of her storytelling style; and another that's way more irksome: she really, but really, really needs to be more subtle with her villains and antagonists. She writes them in such a manner that it's clear as daylight they're the baddies or the rotten apples. I can't name one single book of hers whose villain/antagonist I haven't been able to identify in the first or second chapter! And this book was no different, I knew straight away that was no good in spite of appearances. It is one permanent element of her books that bothers me the most, for there is no surprise, no mind games, no larger-than-life baddies, because hers are always rather simple and with little layering.

Nonetheless, I'm quite satisfied with the conclusion of the arc in this book, and I do hope Juliet Marillier is planning to continue and doesn't stop here, because if felt like there's still a lot to tell and that the story of the five dancing sisters isn't over in the least. There's still threads hanging loose and unanswered questions, like when will Tati finally return from the Other Kingdom after earning the right to visit, and whether the younger sister, Stela, will be able to attain her heart's desire and return to see her friends in the other world.
Profile Image for Krystle.
913 reviews335 followers
May 6, 2010
I picked this book up mainly because of its beautiful cover. When I opened it up I was very disappointed to find out this was actually the sequel but as I started reading it, I realized that you don’t need to know anything about the previous book at all. It can stand up very well for itself.

You know. I’m going to say it, and this is very rare, but I absolutely loved this book. It was just the kick I needed. Cybele’s Secret is a mesh of awesome adventure, fantasy, romance, and excellent writing. I was so entranced by it that I just couldn’t put it down.

The characters were totally cool. I really loved the stoic bodyguard, Stoyan, that was hired to protect her. But don’t be mistaken, she’s not those passive, weak characters that can’t fend for herself or is ruled by the male presence. Paula is smart, quick witted, and is not afraid to get into the down and dirty of things. Sure, at first, she may seem a bit off putting because she’s stubborn but it helps the story grow and develop.

I loved the fact that it was set in Istanbul, which was a refreshing change from so other stories. The culture and festive atmosphere sparkled vibrantly with life and color. The adventure/quest half of the book was excellently done as well, keeping me on the edge of my seat.

Even if the story is a tad bit cliché in some areas, it still keeps you guessing, and eager to turn the pages. It helps that the writing is a delight to read as well. Beautiful descriptions that isn’t overdone. The ending of the book got kind of mushy but it’s the ending you can’t be unhappy with.

Other reviews have stated that this style of book is similar to Patricia McKillip’s later books, and lucky for me, I have Alphabet of Thorn somewhere in my to-read stack. I’m so excited to dive into that one too!

As soon I finished this book I wanted to read it again. Loved it!
Profile Image for H.S.J. Williams.
Author 6 books247 followers
March 21, 2022
It’s been a long time since I read this, but I remember enjoying it, and now I am enjoying listening to it on audiobook.
Profile Image for Kelsey.
101 reviews13 followers
February 8, 2017
In an unprecedented move for me, I have decided to stop reading this book halfway through. At 55%, I am the most interested I have been thus far and I still neither know nor care about ANY of the characters. After loving Wildwood Dancing, I was eager to jump into the second book, but this doesn't even feel like it wasn't written by the same author. Where Wildwood Dancing was breakneck from page 5 to the end and had some beautifully haunting lines, Cybele's Secret is sedate and boring with absolutely no creative zing. There are opportunities all over the place for the author to ramp up the tension, but she does not. I assumed this was to hit the reader with a really good middle leading into the rising action and climax, but no such luck. The boring characters have simply been shifted to another boring, claustrophobic location.

I had such high hopes for this book. The main character is Paula, who is known from the previous book to be the "scholarly" sister and practically handled almost all the major problems in Jena's story. However, in her own she merely likes to say how "capable" and "scholarly" she is while spending at least the first half of the book alternately crying, acquiescing to her father's every desire, or mooning over one of the two ridiculously tall and good-looking gentleman who have, for unknown and unexplained reasons, ended up in her path and interested in her. Jena at least tried to assert her independence against insurmountable odds, but Paula is perfectly happy, and in fact pleased, to have men tell her where to go, what to do, and even what to eat. This is the least independent heroine I have read in a long time and the only times Paula exhibits any sort of strength, she is immediately punished for it.

