McKinley, R. (2008) Chalice
272 pages -- 9780399246760
Thirty Second Summary: Mirasol is the Chalice. She used to a beekeeper, and finds herself lost amongst responsibilities she does not understand. Liapnir is the Master. He used to be a priest of the Fire, and is no longer quite human. Unprepared and facing the distrust of their nation, can the two of them defend their land from the scheming Overlord?
I apologize, friends, for a second Robin McKinley book in as many months. But y’all know my feeling about my BFF Robin, so there will probably be a third in as many months, before too long.
The experience of reading Chalice is like biting into a particularly delicious piece of the dictionary. (What? Words are tasty!) Listen to this list: Hummock, Demesne, Calumny, Sunder, Augury, Stookers, Gossamer, Sennight. Yum. Mixed among the words are bees and sunlight and warmth – you can hear the thrumming of the hives as you’re reading. It’s almost physically soothing… until, you know, Mirasol must thrown her heart and soul into a battle for her demesne and everything goes all tense and dramalike.
Perhaps inevitably, as a result of having read Chalice I’m now in the process of convincing my mother that beekeeping is the most awe-inspiring hobby ever and I should be allowed to build my own mud-lined pottery hives in the backyard. Who doesn’t want to have honey flowing “clear and clean and shining, in all the shades of golden from palest primrose to darkest amber”? Say you don’t and I’ll know you’re lying.
While this is not my most favoritest book of all time – on occasion, I found certain aspects of Chalice rather confusing – it’s a good solid fantasy novel. Breathtaking descriptions aside, the plot and the characters are realistic and well-written. You will definitely need a certain amount of patience to work your way through the pacing of the story, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The relationship between Chalice and Master as the two of them struggle with the tasks that have been dropped upon them (Gasp! They’re in a relationship!? I’ve given everything awaaaay!) develops about as fast as honey pours, but that just makes the ending all the more sweet.
Quotes of Note:
Most of Mirasol’s visitors glanced at her bees uneasily; they were unusually large, and they had the disconcerting habit of coming, as if to say hello, to Mirasol and—even more disconcertingly—going on to investigate any company Mirasol might have. (p. 62)
The Grand Seneschal had never spoken to her directly before; he spoke forbiddingly and exclusively in the third person when he had to address her at all, and had never—she felt—let it be anything but clear that he only addressed her because she had somehow, incredible as it seemed, become Chalice, and the Grand Seneschal was, unfortunately, too often compelled to address the Chalice.(p.143)
When the Overlord came she hated him. It was a shock like a blow; much worse than when she had met the Heir. She hated him so much that she trembled with it, and clutched the welcome cup to her as if it were a crutch to hold her upright. If there had not been a tradition that the Chalice’s hand should not touch the hand of whomever she offered a cup, she would have invented the tradition on the spot. (p.193)
I am Chalice. I am filling with the grief and hurt and fear of my demesne; the shattered earthlines weigh me down; I am brimming with the needs of my people. (p. 245)
Tasty Rating: !!!!
If you thought this was delicious, try:
The Safe-Keeper’s Secret by Sharon Shinn
Another slow-paced but beautifully written fantasy novel, filled with a caste system at least as confusing as anything Chalice can muster up.