Publisher: Random House | Knopf
Pages: 448 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Paperbacl
Series: Wildwood #2
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Summary from Goodreads
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.
Thoughts on Cybele's Secret
After finishing Wildwood Dancing, I decided to dive right in to Cybele's Secret. Although the previous book ended in resolved way, I was excited to spend more time with these sisters! Cybele's Secret focuses on Paula, the second youngest of the five children first introduced in Wildwood Dancing.
Years have passed since the events in that book, but Paula's love for learning is unchanged. She's older now and is about to embark on an adventure. Instead of venturing into the Other Kingdom, Paula is headed to Istanbul with her merchant father. He's learned that a rare artifact may be available for purchase, and he cannot resist chasing it down. Paula accompanies him, but they realize this will be no ordinary journey from the moment they arrive. Danger lurks around every corner, and they no longer know who can be trusted. To save her loved ones and the artifact, Paula must unlock a puzzle that will have unimagined consequences.
As with Wildwood Dancing, it took some time before I was hooked. When Paula and her father first arrive in Istanbul, I really wasn't that interested in their search for the artifact. Although its significance is explained, I honestly never cared very much for that part of the story. But what I did find fascinating is the way the book progresses once Paula figures out she needs to solve a puzzle. The mysterious woman in black, the mission to return something to the place it belongs... I actually liked the plot in this book more than one in the first book.
I never completely understood the reason for some of the conflict, but it was still an exciting read! It blends the hunt for artifact with a mythical quest, so you know there are dangerous challenges and lots of deception. But it's not all adventure... Oh no, there's still time for falling in love! There are a number of important secondary characters, but it's the two (yes, two) love interests who most stand out. While I definitely had my favorite, I loved watching Paula interact with them both. While it's not the most prominent part of the book, it was actually my favorite aspect. I definitely swooned a little while I was reading!
So, what didn't work for me? As I've mentioned, it starts off a bit slow. In addition, I thought Paula was a somewhat frustrating heroine. For someone who's supposed to be the scholar of the family, she frequently seems clueless. Many of the puzzles are actually solved by her bodyguard! The book makes her sound so smart, but then she rarely proves it. The only other thing that didn't work for me at times was the setting. There are some info dumps about the city's religious division, its history, and other details I found boring (or unnecessary).
But would I recommend reading it? If you've already started this series, yes! There some unresolved threads setting up a third book, but it doesn't seem to be forthcoming at this point. Thankfully, the main storylines in Cybele's Secret are resolved enough that I won't be sad if the third isn't published. And if you haven't started this series but love a blend of history, fantasy and adventure, these books might be perfect for you!
"If a man truly loves, Paula, such a word as this does not enter his mind. He does not consider the obstacles, the restrictions, the reasons why his choice may be flawed or impractical. He gives no heed to what others may think. His heart has no room for that, for it is filled to the brim with the unutterable truth of his feelings."