This was a very interesting book. I wasn’t sure how I liked it during the first chapter or so. It took awhile to get used to reading some of the character’s names as names. For example, Chalice is the name of one of the main characters. Next to the Master she is the second most important person in Willowlands and in the ruling council, the Circle. Some of the other Circle members have names that take getting used to without the ‘the’ in front – Oakstaff, Clearseer.
Chalice by Robin McKinley tells the story of Mirasol who became Chalice when the old Chalice died along with the Master. Normally the next Chalice would have been apprenticed but that had not happed so Mirasol had to figure out everything for herself with the help of books and an intuition that seemed to grow inside of her.
The former Master had not taken care of the demesne nor had he listened to the earthlines (the land itself is a “living being”). To make matters worse he had left no heir and had banished his brother to become an Elemental priest of fire. Due to the unusual circumstances the Fire priests had allowed the brother to return, a rare occurrence and a difficult process since the Elemental priests took on the qualities of their element. When the new master returned and Chalice offered him the welcome cup, heat raged from his bare hand and when his hand “only barely, fleetingly glanced” off of her hand, she was severely burnt.
The people are uneasy due to the strangeness of the new Master and because of the accident. And soon a threat comes to Willowland from beyond its borders. Chalice knows that the Master, the Circle and herself need to work together to heal the land, calm the earthlines and prevent even greater disruptions.
Writing this book review taught me a new word. Throughout the book McKinley refers to the land as the demesne and I wasn’t sure if that was a made up word and if not what it really meant. Well, while writing this I decided to look it up. It’s a real word and here’s the definition (according to dictionary.com):
de·mesne [dih-meyn, -meen] noun
- possession of land as one's own: land held in demesne.
- an estate or part of an estate occupied and controlled by, and worked for the exclusive use of, the owner.
- land belonging to and adjoining a manor house; estate.
- the dominion or territory of a sovereign or state; domain.
- a district; region.
I enjoyed this story. Robin McKinley, a Newberry award winning author, has written several retellings of fairytales and I was expecting this to be one, but it isn’t. It’s very unique – especially how Chalice’s honey and honeybees played a part, and kept me wondering how the story would end.