GENRE : Fiction, Historical, Humor

FBRC RATING : 3.5 Stars



On the day she turns ninety-nine, Mariuccia Umbellino calls for a priest so that she might finally confess to someone the secrets she has been living with for seventy-five years. When she was a girl, a band of men appeared at her family’s farm in the wild Sibylline Mountains with orders from the pope to destroy the nearby shrine of the Oracle of Cumae and to thereby end forever the practice of the Old Religion that had persisted in that region since Roman times.

Set in early nineteenth-century Italy, the story of Mariuccia’s adventures takes her from the remote mountain village of Montemonaco and the secret recesses of the Grotto of the Fates, an extensive limestone cavern guarded by lamiae and home to Sibylla, the Oracle of Apollo, to the bustling and modern manufacturing town of Casteldurante in the heart of the Italian Marches. A daring rescue is undertaken in the dark of night, things are blown up, love spells are miscast and then recast, unwanted advances are made and repulsed, a downtrodden housekeeper poisons her cruel mistress, a mummy is discovered buried beneath a chapel floor, and the mysterious fate of a jettatore–a person born with the Evil Eye–is finally revealed. 


DISCLAIMER : I received an advanced review copy for free from Edelweiss+, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

The Oracle Of Cumae is the story of Mariuccia Umbellino who is a 99yr old woman and her secret. The story is narrated by Mariuccia and we get to see the story through her lens. Its a funny, engaging and intriguing read. I found the story to be quite unique with its stories that come from Italian mythology and folklore. The story is centered around the Oracle who is a powerful Old Ones in the world.

The Oracle of Cumae is known as Sybilla who was the beloved of Phoebus Apollo, the Sun God. We see a strong female character who is a genius, happens to have magical abilities and is surrounded by women who become serpents called Lamie until the Pope says Magic. Sybilla is given utmost respect by people and is often consulted by the village people for solutions to their problems. She is revered and her presence is not something she bestows on humans. She is considered to be supernatural. Her character is shown as a bit grouchy and aloof and proud. I was expecting more of a story and character development of Sybilla as the name of the book is The Oracle Of Cumae. The story is mainly about Mariuccia and her life.

Mariuccia and her family lived in Monte Monaco. They were given a lot of riches by the Oracle in gratitude for their service to her. Even though they lived in a village Mariuccia, her mother Esperanza and her sister Concetta were educated. She is someone who is strong and has her own opinions. I believe her character is asexual in nature. I am not entirely sure of this, but certain comments she makes in the book makes me believe she is. The story takes a turn when people from Castel Durante comes to destroy the Cave in which Sybilla was staying. This leads to a turn of events that propels Mariuccia’s mom and her to rescue Sybilla and bring her home. There are love spells to cast and then recast on Bacigalupo. A lot of these scenes are funny and the way the characters interact with one another is also very interesting.

I wish the character of Lamia and Sybilla were more developed. Lamia happened to be the snakes who guarded the Oracle and they are beautiful women who turn into serpents but to revert back to human form the Pope needs to say the mass. They are described as easily excited creatures who shrieks like peacocks and fearful in nature.

There are a lot of stories told in this book. Some of these stories are passed on from generation to generation in the village. The tale of the jettatore is also very fascinating and what happens to the jettatore is also explained towards the end of the book. The book is heavily influenced by Italian mythology and the folklore. I love books based on mythology and folklores. The book also pokes fun at Christianity and kind of addresses the problems that arise when old religion clashes with a new religion. How the old way of life was destroyed and how the church and Pope decide to get rid of the Oracle and the events that follow and how people react differently based on their upbringing and traditions.

This book is an enjoyable read and I would recommend it for fall. There are small magical elements and if the world of magic and the folklores were expanded into more detail, then the story would have been really a hit for me. But overall it was funny and at times there was dark humor to the situations. The book will be published on 8th Oct 2019. So keep an eye out for this book if you love stories based on mythology and folklore.

What are your favorite books to read for fall and Halloween?? Let me know about them in the comment section down below. Happy reading!!

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