Darcy Pennington can’t wait to get back to Cedar Cove with her family, but only five other people truly understand her enthusiasm. She’s not just excited about a week of camp: she and her friends are looking forward to returning to Alitheia, the magical realm they discovered the year before.

When they left, The Six – Darcy, Sam, Amelia, Perry, Lewis, and Dean – had begun to fulfill the prophecy they discovered had been made about them, helping the Alitheians drive the evil Tselloch out of the castle Ormiskos and securing the safety of the royal family. Darcy and her friends are surprised by how different their initial experience in Alitheia is this time: they’re sleeping in a luxurious castle, instead of hiding in a cave. They soon discover, however, that the security they felt was an illusion.

As they reconnect with their old friends, Darcy’s anxiety about her prophesied role as the “King’s Intended” intensifies. She discovers that Prince Tellius, her eventual fiancé, feels the same way. Neither of them want to marry the other, and both feel trapped by the prophecy. This leads them to look for other interpretations, hoping that those who recorded the prophecy centuries before may have made a mistake.

Despite the suggestions from their mentors that they let go of this obsession, Darcy and Tellius continue their research. Tellius finds a promising book which mentions the Oracle, a mysterious being who can truthfully answer any question if you just know how to ask. On a whim, Darcy says the incantation in the book, and unwittingly unleashes great danger on herself and her companions.

Much of The Oracle follows the journey Darcy is now compelled to make to find the Oracle, ask her question, and deliver payment. Perry and Dean, as well as a small band of Alitheians, accompany her to ensure her safety, while Amelia, Sam, and Lewis remain at the castle and continue their training. The traveling companions encounter sinister townspeople, wolves, terrifying darkness, and dragons, to say nothing of Tselloch’s minions, in their quest to deliver Darcy to the Oracle. Their journey introduces the reader to the lands beyond the coast, lands The Six did not encounter the last time they were in Alitheia, and fascinating new creatures, including some with unexpected intelligence.

All through her travels, Darcy continually agonizes over her foolish decision to defy her mentors and seek an answer about her marriage. She knows she was selfish to focus all her energy on the veracity of the prophecy when the immediate danger to Alitheia comes from Tselloch and his followers. But even though she wishes she had acted with more maturity, her mentors provide support, which sometimes makes Darcy feel worse but more often encourages her.

Darcy continues to grow as a character from the groundwork laid in The Six through the difficult journey and agonizing consequences she encounters as she seeks the Oracle. K. B. Hoyle’s books connect so well with the reader in part because her characters are human: Darcy sometimes believes her own thoughts more than the words of trusted friends or advisors, makes selfish mistakes, and grieves the danger and loss she must face as a result. By the end of The Oracle, not only has our knowledge of Alitheia and the surrounding lands increased, but our understanding of Darcy and her friends has also deepened.

I finished The Six in one evening, and The Oracle was no different – I read most of it on a rainy Saturday afternoon. The character development and unanswered questions – what is Colin Mackaby’s connection to Alitheia? – have left me hungry for the third installment. Purchase The Oracle here, and pick up a copy of The Six while you’re at it (if you haven’t already!). Then you can join me in waiting impatiently for the release of the next four books in The Gateway Chronicles – the best reading discovery of my summer.

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