“The wind smelled of rock and ice the night their father took Nikko’s sister out to die.” This is a wonderful opening sentence and if you have been reading for a long time you will know for certain this baby is not going to die and that Nikko will be our hero and he will rescue her. Jackie French is such a master storyteller. I simply devoured this wonderful book about life in Ancient Greece.
“Things done in darkness could be ignored. But it was daylight now. … His sister was safe.” I just had to tell you this part so you can breathe again knowing everything will be fine.
Nikko rescues Thetis and so changes the destiny of their lives. They live in a poor mountain village in a rocky environment where food is scarce and goats are the main source of income. Each year the High King sends his tribute gatherers to gather a tenth of the year’s produce. The people of Nikko’s village try to hide their best goats and their grain stores but Orkestres comes upon the children and their goats as they head up the mountain and so the village plans are thwarted.
Orkestres is not a solider or gatherer, he is an entertainer who performs for the High King and is also sent to distract the people in each village as their hard fought resources are taken away. Orkestres is a wonder to behold. “He was bare-chested…. His skin shone like a pot rubbed with oil. Stones shone from his earlobes and wrists and ankles … his hands were empty; he had not even a hunting spear of knife.”
It is Orkestres who will change the lives of Nikkos and Thetis forever. He sees in the siblings a special talent which he thinks might amuse the High King. He offers to swap the children for the village tribute. It is quite a chilling scene when their father simply states “You can take them.”
The new life is both wonderful and terrifying. These two children do indeed perform for the High King and their dance is breathtaking but there is also the constant threat of what might happen if they fail to please the High King.
When you read Oracle you will feel as though you are really in the castle eating the food, smelling the perfumes and soaking up the scenery. There are so many twists and turns in this plot I am not going to tell you everything it would be better to just read this book but if you are curious you could read this blog review.
This book is perfect for a mature Primary student and when you finish reading it you will most definitely want to seek out other books by this very talented writer. Look for Tajore Arkle as your next book it is a personal favourite of mine.