Review: Chalice by Robin McKinley

This month I’ve found myself going through a ton of re-reads. I finally recharged my Kobo that I used frequently about 5 or 6 years ago and I discovered that I actually have a lot of books on there. One such book being Chalice by Robin McKinley. Now when I first read this (say 6 years ago) I remember that I wasn’t really impressed. I unfortunately hadn’t added it on goodreads unlike my Shatter Me reviews, so we’ll have no way of knowing what exactly I thought. But I do know that I 100% was unimpressed with the romance aspect, and was confused by the story. After my reread, I’m proud to say that I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes a more lyrical use of language and a more flowing sort of book, with less dialogue and more descriptions of events.

Three things that stood out to me are:
1) Mirasol didn’t shy away from her inexperience
2) The romance
3) The about of nature that’s present

Synopsis: 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?

Mirasol was such a good protagonist. Starting off the book she’s completely inexperienced with her new role as Chalice, second in power and prestige to only the Master. When the previous Chalice died without having an apprentice, Mirasol is picked out of her peaceful life as a beeskeeper and woodskeeper and plopped into the middle of political games. She enters this role with no experience. What’s so endearing to me is the amount of work she puts into learning about her role. Mirasol buys books, takes extensive notes, goes to the library for hours, just to understand her role at a basic level. The rest she tries her hardest to figure out on her own via experimentation and experiences. It’s so nice to see her work really hard to become good at the position she was chosen for.

What’s really interesting is that there’s so many instances where we’re basically told that Mirasol messed up or isn’t doing the job excellently. The demesne (basically the province) is still in turmoil. The earthlines (if you’ve heard of leylines these are similar) are ‘wailing’ as the books puts it. Everything is still clearly very much in turmoil. She works on a case-to-case basis and really tries hard to keep emergencies to a minimum. Then there’s full on mistakes that more publicly expose her as inexperienced. But this isn’t shown as a negative – rather, people with more experience come, offer her help and apologize for not offering it sooner. It’s a great example of how messing up can actually be a positive.


Secondly, I don’t know how younger me didn’t like the romance in this book. It is literally all that I want now. I won’t name names but it is so understated that if you’ve not paying attention then you’ll miss it (also it’s not hard to guess who it is). Which I think is perfect – romance isn’t the main plot here, it’s two people trying very hard to fit into roles that have been chosen for them. It’s really beautiful watching the two of them learn about each other and their respective histories, values, and ideas for the future. I must say that I understand how a younger me would have missed it/not appreciated it. But current me really appreciates a romance where both people support each other, help and watch the other grows, and lets the romance develop organically. Even the end scene isn’t just the two love birds – its three people who genuinely want to work together towards making their demesne a better and more understanding place.

Side note: the idea of an arranged marriage is thrown into the mix, and it’s so heartbreaking! Because even though Mirasol expresses that it’s the last thing she would want to do, she would do it for her demesne! Talk about a woman!


And finally, as someone who loves nature, the amount of personification and representation of nature in this book was so incredible. First off, when they’re describing Mirasol’s bees (who are basically the stars of the book) I felt like they could’ve flown out of the book. Imagery was such a huge part of this book and I was blown away at how beautifully the flora and fauna was described. For example, a lightning storm occurs one night and a character goes on to describe how the lightning was feeling. The earth itself communicates with Mirasol. The animals are describes as being very much sentient beings. It’s all so lovely, and for nature to take such a key role in a book is really refreshing. Normally we see post apocalyptic worlds where nature is dead or dying. But this books places nature at it’s exact center, and stresses that by helping nature the characters help themselves.

Overall, I would give this book a 4.5/5 stars. Other than sometimes being a little heavy on the descriptions of things, I really enjoyed this book!

Talk to ya later loves! Peace!
– Mon

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