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  • Cybele's Secret
  • Written by Juliet Marillier
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  • Written by Juliet Marillier
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  • Cybele's Secret
  • Written by Juliet Marillier
    Read by Justine Eyre
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Written by Juliet MarillierAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Juliet Marillier


List Price: $9.99


On Sale: September 09, 2008
Pages: 0 | ISBN: 978-0-375-89143-4
Published by : Knopf Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books

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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. . . .

Full of romance, danger, magic, and suspense, this is a story to excite the most adventurous spirit.


The deck tilted to port, and I tilted with it, grabbing at a rope to keep my balance. One day out from Constanta, the wind had turned contrary and the waters of the Black Sea rose and fell under the Stea de Mare’s belly like a testy horse trying to unseat its rider.

“You have excellent sea legs, Paula,” my father commented. He stood perfectly balanced, a veteran of more merchant voyages than he could count. This was my first.

The sail crackled in the wind. The crewmen, grim-jawed and narrow-eyed, were struggling to keep the one-master under control. When they glanced my way, their expressions were hostile.

“It unsettles them to have a woman on board,” my father said. “Ignore it. It’s superstitious nonsense. They know me, and you’re my daughter. If the captain doesn’t like it, he shouldn’t have accepted my silver.”

“It doesn’t bother me, Father,” I said through gritted teeth. Having good sea legs didn’t mean I relished the bobbing motion of the boat or the constant drenching in salt spray. Nor did I much care for the sense that if the Stea de Mare sank, these sailors would put the blame on me. “Is this going to delay us, Father?”

“It may, but Salem bin Afazi will wait for us in Istanbul. He understands what this means for me, Paula–the opportunity of a lifetime.”

“I know, Father.” There was a treasure waiting for us in the great city of the Turks, the kind of piece merchants dream of laying their hands on just once in their lives. Father wouldn’t be the only prospective buyer. Fortunately, he was a skillful negotiator, patient and subtle.

When he had first agreed to take me with him, it had been to allow me to broaden my horizons now that I was in my eighteenth year, to let me see the world beyond the isolated valley where we lived and the merchant towns of Transylvania that we sometimes visited.

But things had changed on the journey. Just before we were due to embark, Father’s secretary, Gabriel, had tripped coming down a flight of steps in the Black Sea port of Constanta. The resultant broken ankle was now being tended to in the physician’s house there while the Stea de Mare bore Father and me on to Istanbul. It was most fortunate that I spoke perfect Greek and several other languages and that I had Father’s full trust. While I could not take Gabriel’s place as his official assistant, I could, at the very least, be his second set of ears. It would be a challenge. I could hardly wait.

The wind had brought rain, the same drenching spring rain that fell on our mountains back home, flooding streams and soaking fields. It scoured the planks of the deck and wrapped the ship in a curtain of white. From where I stood, I could barely see the sail, let alone the bow cutting its way through choppy seas. The crew must be steering our course
Father was shouting something above the rising voice of the wind, perhaps suggesting we should go below until things calmed down. I pretended not to hear. The tiny cabins we had been allocated were stuffy and claustrophobic. Being enclosed there only emphasized the ship’s movement, and one could not lie on the narrow bunk without dwelling on how exactly one would get out should the Stea de Mare decide to sink.

“Get down, Paula!” Father yelled. A moment later a huge, dark form loomed up behind us. A scream died in my throat before I could release it. Another ship– a tall threemaster, so close I screwed my eyes shut, waiting for the sickening crunch of a collision. It towered above us. The moment it hit us, we would begin to go down.

Running steps, shouts, the clank of metal. I opened my eyes to see our crew diving across the deck, snatching implements to fend off the approaching wall of timber. Everyone was yelling. The helmsman and his assistant heaved on the wheel. I clutched on to Father, and the two of us ducked down behind the flimsy protection of a cargo crate, but I couldn’t bear not knowing what was happening. I peered over the crate, my heart racing. 

