Mar 18, 2009


by Robin McKinley

In a land where magic is commonplace, the natural setting- land, plants, animals, even the weather- is sentient and responds to the people who live in it. Among the ruling body, Chalice is a woman who influences the entire domain through her rituals, incantations and potions stirred into special goblets and presented at ceremonies. Her role is to spread peace, calm and wellbeing through the land, and most importantly, to bind the land and its people together.

The Chalice usually works her magic through a particular liquid medium: water, wine, milk, etc. Mirasol is the first Chalice whose medium is honey. She was living modestly as a beekeeper when unexpectedly chosen as the new Chalice. Mirasol never went through an apprenticeship, so she has to learn everything on her own. What makes her task even more difficult is that the land has been in turmoil for seven years, the ruling body is full of unrest, and the new Master of the land is himself terribly unfit, being called back suddenly from his initiations into priesthood- of Fire. Fire which has become a part of his body so that he is no longer quite human, and strikes fear in all the those around him....

Chalice has probably the most original premise of any fantasy story I've read. The mythology, history and very fabric of the land is pretty complex, and its structure unfolds slowly piece by piece throughout the story. It is one stiff with formal traditions and politics, only slightly sweetened by the presence of honey. I am sorry to say I did not like this book very much. There's very little conversation, and most of the narrative has a musing, inward-looking tone which worked okay for me in Dragonhaven but here was tedious and dull. I did not care much about the characters, and the love story was too subtle to be very interesting. I wish there had been more details about the beekeeping, and I felt frustrated that no explanation was given for the Master's final transformation. Disappointing. My reaction, however, is in the minority, so do visit some of other blogs listed below.

I read this book for the 9 for '09 Challenge. It was for the category of a Free Book; I won it from a giveaway on Presenting Lenore. Thanks, Lenore!

Rating: 2/5          261 pages, 2008

More opinions at:
Sun and Shield                          Librarian DOA
Writing and Ruminating           Krystel's Book Blog
The Book Drop                         Bluecat Books
Jenny's Books                           Em's Bookshelf
Book Nut                                  Deep Thought
Books and Other Thoughts


  1. I do love the's too bad the book fell short. And I've seen several other reviews by bloggers who were really disappointed.

  2. Anonymous3/19/2009

    It does sound like an interesting premise. Maybe McKinley will try something similar again with better success.

    That's quite a few links to other reviews -- and all for a book I hadn't heard of. I'm feeling out of the fantasy loop!

  3. Nymeth- You might like it. If you do read it, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

    Janet- I always try to give other, positive opinions when I really don't like a book. I was surprised how many other bloggers had read this one already!

  4. I think I will try this (when I can get it) though I trust your reviews, so maybe I won't expect great things now!

  5. from the book, I mean, I won't expect great things from the book. Your reviews are good! :-D

  6. Susan- I would still be open-minded. A ton of other bloggers just loved it. And thanks, yeah, I knew you meant the book!

  7. Well, it's great that you gave it a try.

    Thanks for being in 9 for '09

  8. I enjoyed Chalice, although it wasn't nearly as good as her other books. It seemed to need a bit more polish, but the story was well thought out and imaginative.

  9. I lean towards agreeing with your reaction on this one. I've picked it up and tried twice, but I can't seem to stay interested. One of these days I'll finish it...


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