Saturday, 13 September 2014

Book Review: Chalice

Title: Chalice
Author: Robin McKinley
Year Published: 2008
Genre: Young adult, fantasy

Mirasol is a beekeeper and the newly appointed Chalice of the demesne. Inexperienced and untrained, she attempts to perform her duty while finding her place in the Circle, for as Chalice she holds the most important office of the twelve members. The story begins with the arrival of the new Master – a Priest of Fire who is drawn back home only because of the death of his brother. The demesne is suffering, and Mirasol tries her best to assist the Master, bind the Circle, and soothe the land.

The world that McKinley has created is a strange but compelling one. The magic and the governing structure of the Circle aren’t your typical fantasy clich├ęs, and what is revealed of them throughout the book only leaves you yearning for more. Each tidbit about the world was revealed naturally and gradually, as morsels to be rolled around the mouth and savoured. However, this can be frustrating at the same time – you never find out, for example, what all the members of the Circle do. I’m not really sure how I feel about this: on the one hand, it’s annoying, but on the other, it’s kind of nice to be left wanting – the wonder and the mystery is preserved.

Not much happens, I’m afraid. What does happen happens very slowly, with a lot of ‘action’ taking place in the past and a lot of passages focusing on the bees and honey that form part of Miraol’s identity. Mirasol’s relationship with the Master is one of the key parts of the book, but at the same time, it feels underdeveloped. Strangely, you wonder how that can be. What they have is gentle, sweet and slow, and you can easily interpret their relationship as a platonic one. The ending is where everything happens, and it’s almost too sudden – despite the whole book leading up to it, I felt that there was not enough build up.

While not particularly exciting, Chalice is still a pleasant story, good for when you want to relax and wallow in something quiet and girlish. It’s the sort of book I’d classify as a comfort read – fantasy with a domestic feel and a gentle sort of atmosphere that lulls you. It’s not my favourite Robin McKinley, but it is very McKinley-esque.

Alex’s Rating: 3/5

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