I met Robin McKinley thirty years ago, soon after her first book, Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast, came out. I was so impressed by that book, but, for some reason, I've never read another. Then a co-worker told me I would like McKinley's latest book, Chalice. She was right.
Chalice is labeled Young Adult, but it's an intense, thoughtful book that will appeal to many adults. Mirasol was a beekeeper, content with her life in Willowlands, but when the land's Master and Chalice died tragically in a fire, Mirasol was called to a higher role. Suddenly, the ruling Circle had to unify the land with a new Master and Chalice. Six months before the Master could return, Mirasol was picked as the Chalice, a difficult position needed to unite the Master with his Circle, and the land itself. Then, the late Master's brother was called home from his study of the priesthood of Fire. It would be tough enough for the new Master to return home, but the land, the demesne, had suffered so much under the previous Master that Chalice and the Master faced an almost insurmountable task.
In Beauty, McKinley beautifully retold the story of Beauty and the Beast. In Chalice, she creates her own heroine, a young woman who cares deeply for the land, and is willing to fight the Overlord who wants to control Willowlands, even though she knows she has limited ability. Chalice is dependant on her bees, honey, and her love of the land for her power. Will she be able to unite her own power, her Master's strange affinity for fire, and the land's needs? Chalice is a story of love, land, sacrifice, and honey. Don't think of this as a young adult novel. Think of Chalice as a powerful green novel.
Robin McKinley's website is www.RobinMcKinley.com
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Chalice by Robin McKinley. G.P. Putnam's Sons, ©2008. ISBN 9780399246760 (hardcover), 272p.