Thursday, June 18, 2009

Chalice, by Robin McKinley

Seven years of corrupt leadership in their demesne has left the people of the Willowlands with a broken land and without a ruler. Both their Master and his Chalice have perished. Without either a heir for the Master or an apprentice for the Chalice, the choice for a new leader is awkward. The late Master's brother, returned from the priesthood of the flame, is a poor match but at least continues the bloodline. Mirasol, a common woodswoman, is far more at home tending her bees, but when the divinations dictate that she is to be the new Chalice, she has no choice but to accept. With no knowledge of the craft of being a Chalice and the ways of uniting a land and its people behind their new Master, Mirasol feels particularly hopeless. But when outside forces threaten the demesne, she and the new Master must unite to save their people.

A richly drawn fantasy novel, with strong environmentalist undertones. McKinley's delight in building suspense through gravely-intoned (and mildly pompous) narration grated on me quite a bit (although I recognize that others might feel that it simply builds suspense better). That aside, I enjoyed the growth of the characters and have a special place in my heart for the heroics of the bees.

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