The best part about this novel, in fact perhaps the ONLY good thing about it, is the city of Istanbul. Descriptions of its buildings, culture, and food are utterly tantalizing and have managed to skyrocket Istanbul to the top of my to-travel list. However, even here the author hobbles herself by locking her main character (also the only point of view character) inside cramped and monotone buildings for the ENTIRE first half of the novel. Where I stopped reading, the character had instead been cramped into a different room, where her view of this fascinating place and time had similarly disappeared. Furthermore, the descriptions of Muslim and Turkish life we are privy to come in long streams of dialogue from Paula's father, interjected randomly into unrelated conversations. Most of these conversations have to do with listing concerns for Paula's safety (generally unsubstantiated by ANYTHING that has actually happened in the story) as reasons to further restrict her mobility.

Thinking back on the first half of this book, I feel like I read something about blank paper people moved about on sticks in a blank paper room while the MAGNIFICENT CITY OF ISTANBUL loomed in the background, frustratingly out of reach. Nothing but the author's singular talent in creating low-level tension throughout scenes has kept me reading this far. So, it is with a heavy heart that I consign this book to my pile of disappointing "dnf" and mark it as "read", never to return to it again. I'm not worried, as I'm pretty sure Paula will be perfectly fine in her safe little paper room without me having to watch her there.
Profile Image for Mónica.
239 reviews36 followers
February 7, 2017
Se já tinha adorado o primeiro livro desta série, este deixou-me ainda mais encantada. Arrebatou-me por completo. Ainda há pouco o acabei e já estou cheia de saudades das personagens e das suas valorosas aventuras.

"O Segredo de Cibele" permite-nos reencontrar Paula, uma das 5 irmãs que faziam parte do livro "Danças na Floresta", e acompanhá-la juntamente com o seu pai, o mestre Teodor, numa viagem comercial até Istambul. Teodor é um reputado comerciante que viaja até às terras do antigo império otomano em busca de um artefacto religioso para o qual tem um importante comprador em vista.

No entanto, aquilo que inicialmente parece uma mera transação comercial, transforma-se numa enorme demanda em busca desse mesmo artefacto. Ao chegar a Istambul Paula e o seu pai percebem que há várias pessoas interessadas em conseguir adquirir a estátua da deusa Cibele, e nem sempre através dos meios mais lícitos.

Durante a estadia naquela maravilhosa cidade somos impactados com a cultura muçulmana, os seus trajes e costumes, os seus cheiros e mercados, sentindo nós próprios que também lá estamos e temos o privilégio de desfrutar dos corrupio dos han, onde decorrem as transações comerciais, dos hammam, em que nós entregar aos rituais dos banhos e massagens, bem como do frenesim mercantil da Istambul de alguns séculos atrás.

É neste ambiente que Paula volta a reencontrar a sua irmã Tati e que, juntamente com o forte é dedicado Stoyan e o sedutor pirata português Duarte da Costa Aguiar, entramos também nós numa perigosa missão em busca daquilo que mais importa.

Um livro absolutamente delicioso, que nos impele a virar compulsivamente as suas páginas até chegarmos ao final desta grande aventura no Oriente. No final, senti que a autora deixou algumas pontas soltas que nos fazem crer que a história das cinco irmãs não fica por aqui, embora não tenha sido escrito mais nenhum livro desta série.

Adorei este livro é recomendo sem reservas a todos aqueles que gostam de um bom livro de literatura fantástica!

Profile Image for Susana.
489 reviews149 followers
August 23, 2016
(review in english below)

4* bem merecidas!