Aboard the three-master, a motley collection of sailors was busy hauling on ropes and scrambling up rigging while an equally mixed group had assembled by the rail, long poles extended across and downward in our direction. There were about two arm’s lengths between us.

“Poxy pirate!” I heard our captain snarl as he strode past. A shudder went through the bigger ship, as if it were drawing a difficult breath, and then the two vessels slid by one another, a pair of dancers performing a graceful aquatic pavane.

The wind gusted, snatching my red headscarf and tossing it high. As the scrap of scarlet crossed the divide between the boats, I saw a man set a booted foot on the rail of the three-master and swing up with graceful ease to stand balanced on the narrow rim. He took hold of a rope with one casual hand, then leaned out over the churning waters to pluck the scarf from midair while the ship moved on under full sail. The sailor was tall, his skin darker than was usual in my homeland, his features striking in their sculpted strength. As I stared, the fellow tilted himself back with the ship’s natural movement and leaped down to the deck, tucking the red scarf into his belt. He did not glance in my direction. The big ship moved away, and I saw its name in gold paint on the side:Esperança.

“Close,” muttered Father. “Altogether too close.” 

Despite my pounding heart, I felt more intrigued than frightened. “Did the captain say pirate?” I asked, unrealistic images of weathered seafarers with exotic birds or monkeys on their shoulders flashing through my mind.


From the Hardcover edition.
Juliet Marillier

About Juliet Marillier

Juliet Marillier - Cybele's Secret

Photo © Design Images Perth

“Why am I a writer? I write because I can’t not write. It’s frustrating, annoying, rewarding, and absorbing. Most of the time it makes me happy, occasionally it drives me crazy. It’s one of the most solitary and demanding occupations in the world. One of the nice aspects of the job is getting to talk to aspiring young writers. I tell them the best reason to do it is because your heart is in it–because you have stories to tell. Forget about being rich and famous!

“When I’m asked for tips on ‘how to,’ I say no amount of technique can make you a true storyteller. On the other hand, however gifted you are, you need technique to do the job well, so I suggest young writers read widely and acquire a strong foundation in the building blocks of language. You can’t break the rules effectively until you know how to use them.

“In my case, those building blocks came early. I grew up surrounded by books and music, with a strong emphasis on Celtic culture. My birthplace, Dunedin, New Zealand, was a kind of ‘little Edinburgh’ that had been settled by immigrants from Scotland. I read avidly from early childhood. From that developed my lifelong passion for mythology and folklore. The threads of these are strongly woven into my writing. I believe traditional stories provide insights into how to live our lives well and deal bravely with whatever fate throws in our path. They still strike a chord with us, even in this vastly different world. Despite constant change, we still face the same essentials of human experience: love and hate, loyalty and betrayal, the bonds of family and friendship, courage and fear, faith and disillusionment, hope and despair.

“I love to incorporate these high themes and heroic journeys into my work, and that may explain why I write fantasy, which lends itself to this kind of material. But the real heart of everything I write is human drama–the interactions between characters, their choices, their personal growth. That’s one reason the books are set, not in an imagined world, but in our world and in real history. Their magical elements are based on the folklore of the time and place. Most of my protagonists are young men and women dealing with the everyday challenges we recognize from our own lives. Wildwood Dancing, for all its fairytale trappings, is essentially a story of sisterly loyalty and the choices a teenage girl makes as she grows to maturity.”

Juliet Marillier lives in Western Australia. Her first novel was Daughter of the Forest, based on the fairytale The Six Swans. Since then she has written seven more historical fantasy novels for adult readers. Juliet’s books are published internationally and have won a number of awards. Wildwood Dancing is her first book for young adult readers. She is currently working on a sequel, Kybele’s Gift, set in Ottoman Turkey.


Starred Review, Booklist, July 1, 2008:
“Teens who didn’t know Marillier when they started this sandalwood-scented adventure will rapidly place her alongside the likes of romantic-fantasy idols Shannon Hale and Sharon Shinn.”

From the Hardcover edition.

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