THE ORACLE BETRAYED (originally known as THE ORACLE) by Catherine Fisher is a wonderful book for Middle-grade kids, about an unknown place set in the ancient past where Greek religious rites are blended with Egyptian ritual. There’s been a drought and the Archon is being sacrificed to make rain. But who is to be the next Archon? And has the process of choosing him been corrupted by some ruthless individuals who are in power?
What struck me about this book, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Chidren’s Award, was the quality of the writing.
They walked down the path. In the sizzling heat Hermia said, “are you afraid?”
“Should I be?” Mirany whispered.
The mask swiveled. “I’ll assume that was a serious question, and not impudence. Indeed you should. Yours is a dangerous honor for a girl so inexperience.
She knew that…When Alana had died all the girls had whispered about who would be next Bearer, but when Hermia had sent for her this morning and told her she’d been chosen, she hadn’t been able to believe it. Neither had anyone else.
The terror had come later, growing all day…Fear tasted sour. A prickling, her heart thudding, and that sickening, sweating emptiness. She swallowed a huge lump of it in her throat but it was still there, choking her…
Although it is told via multiple points of view, at no time did I ever feel confused. We start off in Mirany’s point of view, the young girl who’s been chosen for the dangerous task of Bearer. After several chapters, we move into the point of view of Seth, a cocky young man who is a scribe in the archives. The multiple point of view works in this book because each protagonist has a rich life that needs exploring. (In a recent book that I read, written in multiple point of view, it didn’t work so well. And now I wonder if that because one of the protagonists was glued to the bed suffering from kidney disease. Since he really couldn’t go out and have a life of his own, having part of the story written in his voice didn’t make much sense.)
The only problem I had with this book was with the chapter titles. I found them distracting. But the gripping story line and wonderful writing more than made up for that. Five stars.