Ainda bem que reconsiderei e decidi ler este 2º volume das Danças na Floresta. É muito diferente do primeiro, para melhor! Um cenário envolvente (Istambul), personagens interessantes e bem caracterizados, uma história com livros, intriga, aventura e romance - incluindo um pirata português do qual se diz que "ninguém merecia ser tão bonito" - fizeram com que me reconciliasse com a autora.

Devorei os últimos capítulos (o último nem tanto, é um anti-clímax a preparar um 3º volume que provavelmente nunca chegará a sair) e fiquei com pena de deixar esta história.

Recomendado a quem goste de fantasia com aventura e romance, não esquecendo que é dirigido a um público no início da idade adulta (embora neste caso isso não tivesse feito diferença).

4 well deserved stars!

I'm glad I reconsidered and decided to read this second book of the Wildwood Dancing series. It's quite different, for better, from the first one!
An exotic setting (Istambul), interesting characters, a story that includes books, intrigue, adventure and romance - and a portuguese pirate of whom it is said that "nobody deserved to be so handsome" - reconciled me with this author.

I devoured the last chapters (not so much the very last one, which is an anticlimax, meant to make way for a third book that will probably never be written) and I was sad to leave this story.

I recommend this to those who like fantasy with lots of adventure and romance, bearing in mind that it's YA literature (although that didn't matter in this case).
Profile Image for Ashley Daviau.
1,807 reviews795 followers
May 14, 2016
I'm quite disappointed to say that I enjoyed this nowhere near as much as I enjoyed the first book in the series. I found it slow and boring until about halfway through when things started picking up. I don't know if it was the setting or the plot but this book just lacked the magical, spellbinding aspects of the first. After the halfway point I did enjoy it a remarkable amount more but there was still just something missing.
Profile Image for Paula.
433 reviews249 followers
June 15, 2021
Me lo he pasado genial leyendo este libro que en partes me recordaba a “Indiana Jones y el templo maldito” o a “Los Goonies” o a “Tras el corazón verde”, o a todas aquellas películas de aventuras con magia y tradiciones, piratas, gente variopinta y acertijos y pruebas que superar. Y, como siempre, todo de la mano mágica de la Marillier que envuelve al lector hasta hacerlo su cómplice.
Profile Image for Erica (storybookend).
372 reviews286 followers
June 26, 2011
I fell in love with Wildwood Dancing, the story of five sisters caught in an enchantment, living in a fairytale retold beautifully and captivatingly by brilliant author Juliet Marillier. And when I found there was a sequel, I knew I must acquire it soon, so as to not have to leave this enchanted world just yet. With an intriguing premise, and the promise of enchantment and romance, Cybele’s Secret called out to me, beckoning. I was prepared to not love it utterly like I did with WD, as I’d heard it wasn’t as good, and while it may not have had that same enchantment with stunningly beautiful prose and endearing characters that worked their way into my heart, it wasn’t altogether a disappointment, still managing to intrigue me with its adventures and the subtle romance.

In Wildwood Dancing, Paula and her sisters traveled to an enchanted world where they danced the night away. Except for Paula, who much preferred conversing with scholars there, cultivating a love of books and wisdom. It is because of this that Paula accompanies her father in Cybele’s Secret on a quest to find a lost artifact deeply desired by many with its priceless quality and secrets it holds. Here Paula meets Stoyan, who is hired as her bodygaurd, and Duarte, the enigmatic pirate who she had first seen on seas. Together, these three embark, albeit some unwillingly, on an adventure to recover this artifact, in the process, learning new things about themselves and each other.

I had a hard time connecting with the characters. Paula’s voice wasn’t quite distinctive and didn’t make me latch onto her right away. I felt all the characters could have used some fleshing out. This isn’t to say I didn’t like them, because I did. I especially liked Stoyan, and his quiet, intimidating demeanor. From the start, he is so protective of Paula, and would do anything to keep her safe. There was a slight love triangle, but with the focus more on the adventure, the romance was more an underlying hint, yet still managing to excite me, because as a hopeless romantic, I swoon at any beautiful romance. And I did. Swoon. But more towards the end when the romance fully manifested, and the two were finally together.

