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Chalice Paperback – September 16, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Firebird; Reprint edition (September 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142417203
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142417201
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (151 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #319,197 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robin McKinley has won various awards and citations for her writing, including the Newbery Medal for The Hero and the Crown and a Newbery Honor for The Blue Sword. Her other books include Sunshine; the New York Times bestseller Spindle's End; two novel-length retellings of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Beauty and Rose Daughter; and a retelling of the Robin Hood legend, The Outlaws of Sherwood. She lives with her husband, the English writer Peter Dickinson.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

99 of 105 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Robin McKinley debuted with a fleshed-out retelling of "Beauty and the Beast," and later followed it up with ANOTHER retelling.

And after a few books about dragons and vampires, McKinley returns to her old territory -- she spins up a vaguely medieval tale of a woodland beauty and a charred "beast" entirely out of her own imagination. McKinley's sumptuous prose and her depiction of a "living" land add an extra dimension to a straightforward little love story that drips with sweetness.

Some months ago, the decadent Master of Willowlands and his Chalice were killed in a fire. The new Chalice is Mirasol, whose duty is to fill ceremonial cups and help bind the land.

But then the late Master's little brother arrives from the priests of Fire -- charred black and no longer entirely human. Mirasol is determined to do the best job she can for the new Master, when she isn't tending a woodland cottage covered in bees. Unfortunately the land is still unsettled despite her joint efforts with the Master, especially since his strange behavior frightens his people.

In the course of her duty, Mirasol soon gets to know her new Master -- he's quiet, kind, worried about burning people, and confused by the world he had almost forgotten. But as he struggles to keep his land balanced, the Overlord begins to scheme to put a new Master in Willowlands -- one that will do whatever he wishes. With her role as Chalice and her power over bees, Mirasol must find a way to save her beloved Master...

You wouldn't think that such a slender novel could have such a richly imagined world, where metaphysical bonds link the Master and Chalice to the very land itself.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By R. Perkins on October 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I have to preface my comments by saying Robin McKinley has been a favorite of mine since I was in the 4th grade which was more than 20 years ago (EEK) and her books continue to be my gold standard when I look for books for myself or plan a bookshelf for my own young daughters. I enjoyed her recent novels but I was thrilled to see her return to a mythic/fantasy past and a young female protagonist in this novel. I was hoping for the transportive experience I remember from my reading (and multiple re-readings) of "The Blue Sword" and "Beauty" and "The Hero and the Crown." While her writing is beautiful, it is much less immediate now, and almost seems too self-conscious at times. Her characters also feel less fleshed out. They aren't as funny or human as I remember Harry, or Aerin, or Luthe being. I wanted to get wrapped up in the central relationship in this book they way I got wrapped up in Corlath and Harry, or even Aerin and Tor, but I didn't. Also, the ending was a bit too neat and derivative for my taste, which I wouldn't have cared about if there was more of an emotional punch to it, but it kind of fizzled. Perhaps her earlier works were not as refined and introspective as her more recent novels have been, but they were GREAT stories. This is a lovely book and I very much enjoyed it, and I will certainly reserve a place for it on my daughters' bookshelves, but it won't be on the top shelf, with some of McKinley's other works.
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Amara on November 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Mirasol the beekeeper has unexpectedly become Chalice to a land in turmoil. Somehow she must hold her world together, and convince others to accept a Fire Priest as Master. McKinley creates for us an alternative medieval manor house, with Master and Circle tied to their demiese through magical earthlines.

This is a beautifully written almost poetical story, but if one is expecting the Robin McKinley of Spindle's End or The Blue Sword expect disappointment. The story moves gradually and repetitively. A skimmer will find this comforting, but the careful reader is left wondering if this book was sufficiently edited, or if the author was perhaps forced to expand from novella to novel length. There is little dialogue and a much of the McKinley wit we have all grown to expect and love is missing. Reading Chalice, it felt as though McKinley was getting in touch with her inner Patricia McKillip. Much is described, and most of it exquisitely and richly, but not very much actually happens. Please don't misconstrue, I adore McKillip, but it was a bit jarring to find her style coloring a McKinley novel.

However, one puts all expectations aside, Chalice provides a truly magical journey, leaving the reader satiated with imagery that lingers long after setting the book down. One's mind savors the flavor as one's mouth would the honey from Mirasol's chalice.
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39 of 46 people found the following review helpful By S. Atkinson on October 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
While better than Dragonhaven, this is the second McKinley book in a row that I would probably not have troubled to finish if it had been by any other author. (And it kills me to say this, because she is one of my favorites and I've loved all of her previous work.) Dragonhaven felt like a first draft; Chalice feels like a short story unwillingly stretched into novel length. I didn't get to know any of the characters well enough to care deeply about them; we don't see any of the backstory unfold (imagine if Spindle's End had opened with Rosie discovering she was the princess and gone on from there); and McKinley falls into her usual trap of relying on a vague supernatural incident to end the novel. I wanted to love Chalice--but I didn't, and sadly I think this is the last McKinley book I will run out and buy in hardcover.
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