Friday, 1 January 2010

CBR 16: "Chalice" by Robin McKinley

Publisher: Ace Books
Page count: 272 pages
Date begun: December 23rd, 2009
Date finished: December 26th, 2009

Mirasol is the new Chalice of Willowlands, a member of the Circle, the group that protects the land and the people. Willowlands is an area in unheaval and trouble, ever since the former Master and Chalice died nine months ago. The former Master's only heir, his younger brother, is a Priest of Fire, and no one knows if it is possible for him to properly live among humans, let alone govern the land and his people. Fissures are appearing in the ground, flash fires occur in the woods, and the Overlord would like nothing better than to place one of his own people to rule Willowlands. Mirasol's only experience is as a beekeeper, and because the former Chalice died suddenly, she has had no training whatsoever. Yet she needs to settle the demesne and bind it to its new and bind it to its new Master, whose mere touch can burn people terribly.

The former Master was not a good leader, and his years of misrule, followed by several months without a full Circle and a proper Master has affected the people of Willowlands. They are worried and troubled, and when the Master's younger brother, who used to be a studious and caring young man, returns as a black-clad, red-eyed Priest of Fire, most of them are fearful and things are not helped when he burns their new Chalice's hand badly during his official welcome back to Willowlands. Yet replacing a Master whose family comes from Willowlands with an outsider can have even worse effects, and no one is sure exactly what the future holds.

I have read most of McKinley's books, and love many of them. I must admit that I just couldn't really engage with Chalice, even though the world she presents in it is an intriguing one. Mirasol is a fascinating protagonist, and has an amazing affinity with her bees. She cares deeply for her land and the community she has grown up in, and struggles with the new, heavy duties she has had placed upon her. Yet I just couldn't seem to care that much what was going to happen. I mainly finished it as it was short. Definately one of the weakest McKinley's I've read.

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