And I so missed the enchanting, luscious prose that I have come to expect of Marillier. It was starkly present in Heart's Blood, my first read of hers, and then beautifully portrayed in Wildwood Dancing. But here, in Cybele’s Secret, I just found it lacking. There were hints of it, but it just wasn’t the same. It was still written well, of course it was, that is just a talent Marillier possesses. But it could have been better, it could have been more lyrical and beautiful.

Yet, despite these little nagging bits, I still loved the story. The first half of the book may be a little slow, as the adventure hasn’t started, and there’s no romance, just subtle hints of it, but the rest of the book made up for it, with the danger and wit, and budding romance that ends in a beautiful bloom. In the end, I can’t say that everyone who loved WD will love this book, but its still an intriguing read, with hidden gems in it.

And lastly, I love the cover. Just as I do with WD. It may seem strange at first glance, but as you keep looking at it, and then read the story, you notice little things in there which are in the story, and I just love it.
Profile Image for Tessa.
448 reviews48 followers
July 15, 2014
Such a disappointment. Cybele's Secret had none of the magic and strong female character Wildwood Dancing presented. Paula's attempts to look smart are laughable at best. I managed to read 300 freaking pages and it got painfully obvious how this will going to end. When I realized the lack of enjoyment those 300 page brought me I decided there's no use to read the remaining 130.

Long review will follow.
Edit: here it is

Being book smart and street smart are 2 different things. Our heroine, Paula, is a scholar and is striving to apply her knowledge in the man world of the merchants. Her loving, indulgent father takes her on a trip to Istambul where they hope to be able to buy a rare artifact called Cybele's Secret.

First thing I didn't like about this book: Why did her father wanted to acquire the artifact? To re-sell it or just for his merchant's pride? Romania was a deeply religious country. A pagan artifact would do nothing besides terrifying the population. So yes, the intrigue of this book was weak and never explained.

Second thing I didn't like about this book: the description. It's long and useless. We never get a solid description of the amazing city, it's people, the cult, anything... All the important characters in this book are not turks. Why set this story in Istambul to begin with? She could have easily set it in one of the Romanian ports since she seem to have more knowledge about that country.

Third thing I didn't like about this book: Paula. OMG, this girl has no self preservation instinct. Her father is beaten to a pulp and she just goes after the person she thinks is responsible in order to confront him. You would say that's courageous. It's not if you're going to go and confront your vicious, ruthless opponent without your bodyguard and with only and indignant "how dare you?" in your arsenal. That's just stupid. Really, that's her battle strategy? For a person who read so many book you would think she would know better.

Forth thing I didn't like about this book: the cryptic message the fey world was trying to send Paula. It didn't had a solid construction. Fey ask you to start a challenge after you requested something. What did Paula request? Also, if this journey had the purpose of helping her mature, it didn't do a good job. After finishing 3/4 of this book Paula is still the same wise-ass, nagging, infuriating chick she was at the beginning.

Fifth thing I didn't like about this book: the forced love triangle. Really, the second guy was put there only to confuse you to no end. She never actually interacts with him or has any chemistry with him. You can see from the first meeting the guy she's going to end up with. And really, the second one didn't even show that much interest in her. Telling a girl that she's pretty does not equal you want to marry her.

Sixth thing I didn't like about this book: the 2 dimensional bad characters. Really, the only thing missing from them was the evil laugh every time they almost got the main character but they didn't get her because they decided to have a chat first. *rolls eyes*

Combine all the six elements above and add to them a dose of useless boring description and a lot of pages where nothing happens and you can pretty much guess my experience with this book.

So, yes, a very disappointing book and I think the main problem here was that I kept comparing it to Wildwood Dancing. That one was an amazing book and really deserves your attention. this one? Not so much.
Profile Image for Linaria.
696 reviews43 followers
July 19, 2018
While not my favourite Marillier book (That award goes to her spectacular Heart's Blood), this is a strong follow-up to her YA debut, Wildwood Dancing. Cybele's Secret follows the younger sister of the main character of Wildwood Dancing as she journeys to Istanbul from Transylvania to help with her father's trading business.

