From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up—The demesne of Willowlands is in a state of upheaval—great fissures in the earth have opened and swallowed livestock, fires have broken out across the land, the earthlines rumble in disquiet, the people are unsettled. The former Master of Willowlands, a reckless tyrant who reveled in his power and neglected his role, died heirless. His younger brother was sent away many years earlier to become a fire priest—a calling from which none return to the mortal realm. Yet, he is one year from completing his apprenticeship, and the Circle sends for him to heal his troubled land. Mirasol is the young beekeeper called to become Chalice, to bind together the Circle, the people, and the demesne into a unified entity. She has no training or experience, and the realm is so fractured that uniting it under the rule of a Master who is no longer completely human, and who can touch nothing without burning it, seems an impossible task. As delicately structured as the chambers of a honeycomb, this novel begs to be read slowly. The people of Willowlands are interesting and well crafted, and despite a conclusion that seems rushed and incomplete, this novel is a delight. Because this story is slow paced and does not happen in complete chronological order, reluctant readers will struggle with it. However, mature teens who long for beautiful phrases and descriptive writing will find themselves drinking in this rich fairy tale as if it were honey trickling down their throats.—Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Everywhere she goes, Mirasol, beekeeper and new Chalice of Willowlands, hears laments from magical beings and humans alike about their broken world, which has never been in such crisis. The previous Master and his Chalice, killed in a fire, had abused their responsibility. Now the new Master has arrived home after his training as a Priest of Fire, no longer human and unable to touch without burning. With enemies on every border, and the land itself trembling, Mirasol must find a way to bind the Master to her land. McKinley integrates the world building smoothly into a narrative that is a sensory delight, laden with tangible tastes and scents. Themes of stewardship, beekeeping, and the power of duty and love flow through the story like the honey described so temptingly. There are a few too many convoluted sentences, but the power of the story eases the sting. McKinley fans will recognize in Mirasol a typically strong heroine who discovers her impressive powers as she finds her way. Grades 6-9. --Lynn Rutan