chaliceby Robin McKinley
YA Fantasy
5 of 5 stars

This is one of my favorite novels! A subtle Beauty and the Beast retelling with rich world-building all its own. The slow-burn romance and emotional intensity of the ending get me every time.

McKinley is one of my favorite authors and this story ranks on par with her Damar books for me. Mirasol is a beekeeper tending her family’s plot of land when the ruling council comes to her and declares she is the next Chalice—the second-highest position in the kingdom, responsible for magically binding the rulers with unity to govern the land using different potions. The Master and Chalice perished in a fire leaving no heirs. Mirasol is alarmed but has no choice. Despite no training, no apprenticeship, nothing but a knowledge of honey and the ability to hear the earthlines (magical ley lines that the council influences to provide harmony and prosperity to the kingdom) she must take up the role and bring unity to the Circle. They have a new master, a priest of Fire who is no longer fully human, and if they don’t work together their kingdom could fall.

Mirasol and the new Master are both unprepared for their responsibilities, and the quiet ways they support each other and come to be friends are interwoven with political drama and natural disasters in the kingdom. Mirasol discovers the council means to marry her off to a spoiled prince from another kingdom, and she doesn’t have much time to dissuade them.

The writing is incredible and the story is told with a series of flashbacks that provide so much depth to the characters. As with all McKinley books, animals play a key role of support, and in this case it’s the bees. I love the bees! They are the perfect addition to Mirasol’s world. The pacing won’t be to everyone’s liking—as with all her other books there is a heavier burden on description than dialogue—but I love it and recommend it to anyone wanting a more serious fantasy experience in the YA sphere.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Chalice is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Sabriel by Garth Nix – Eighteen-year-old Sabriel is only partly through her apprenticeship to be the next Abhorsen (the one who keeps the Dead from walking in Life in the Old Kingdom) when her father is captured and held in Death. To free him will require all her knowledge and the dubious assistance from the bound servant, Mogget. See my review here.
  • Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones – A much more humorous take on the ruler of a Fantasyland and the tasks, frustrations, and hilarious encounters it entails. Part farce, part commentary, this is a fast read any fantasy lover will enjoy.
  • A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan – A YA sci-fi retelling of Sleeping Beauty, Rosalinda Fitzroy wakes up after 62 years in suspended animation to learn that everyone she loved is dead and she is the heiress to her parents’ company—the most powerful company in the world. But not everyone is excited by her return, and someone will stop at nothing to see her removed.
  • Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch – Meira just wants to do her part to revive the kingdom of Winter before Spring takes over permanently. But her destiny is greater than she could ever suspect. See my review here.

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