I read two books by my favourite author on the weekend. And while richly imaginative and crammed with myth, legend and romance, they both had the same fatal flaw. Which made me sad. 

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier is a wonderful creation woven from various stories and myths - the twelve dancing Princesses, the Golden ball (or Frog King), the Night People (vampires) and the fairy folk. 
Set in Transylvania in Romania (and may I just say I so so so want to go there.*) the descriptions, as always with Marillier, are evocative and vivid. Jena and her 4 sisters live in a crumbling tower with their father, a trader. Their mother is dead and due to fading health their dad goes to warmer climates for the winter, leaving Jena in charge. The sisters also have a secret - every full moon they slip through a portal into the world of the fae folk where they dance the night away. As winter progresses the sister's cousin tries to limit their power and freedom and brutally attacks the fae folk, whom he blames for killing his brother. Short of money and support, tension with the sisters run high. The sisters' varying loves lead them to pull in different directions, when they most need to work together. 
There is true love, betrayal, quests, the manipulations of the fae folk and innocent mortals caught in immortal coils. Jena, the protagonist, is strong and resourceful as she struggles to keep her family together and the stakes are satisfactorily high. 
However there was one scene that threw me out of the story - I thought Jena's reaction to the re-transformation of her frog (if you know the story you know that's going to happen, so hopefully that's not too much of a spoiler.) Going on the fragments of a dream and some random stuff a character she doesn't like says, Jena turns her back on her best friend of years and years and years and leaves her friend half naked in the winter cold.(Okay, that's a spoiler, sorry) And... it just threw me. Why? How could she be so cruel? This was her best friend? It didn't ring true for me and I had a hard time working it out. 
This was a shame because everything else was brilliantly done. The book was atmospheric and haunting. The location was wonderful evoked and the characters appealing, both the villains and the 'goodies'
Which made it even worse in some way when Jena behaved in a way that seemed so out of character. I liked Jena. I liked seeing the world through her eyes. And then... suddenly it seemed I was the one out in the cold, harshly kicked out of the character I'd been enjoying. 
Now remember that I still have the sniffles and my head hurts.(And my ears and my nose and my eyes...not that I'm whining, but)  So maybe I'm being overly harsh. Maybe I'm focusing too much on that one scene. It did remind me of the The Writewell Academy's audio on Character and how important it was for the character not to do anything that wasn't them. At the time I listened to that I wracked my brains and thought nah. I don't remember anything like that happening in a book. Now I do. And Writewell was right. It's a crime against the reader. 
So... yes, I still loved the book. Yep. 4 stars. But that last star was solely gone on that one scene. And I'm still wailing why

Cybele's Secret

Cybele's Secret is about the same family we met and loved in Wildwood Dancing. The younger, scholarly, daughter, Paula, journeys with her merchant father to Istanbul. Here Paula's father intends to buy an unusual, ancient statue. Paula is involved in many intrigues and ends up on a desperate quest with two young men, both of which (for reasons that elude me) are besotted with her. 
Once again the strengths of this book are its descriptions. Istanbul comes vividly to life and the characters all seem very real. The stakes are high and each person has their own quest. 
Which is why... once again, the main character behaving out of character very much threw me. 
At a pivotal point in the story, Paula, who is supposed to be exceedingly clever, puts on a disguise, runs out of the hotel and across town and accosts the man she believes (on very little evidence) has had one man killed and her own father savagely beaten. She boards his ship to tell him exactly how bad this is. And I'm just going - uhhuh. That's exactly what a highly intelligent girl would do. Run away without telling anyone, board a shipload of strange men and tell them just why they shouldn't beat people up and steal stuff. Meanwhile her father, never particularly healthy, is unconscious and badly beaten. 
I also thought Paula ended up with the wrong guy. (Spoiler alert!) I wasn't quite sure why either of the men liked her so much to begin with - but she seemed to have so little in common with the one she did end up with I was perplexed. While the other one... well that one made sense. 

My favourite character was Duarte, the reformed pirate. He was well read, witty, intelligent, brave, resourceful and kept his promises. However, the heroine preferred the guy who mutely adored her and was illiterate (although she had started teaching him to read and he could write his name by the end of the book) 
a. I didn't get why the guy mutely adored her when she was quick tempered, quick to judge and behaved irrationally. (No, I am nothing like that. Nothing!) 
b. I don't get the silent type. Intelligence is a turn on. Love of learning is a turn on. Intelligent conversation about literature and the sciences is a turn on. 
Silent adoration from the get-go? Creeps me out. Illiteracy? Yep. I'm shallow. Not a turn on. 
The life Paula chose with guy no. 2 would have her building a burgeoning book business and talking to lots of fascinating people, while her husband plodded around carrying the books. Which has it's strong points, but... No. And no. And no. With the other guy she could have had her scintillating conversations with her husband, rather than randoms. They could have been a real partnership. 
Of course, I'm superficial. With the guy she chose they had 'a spiritual awareness'. I'll take the sparring conversation with the ex-pirate any day. 
Shallow, shallow, shallow. Sigh. 
Anyway - full marks for description, plot, tension. But... why