Chalice

by Robin McKinley

Hardcover, 2008

Call number

J FIC MCK

Publication

Putnam Juvenile (2008), Edition: First Edition, 272 pages

Description

A beekeeper by trade, Mirasol's life changes completely when she is named the new Chalice, the most important advisor to the new Master, a former priest of fire.

User reviews

LibraryThing member bluepixie
I'll try to avoid spoilers, but if you read this there is at least one question that will be answered for you as soon as you start reading.

Chalice was delightful. It started slowly, and picked up a definite sense of suspense, of deepening dread, as the story went on. The first two parts are almost
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entirely background, although not entirely; and the writing is such that I find it hard to mind. The third part starts to pick up speed... and then the fourth part. Everything is resolved in the fourth part, and it... seems to happen too fast, and too neatly. There's an element of deus ex machina that I don't like, although she certainly set it up to happen starting in part one. And I really don't like the way that she resolved the hero's story. I have tried to get over it and give her the benefit of the doubt on this one, but it... just... makes him far less interesting as a character, and everything far too neat at the end.

This is not to say I don't like happy endings. I'm addicted to them, and if I happen to know that a book doesn't have a happy ending I frankly have a hard time reading it all the way through. I don't really need "perfect" endings, that is, perfect from the standpoint that all important storylines are tucked into each other neatly. I can go away without having everything perfectly resolved, if the author has done a good enough job of assuring me that my favourite characters are strong enough to handle what comes next.

The thing that bothers me about the ending is that the characters I loved were strong enough to handle what comes next without taking away the hero's essential characteristics in a rather pat way. I ... ended up feeling that he was a little betrayed. That everything he had worked towards was ... pointless, because it would have happened the same way if he had done nothing.

Which is too bad, because the rest of the story is amazing. I've read complaints that the characters aren't fully realized, and that may be true for everyone but some of the essential characters -- but there is no need for the secondary characters to be fully fleshed out, because the central characters are so completely well done.

Despite my misgivings about the resolution, I will read this book again. I will keep it on my shelf and be glad to have it there. I will recommend it wholly to others, happily. I can hardly wait for her next.
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LibraryThing member Herenya
Chalice is just gorgeous. I read somewhere, that someone had mentioned seeing a certain similarity between this and Sunshine, and the author responded saying, yes, she keeps telling the same story "over and over and over and over". I could definitely see that in Chalice, to the point where I tagged
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it "fairy-tale-retelling" , even though it, well, isn't.

It had that mythical, rural fairy-tale quality to it, but also a pervading sense of realism. (It deals with politics and power, duty and responsibility, and the burdens of difficult inheritances.) The world felt both original and vividly realised - the writing is beautiful. While the story unfolds slowly at first, I found it increasingly difficult to put down. It was just what I needed to read - it was like honey - sweet and golden and soothing, and yet still a good novel.

My only real quibble is that the ending was too readily resolved, with too little explanation. An Amazon reviewer put it well when they said that the characters had proved that they were strong enough to cope with not everything being happily ever after. I would have been better satisfied with a more bittersweet ending, but I am reluctant to complain; I liked the story too much.
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LibraryThing member Aerrin99
Chalice is absolutely delightful, the sort of gorgeous world and character and story one expects from Robin McKinley. It puts me in mind of The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword, which were favorites when I was growing up.

One of the things that I adore about McKinley is her ability to slide
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you so gently into a world that you hardly notice, and it feels as if you have always been there. She often builds her fantasy realms by settling you in with a protagonist who is in some way an outsider themselves - here, it's Mirasol, who serves as the Chalice, new to her position, untrained and unsure, as she finds her way in the face of danger to her demesne.

Mirasol is a delightful character, a woman learning to grow into her own power and authority while still struggling to retain some sense of who she is, and the details of that struggle - her honey and her bees in particular - are lovely. Although the other characters are less fully-drawn, there are some pleasant surprises, as well as some pleasant predictable (in that 'ahhh, finally' sort of way good books manage) moments involving them.

I do agree that the ending is a bit pat and that I would have rather had another 50 pages or another book dealing with resolution than have things wrapped up so neatly in a book which is largely about finding your own strength in bad circumstances, but-- I find it hard to mind overmuch, because I like a happy ending. If anything, I wish a little more time had been spent on settling into the happiness of that ending, in particular into the relationships of it.

