Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Oracle Betrayed by Catherine Fisher

I recommend this book for: middle and high school

In a world somewhat based on Ancient Egypt, nine priestesses serve the god, who by turns takes form as a scorpion, a snake, and inhabits the body of one man, known as the Archon. The highest priestess is the Speaker, who communicates with the god through the Oracle - and the current Speaker is involved in a plot to replace the Archon with a puppet who can be controlled by herself and the general, her lover. The current Archon knows of the plot, and warns Mirany, the newest and meekest of the Nine, putting the fate of the nation in her very unsure hands. From doubting the very existence of the god, Mirany is suddenly risking her life to find and protect his new incarnation, a 10 year old boy, and making very unlikely alliances along the way.

The premise is fantastic, and this came highly recommended - so I was disappointed when I read this one. The world is well-built and interesting, and Fisher clearly spent a lot of time developing the culture and religion. The characters, however, left something to be desired. Mirany's change is very swift, and Rhetia, another priestess, seems to completely change motivations midway through the book. One plot point that bothered me was the law that a priestess who betrayed the Oracle was to be sealed alive in the tomb of the Archon. It works out here because the Archon has just been sacrificed - but what do they do if a priestess betrays the Oracle at another time? Kill the Archon off so she can be buried alive? Dig up the last one and throw her in? It just didn't fly with me. There were also a few places where I was unable to tell whether what was happening was actually happening or happening in a vision - and maybe that's what Fisher was going for, but I found it confusing. So overall, pretty interesting, but not a favorite, and I don't see myself reaching for the sequel anytime soon.

But hey, everyone else seemed to like it . . .

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