Since Paula and her sisters lots their access to the other world, she has been looking for a way back. By journeying to a land of scholars, Paula may have access to some book or document that will help in her search. There are dangers though, someone doesn't want her father to complete his trade. With murderers, pirates, and questionable bodyguards, Paula doesn't know who to trust.

Marilier always has a lush voice to her writing, and this one does not disappoint. The setting is vibrant and richly detailed. It has Juliet Marillier's standard romance, where you can't help but love the characters and want to give them a giant hug. Stoyan was possibly not my favourite of the love interests, but it was still expertly done.

I don't care how many years go by, I will hold out hope for Stela's book.
88 reviews12 followers
February 12, 2009
This book is probably 4 1/2 stars, close to a five but not quite. I really loved the authors portrayal of gender roles. I loved how it showed that men and women are capable of great things independently, but that we really need each other at the same time. I loved how the book showed that true love is measured by the caring and sacrifice, and not just by physical attraction, charm, and wit. I loved the subtle message put in their that true love, children, and family are more important than any other goal. If we focus on those three goals first, we will be able to accomplish other goals beyond them.

The book was pretty clean too.
Profile Image for Gigi.
47 reviews21 followers
May 23, 2017
My favorite book that I keep coming back to re-read over and over again!
Profile Image for Kailey (Luminous Libro).
3,061 reviews454 followers
November 7, 2018
Paula travels with her merchant father to Istanbul, hoping to acquire a religious artifact of rare and precious value. There is fierce competition for the artifact, and unscrupulous merchants will use violence to get their hands on it. Paula's father hires a bodyguard, Stoyan, to keep his daughter safe on the dangerous streets. Paula befriends a wayward pirate captain, Duarte, hoping to get information from him about the artifact. The powers from the Other Kingdom send Paula on a quest, to retrieve the artifact, to unravel the riddles surrounding its history, and to learn from her perilous voyage the meaning of love and friendship.

My heart is too full! I can barely think, my mind is still reeling with all the complex details of the story. I have cried and laughed and clutched the book with white knuckles. What a journey! My heart just went on a rollercoaster ride, and I am still gasping for breath.

The plot is entrancing! The adventure and puzzles and riddles kept me guessing and wondering and full of suspense. There is so much action and chaotic commotion with everything in jeopardy for our characters. I could barely put the book down!

I loved Paula's character. She is perfection in every way. She is weak and strong, smart and foolish, passionate, kind, and full of fear and courage, all in wonderful balance that pushes her character development forward.
I adore Stoyan and Duarte too! They are both so different, but adorable and strong and compassionate. They both have good hearts, and I was swept away in every encounter that Paula had with them.

Even the supporting characters are wonderful! There is one very minor supporting character who only has a few scenes, and barely speaks three lines of dialogue, but when he died I was crying. I was so upset and emotional about this character who has a tiny part in the story, and yet, the incredible writing made me love him with just a few sentences. Now THAT is excellent writing!

I love the gorgeous and mystic Turkish setting of Istanbul during the Ottoman empire. It was really lovely to see prim European Paula experiencing the sights and sounds and smells of a new culture in a new city. It's the perfect backdrop for a mystical story.

I love the riddles and puzzles, and the myths and magic of the Other Kingdom! It's all woven together so beautifully. I wish I could give this 10 stars!
Profile Image for Paige.
77 reviews26 followers
October 27, 2015
See this review and more reviews at http://fortheloveofliterature.com/

This book was a surprise for me! I expected it to take place in one of Juliet Marillier's usual settings: a mysterious forest, a mountain glade, high cliffs battered by an ancient ocean. Instead, I found myself among the colorful bustle of the "Golden Horn"- Istanbul. I stepped off the boat with Paula into the enticing markets filled with a thousand spices to tempt your nose and mountains of silks to catch your eye. I've never been to Istanbul in my reading adventures (or in real life, for that matter), and it proved to be an exciting setting. I was able to learn about a culture that is so different from mine while being pulled and prodded along by the narrative.