I would gladly read more set in this world - but if we never visit it again, I still feel fulfilled. This book makes me smile.
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LibraryThing member callmecayce
When I was younger I read a lot of Robin McKinely. But then I grew up, discovered science fiction and basically gave up fantasy because I just didn't have time for all the sword fighting and dragons and you get the idea. But after reading McKinley's book Sunshine, I thought I'd give this book a
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chance. And I'm extremely glad I did. It's fantastic, well written, and completely engrossing. I throughly enjoyed reading it.
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LibraryThing member jjmcgaffey
Nice. An interesting world, a very interesting magic system, and a good story to hang it all on. The story was rather confusing at the start - the back cover blurb was a bit of a spoiler, or necessary data, or something. I understood what was going on in the first few scenes mostly because of the
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blurb - while the book presented a vivid scene, I had no clue of what or why or time sequence for a while. The flashbacks and flash-forwards got seriously confusing. But I did finally settle into the book, and Mirasol's problems became both understandable and interesting. Ditto for the Master. Though I still don't understand why he gave up near the end - he kept being able to do things and saying it was because Fire helped him, but we never really saw him fail at anything so his surrender didn't ring true. And partly because of that, the end felt like a cop-out - he'd been improving and succeeding and managing, and suddenly all his work was unnecessary. Not bad (though the rules about Master and Chalice marrying may make for problems - and why is it necessary, anyway?) but not a wonderful ending. And did all her special big bees die, or only most? I'd be interested in reading another book set in the Domains, but not a sequel - someone who's heard the story and can refer to it, but has their own concerns, would be great. The next set of problems for them seem to be a lot of small, niggling ones - what will the Overlord do, does Liapnir (boy, that sounds Damarian) regret losing the Fire, the rules about marrying, finish patching their Domain…like that.
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LibraryThing member kayceel
This is a different sort of book... It's a fantasy, not so much with magic, but with the people of this world closely attuned to the land. Mirasol is a beekeeper and woodswoman (one who tends to the trees in her wood, talking to and soothing them when needed) when she is suddenly called to be
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Chalice after the violent deaths of both the former Chalice and Master. Having not apprenticed, nor, in fact, having any indication of this in her future, Mirasol is adrift alone, unwelcome by the others in the Master's circle, trying desperately to find her way in this new role, reading in her free hours, and creating her own cups of ceremony when she is unable to find the correct ones. The only person seemingly as lost as she is the former Master's younger brother, sent away years before to become an elemental priest of Fire, and must unlearn Fire in order to help Mirasol bind them all together with the land before it is too late.

This is a very complex book - the world McKinley's created is fascinating and strange and she draws it very clearly, without overburdening the reader with world building. The format of the story takes some getting used to - we are in Mirasol's head (though not in first person, thank God), and being so cut off from others (the Circle members do not approve of her, her former friends are afraid of her, and in order to stay close to her bees, she chooses not to live in the house, which is customary for the Chalice), much of the story is filtered through Mirasol's internal thoughts. There is very little dialogue, and we are given the story/background in drips and drabs, which works in a very intriguing way.

Mirasol's a great character - she's smart, resourceful and strong, though she would deny all of these compliments if given. She has an incredibly strange relationship with her bees - unlike normal bees, hers seem to understand her, and even, at times, do her bidding, or rather, her unconscious will. The new Master is fascinating and I actually would have liked to know more about him and wished that he and Mirasol spoke more often than the few significant times they speak in the story.

Overall, I quite liked Chalice - it's quietly compelling and Mirasol is the same, and one cannot help but cheer her on and wish her well.
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LibraryThing member carlyrose
I feel so torn about this book. There were bits that I loved, like Mirasol telling the earth to fix itself like darning a sock. And the Master's interaction with the bee. But I felt so confused through the whole book--it was the opposite of info-dumps, and didn't feel like the end really was the
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end because it was so abrupt.
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LibraryThing member rachelick
Robin McKinley has created another world of natural beauty. The title character, Mirasol, holds the position of Chalice; her magic, through various ceremonies, is responsible for the well-being of her region. But Mirasol is inexperienced and untutored; the land is ripped apart after the
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catastrophic loss of the previous Master and Chalice; and the new Master, also untutored, had progressed so far in the rites of his temple that he is now scarcely human. Thus the situation is ripe for disunity within and danger without. Fans of McKinley's other tales, as well as the uninitiated, will certainly enjoy watching Mirasol grow into her responsibilities and her self. The prose is personable and elegant, able to transfix and transport. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member lenoreva
Very quiet and contemplative, but the patient reader will be rewarded by the charming story of the power of love to heal.
LibraryThing member raizel
Not my favorite Robin McKinley book. She keeps a constant mood and a convoluted writing style throughout, but why must it be so serious? A beekeeper finds herself appointed the new Chalice without the usual apprenticeship and must help the new Master, who was preparing to be a Fire priest and is
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not quite human anymore, to establish his authority to lead their demesne. The difference between a person and the office he or she holds is explored at great length.

