Putnam Juvenile (2008)
Reviewed by Neha Kashmiri (age 14) for Reader Views (8/08)
Born and raised as a beekeeper and a woodskeeper, Mirasol is surprised when the rods chose her as the new Chalice. As Chalice she is the second most important member after the Master. The new Master of Willowlands is a Priest of Fire, whose touch can burn a human’s flesh and who hasn’t been in the Willowlands for seven years. His brother’s sudden death brings him back to the human world, but can he and the new Chalice fix all the harm of the previous Master?–especially when most of the other Circle members are afraid of the new Master.
Even when it seems that the Willowlands can be restored, the Overlord declares an outblood Heir. Inadvertently, Mirasol gives her support to the new Heir and only finds out when it’s too late. The Chalice soon learns that the only way an outblood Master can not disrupt the land is if she marries the Heir. Mirasol doesn’t support the Heir much less wish to marry him . . . or bear his child.
Then, when it seems that things can get no worse, a faenorn, a fight to the death, is declared. How can the new Master defeat the new Heir when he cannot even pick up a sword? Mirasol has to help anyway she can; but how can she if helping the Master would only get her in trouble with the Heir?
I have only read one other book by Robin McKinley (“Beauty”) and it had set my expectations high. “Chalice” met every single one of them. Ms. McKinley sets up a new world and new characters beautifully. The bees and the honey are nice touches which wrap up the story beautifully. “Chalice” is highly recommended to fans of fantasy.