Chalice by Robin McKinley

I’ve read her Damar books, Beauty, Sunshine and now finally Chalice. I realize now I’m a Robin McKinley fan. Her writing is so beautiful I just want to read her books out loud and pretend I have an audiobook voice.

Details, Please (Publisher’s description)
As the newly appointed Chalice, Mirasol is the most important member of the Master’s Circle. It is her duty to bind the Circle, the land and its people together with their new Master. But the new Master of Willowlands is a Priest of Fire, only drawn back into the human world by the sudden death of his brother. No one knows if it is even possible for him to live amongst his people. Mirasol wants the Master to have his chance, but her only training is as a beekeeper. How can she help settle their demesne during these troubled times and bind it to a Priest of Fire, the touch of whose hand can burn human flesh to the bone?

So what?
It’s almost like a fairy tale and so warm and sweet. It made me crave honey and I don’t even like honey. The characters in this book seem real, and it is easy to identify with their problems. Mirasol as a heroine is now in my top five. I admired her a lot. She feels inadequate as the new Chalice, and reading what previous Chalices have done only helps so much in her case, as there has never been a honey Chalice and a Fire Master before. So she is adding to the rule books really. She has so much courage and even though she feels like a failure at times, she never lets it show. Basically she went from being a beekeeper to the second most important person in the land.

The Master is an interesting character trying to remember what it’s like to be human again, and trying not to burn what he should help cultivate, and exhausted by the effort. He is isolated during festive events because everyone is afraid of getting burned. It sucks to be a nice guy in a fire body. The Master and Marisol are both duty bound and love the land, and it’s sweet how much they are willing to do to protect it, and how they learn to work together.

There were some parts that jumped backward in narrative and then forward again and I was a bit confused, but it was all written so beautifully I didn’t mind too much. I wish there was a sequel, but I doubt there will be. Also, anyone heard “Latika’s Theme” from the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack? It reminds me a lot of Marisol. If you’re a fan of Diana Wynne Jones, or Juliet Marillier then I think you’d really like this book. Even if you’re not, it’s a great read.

Excerpt:

There were several ritual ways a Chalice could hold her cup; she chose the one—only practical on the slender, stemmed Chalice vessels—that allowed her to weave the fingers of her two hands together around it while her crossed thumbs held the other side:connection, joining, linkage. She tried several phrases from the incantation book she had left behind, but none of them suited her; none of them felt right, none of them settled to the work before her. She felt the earthlines listening—listening but waiting. Waiting to hear the thing that would reassure them, that would knit them together, that would call them home.She reached the end of the crack and paused. It had, she noticed with some small relief, stopped growing. But when she turned and looked back along the length of it, it seemed leagues long; the two big work-horses as small as mice in the distance; the heavy ropes hanging off their harness and disappearing into the crack were barely visible threads.

“Please,” she said clearly, aloud, as if she spoke to a person. “Please be as you were. I will try to help you.” She hesitated, and pulled out the handflower honey and added a little more to the mixture in her cup. The water was faintly gold against the silver cup; the small stones in the bottom shone like gems. She did not want gold and silver and gems; she wanted ordinary things, commonplace things. Trees and birdsong and sunlight, and unfractured earth. “Let the earth knit together again, like—like darning a sock. Here are the threads to mend you with.” And she threw a few drops from her cup into the trench. She saw them twinkle in the air as if they were tiny filaments; the pit was quite shallow here, and she could see tiny spots of darkness where they landed. Her fingers were sticky with honey. Absentmindedly she put one in her mouth; the taste of the herbs was clear and sharp, but the honey’s complex sweetness seemed to carry mysteries.

There was a sudden sharp new tremor under her feet. Her heart leaped into her throat and she froze.

The jolt loosened the dirt on the sides of the trench, and it pattered down. Quite a lot of it pattered down, till the trench was barely a trench at all, little more than a slight hollow.

“Here are the threads to mend you with,” she said again, having no better spell or command to offer, and she tossed more drops from her cup into the wound in the earth.

The trench began to fill up.

She walked slowly back toward the deep end, murmuring to the earth and the earthlines, tossing sweet mysterious drops into the shadows of the ravine. The earth under her feet still shook, but the shaking now seemed more like that of something shaking itself back together again after a shock or an unbalancing blow: like the turning sock in the hands of the darner.

The crevasse was disappearing.

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11 thoughts on “Chalice by Robin McKinley

    • TBM, My friend loves her books a lot so I started reading cause she kept bugging me. I’m glad she did. :) I haven’t read all her books, but I think I like this one the best so far. Yeah, I bet you would like them too.

  1. She is an author who high on my reading pile. I got Sunshine. I really want to read her.
    I think Julliet Marillier is possibly my favourite fantasy author, if she is similar I will like her a lot.
    Thanks for adding that quote. It gives a very good impression of her writing, I think.

  2. I have this book sitting on my shelf and I’m planning to read it sometime soon. I love reading McKinley’s books, as they have a fairy-tale atmosphere while being exceptionally well-written.

  3. Hmmm, I thought I read pretty much every Robin McKinley book, but this doesn’t ring a bell. Well, I’m sure when I have time to read for pleasure again, I will love it. Since I love all her other books, especially, Beauty (may fave), and The Hero and The Crown, and The Blue Sword. I heart Robin McKinley.

    • You’re the person I have to thank for making me read Beauty :) I know, I must have overlooked this one too because I would have read it sooner once I found out it was about a beekeeper.

  4. Pingback: Robin McKinley: Chalice (2008) « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  5. “Please,” she said clearly, aloud, as if she spoke to a person. “Please be as you were. I will try to help you.” She hesitated, and pulled out the handflower honey and added a little more to the mixture in her cup. The water was faintly gold against the silver cup; the small stones in the bottom shone like gems. She did not want gold and silver and gems; she wanted ordinary things, commonplace things. Trees and birdsong and sunlight, and unfractured earth. “Let the earth knit together again, like—like darning a sock. Here are the threads to mend you with.” And she threw a few drops from her cup into the trench. She saw them twinkle in the air as if they were tiny filaments; the pit was quite shallow here, and she could see tiny spots of darkness where they landed. Her fingers were sticky with honey. Absentmindedly she put one in her mouth; the taste of the herbs was clear and sharp, but the honey’s complex sweetness seemed to carry mysteries.

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