The ending is not only too tidy, but the way in which it comes about doesn't follow logically enough from what we know about this world. This is one of those fantasy worlds in which it is possible to communicate with nature: potions and spells work. It is also one of those stories in which the heroine doubts her abilities long after everyone else realizes how great she is.
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LibraryThing member cmbohn
How many times can Robin McKinley rewrite Beauty and the Beast? Well, if every retelling were as fresh and original as this one, she could keep it up for as long as she wanted and I would keep right on reading them!

Chalice starts with a young woman awaiting the arrival of the new Master of their
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lands. The young woman is named Marisol, but is called Chalice, because that is her customary function. As Chalice, she is to work closely with the new Master and restore the Willowlands to harmony and balance.

I really enjoyed this book. My main complaints are that first, there was so much description and not enough dialogue; and second, that the book often jumped around in time and sometimes had me confused about if the event I was reading about was happening now or in the past.

But I can recommend this book. I liked Marisol as a character and couldn't wait to see how it would end. My daughter, whose book I borrowed, says that she enjoyed it more the second time she read it. Maybe I will try it again myself and see if she's right.
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LibraryThing member beserene
I like Robin McKinley almost as much as Patricia McKillip -- her books are aimed at a younger audience, generally, so the prose is a little simpler, but she also uses folklore and fairy tales to inform and tranform her narratives -- but this was not my favorite book of hers. Let me qualify that --
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it's not a bad book. In fact, there is much about it that is rich and original, and I even liked the bees (surprising for me since I have less than amiable feelings toward all things with more than four legs), but frankly, I was disappointed in the ending. SPOILER ALERT: McKinley does a lot of work here to set up an unusual relationship between the male and female main characters, but then ends everything in a very status quo fashion, with marriage and ordinary human connections. The ending is fine, because one does like these characters and wants it all to work out, but it would have been so much more interesting if the book had maintained its unfamiliarity and originality right to the end. A pleasant read either way, but particularly for those who prefer tidy happy endings to their fairy tales.
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LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
I learned to love Robin McKinley by reading her fairy tales and timeless fantasies. While I have enjoyed some of her more modern fantasies, this felt like a return to the type of stories I fell in love with - magical, far-removed, fairy tale-like. Like many (or even most) of Ms. McKinley's novels,
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the heroine is someone grappling with a responsibility she feels is far beyond her powers. Her strength of character is what ultimately wins out - and maybe that is why I like McKinley so much - her books offer the hope that character and ultimate effort can make miracles.
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LibraryThing member katayoun
it was very good, most of all i loved the world the story was set, it was so well constructed, so real, and it was beautifully revealed, there wasn't a chapter or even a paragraph that explained how things went in this world or what things meant. they were just part of the story and you got to know
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them and probably make your own stories about it. the only problem was maybe that you wanted more stories by mckinley and i am hoping there would be more, more of mirasol, but also more of the other parts, maybe the town where the overlord is. it's the same with the ending, from the writing point of view, i thought that it was the perfect ending, and yet from my greedy self point of view i definitely want more. so alot of my unrest with this book was that is was so wonderfully told that i wanted more and am unhappy with just one book and one story!!p.s. and thanks so much for the book pusher, i've never regretted any of her book pushing/suggestions!! :)
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LibraryThing member allthesedarnbooks
This was an enjoyable young adult fantasy novel. It's not McKinley's best (see Beauty or The Hero and the Crown), but it's a good read nonetheless. Sometimes the details of the society she constructs are a little overwhelming; I found myself getting bogged down in etiquette or customs for entire
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sections. My favorite part of the story was the beautiful relationship that Marisol, the main character, has with her bees, and the descriptions of beekeeping and honey are beautiful. When I was through I had such a honey craving! Recommended for fantasy fans.
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LibraryThing member OctButterfly
I felt like this book was too wordy and repetitive. There isn't much dialogue, it's just a lot of what the main character, Marisol, is thinking. I feel like the novel could have done with more character development and a more direct approach at explaining the setting other than Marisol's rambling
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thoughts.
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LibraryThing member dcoward
A little slow paced, but otherwise a return of Robin McKinley's top form after a few recent disappointments.
LibraryThing member hoxierice
I think this happened to me with another Robyn McKinley book. The world is so complete and rich that at first it takes me a while to fully understand and appreciate the story. Then I totally get sucked in and am sad when the story ends. I want them to have more adventures and I want to read about
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them.

