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It seems that I'm building up a love of stories revolving around women beekeepers: First there was The Secret Life of Bees, then the character of Charlotte "Chuck" Charles on Pushing Daisies, and finally Mirasol, the honey Chalice of Willowlands. I was almost afraid to dive into this, since it seems so long since McKinley last fabricated a new fairy tale / fantasy. I worried that she'd somehow gotten clumsy, or would have changed her style so that it no longer felt organic. I needn't have worried. The story of the Chalice and the Master is both enchanting and earthy. I felt Mirasol's weariness and determination, her pride and her wisdom. She's a woman alone, cut off from previous connections yet finding new ways to reconnect to everything she loves. I felt the conclusion was rather open-ended, especially for McKinley who is usually a one-off author. I hope she continues the story so we can see what happens next with these characters and their land. Rich, evocative, believable, and like all her works, the crystalline prose makes it utterly readable.
Oct 5, 2008
What a lovely, unique tale with which Robin McKinley has blessed her readers. Instead of adapting an existing fairytale, she built this tale from the earth up, and the result is an utterly believable, living, humming story of the struggle to heal and redeem a scarred and frightened land. Mirasol is the new Chalice, second only to the Master in the Circle which holds together their home, the Willowlands. However, the Master has only lately been recalled from the priesthood of Fire to replace his late brother, who nearly destroyed their demesne through his careless and destructive ways. No one has ever returned from the Elemental priesthood successfully; the new Master wills himself to try anyway, but his people fear him and what he has become, for he no longer looks or indeed IS quite human and his touch burns. Bees and honey play a central, nearly religious role, and they lend themselves to an intensely vibrant atmosphere. McKinley is always a superb storyteller, and this book is no exception. Mirasol is a wonderfully empathic protagonist and the reader struggles along with her to support the new Master against those who would take the delicate situation to their advantage. I highly recommend "Chalice;" it is such a pleasure to delve into McKinley's creations, and this book is so beautifully constructed and imagined that I cannot help wanting to immediately re-read it.
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