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.
Rating: 2/5 261 pages, 2008