I loved how Marisol's learns all she can about Chalice by reading.
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LibraryThing member readinggeek451
Until a year ago, Marisol was a beekeeper and woodswoman. Now she is the Chalice, second in power in the demesne, who has to keep the land together in support of her Master. But she had no apprenticeship, no training, and she may not have the strength--or the power--to save the land.
LibraryThing member jedimarri
"Chalice" is the second book I've read by Robin McKinley, and I'm quickly falling in love with her work! The first book I read, Spindle's End, was a fanciful retelling of the story of Sleeping Beauty. This story, Chalice, is completely it's own story, and the depth of her imagination amazes me!

In
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"Chalice" we meet a young woman named Mirasol. Mirasol has been a beekeeper and a woodsmen, and now she finds herself being chosen unexpectedly as the Chalice of the land. The position of Chalice is a sacred one of power, and one that requires a special person. The Chalice must have "landsense," in other words, they must be able to sense the power lines that run through the land, and thus have a very close connection to the land. The Chalice works with the Master of the land, and the Circle, and together they keep the land whole, safe keep the people, and govern.

Mirasol faces many challenges that are above and beyond what a normal Chalice would face. The previous Master and Chalice died suddenly, and the land was already in distress when they died. Plus, it's very unusual for a Chalice to come to her position without first being the apprentice to the prior Chalice, but the prior Chalice had never taken an apprentice. On top of all that, the new Master is in a bit of an unusual situation himself.

Both the new Master and Chalice have power. He of Fire, and her in honey, and some how they must find a way to heal the land together. It's a beautiful story steeped in magical lore that will keep you turning pages until the very end!
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LibraryThing member mmillet
Lyrical writing from one of my favorite authors. McKinley has such a unique imagination where she creates these places full of people who leave you thinking about them for days. I was completely engrossed by the story of a young girl who must find a way to unite her 'town' as a new master is
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appointed.Filled with magic, regret, hope and love - I was entranced by Marisol's journey to become a uniting factor in the land. McKinley never disappoints and 'Chalice' is such a fresh and beautiful story. I loved it.
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LibraryThing member silentq
Mirasol is beekeeper who was unexpectedly raised to be the second in the Circle, the one who mixes draughts and holds the chalice. The new Master is drawn back from being a Fire priest and burns her at the welcoming ceremony, and he also has to learn how to take up his unexpected duties. He's a
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cipher, though, the book is too short in terms of not spending enough time exploring his character, or their relationship. Marisol is decently fleshed out, but her story is told heavily in flashback scenes, since the action starts at the welcome ceremony. The ending was foreshadowed but not really explained very well. I'm kind of disappointed, McKinley has been a favourite author of mine for years and this one didn't feel a rich as her best work.
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LibraryThing member SunnySD
New Chalice Mirasol knows bees and she knows her small holding. What she doesn't know is nearly enough about her duties as Chalice. He position is made more difficult by a new Master no longer quite human, whose years of study to become a fire priest have left him less than suited to hold the
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demesne of Willowlands secure. Somehow the two of them will need to learn to work together if the land itself is not to rip asunder.

Slowly paced and gracefully told. The shifts between past and present are occasionally disconcerting, but ultimately don't detract at all. I stayed up much too late to finish this one.
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LibraryThing member little_prof
This is a beautiful book. The story opens with Marisol, who is a beekeeper and woods-woman who has recently had to take on the weighty responsibility of being Chalice, responsible for witnessing ceremonies and binding her demesne together. The new Master of Willowlands is a fire priest who has
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taken so much fire into himself that he can no longer touch anything without burning them. How can such a Master help the land heal from the damage inflicted by the previous aster? How can such an untried Chalice soothe that hurt? But Marisol is strong. She refuses to give up her bees or her cottage. She finds it in herself to embrace her new Master and do her best to bind him to the land and to the people despite their own fears and external pressure
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LibraryThing member bluesalamanders
Chalice feels more like McKinley's earlier books, like Beauty or The Blue Sword, rather than her more recent (and modern) ones. I am fascinated by the world she creates and by the way we learn about it as the story goes along, in bits and pieces as the characters learn. I like the main characters;
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Mirasol, who was content in her solitary woodskeeper life before she was called to her duty as Chalice, and the Master, a former Fire Priest who left his priesthood to take up his duty. They are where they are because of their love for the land and their sense of duty, but that doesn't make it easy on them (or the people around them).

I was a little disappointed by the end, though. It seems like they get off too easy somehow. I prefer McKinley's books when the end is more subtle and ambiguous.
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Awards

Locus Award (Nominee — Young Adult Novel — 2009)
Locus Recommended Reading (Young Adult — 2008)

Pages

272

ISBN

0399246762 / 9780399246760
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