From School Library Journal
Grade 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
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*Starred Review* Adult-market fantasist Marillier enlarged her teen following with her first YA novel, Wildwood Dancing (2007), about five Transylvanian sisters with ties to the mercurial Other Kingdom. In this honeyed draught of a companion novel, bookish, 17-year-old Paula travels to Istanbul to assist her father in delicate negotiations for Cybele’s Gift, a pagan totem raising a hue and cry among the city’s Muslim clerics. Every bidder risks danger, so Paula and her father hire a bodyguard, Stoyan, who gradually becomes an active partner in Paula’s efforts to decipher portents from the Other Kingdom—a plotline predicated on the first book’s fairy world building but readily accessible to newcomers. Marillier embroiders Ottoman Empire cultural details into every fold and drape of her story, which also interweaves pirates, eunuchs, hidden currents of feminine power, and turbulent journeys across sea and land. Not every thread is neatly knotted, with slow-burning questions about Stoyan’s long-lost brother and Paula’s exiled sister are too hastily dispatched. Of greater importance to teens, though, will be Paula’s determination to be more than merely “curves and smiles, blushes and modest speech,” and her incremental, often-muddled acknowledgment of her deepening feelings for earthy, solid Stoyan. 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. Grades 7-10. --Jennifer Mattson