I was excited that this book featured Paula- one of the sisters I wanted to get to know better from Wildwood Dancing. She's the scholar of the clan, but she has a lot more to learn during the quest the Other Kingdom assigns for her. There was only one slow part for me, between the beginning and midway, but picked up to the pace of a stay-up-until-I-turn-every-last-page book.

And I have to say- there was a love triangle that didn't make me want to scream! Leave it up to Juliet Marillier to do a love triangle right! It wasn't cheesy, immature, obsessive, nor did it take over the plot. I enjoyed the conclusion of it so much, it may have made this reader gush. There's something about the way Marillier does romance that always grasps the core of my heart.

As I leave behind the luxurious bath houses and the fragrant coffeehouses of Istanbul, I am once again reassured that this author will never disappoint me.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,015 followers
January 27, 2011
To my surprise, I actually enjoyed Cybele's Secret more than Wildwood Dancing. The main problem I had with Wildwood Dancing was the predictability, and maybe the tortuous way everything went wrong, and so the pacing... For the most part, Cybele's Secret was better, in that respect. I didn't figure out the whole plot in the first fifty pages as I did with Wildwood Dancing, so it didn't drag so much for me -- and when it got to the last part, I was hooked, toes curling with excitement, grinning like an idiot: the lot.

My main criticism of Cybele's Secret is how very, very similar Paula's tone was to Jena's. The two sisters are alike, but... Not so alike, I'd thought. I might have been reading the same narrator, though, or so it seemed to me... And the separation of Paula and her father, the way she got on the ship... Once she was on the ship, she acted in character, but there was nothing level-headed about going to confront a man she believed to be violent, unscrupulous and cruel. I didn't believe that as something she would do. Which is unfortunate, because part of the plot hinged on that.

I predicted who would be following them, too, and even how she would end, so it still didn't keep me on my toes -- but the feeling of utter familiarity wasn't there.

It's hard to say, after that, what I did like so much. Duarte and Stoyan, mainly. I believed in both their characters, and in their different loves for Paula. And I believed in her affection for them. The end made me smile a lot.
Profile Image for Jill Myles.
Author 42 books1,635 followers
December 18, 2014
Can I just say how much I love the Kinuko Craft covers? Because seriously, when I grow up, I would love to have a Kinuko Craft cover. Look at how gorgeous that is! And is that Stoyan in the corner? *swoons*

I'm giving this one 4 stars instead of 5 because while the characters were amazing and the storyline fun and detailed and the romance as wonderful and sweet as I expected, I struggled with the setting a little. I set this book down about a year or so ago at the 20% mark because it was slooooow and I picked it up again a few days ago just to see if it was as slow. Nope! So I finished it, and I'm happy I did. There's a lot of back and forth in the beginning, and the plot builds slowly for a while, but then it turns into a breakneck sort of pace with an Indiana-Jones-esque sequence as they return the statue which made my nerdy heart pitter-patter.

Also...Stoyan. <3<3<3 Gotta love yourself a strong, stoic, silent hero.

If you want a book JUST like Wildwood Dancing (and I kinda did, I admit it), this ain't it. Which is a little sadmaking, since it's clearly Wildwood #2 (even says so in the header). But if you look at it as a standalone story on its own, it's fun and adventurous. I don't know that I'll read it again like the Sevenwaters books, but it captured my attention and imagination, so I'm happy.
Profile Image for Brittnee.
222 reviews
February 9, 2017
Loved the setting - Istanbul. This story reminded of an Indiana Jones type adventure. I enjoyed the first book in this series but I liked this one, #2, a lot more. FYI book club girls - Tati did have part in this story, but she didn't drive me crazy like in book #1. :)
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