Recent Reading: Chalice, by Robin McKinley


Because she was Chalice she stood at the front door with the Grand Seneschal, the Overlord’s agent, and the Prelate, all of whom were carefully ignoring her. But she was Chalice, and it was from her hand the Master would take the welcome cup . . . Their new Master was coming home: The Master thought lost or irrecoverable. The Master whom, as younger brother of the previous Master, had been sent off to the priests of Fire, to get rid of him.

This book is like a dream. It’s slow and graceful and, well, dreamy. The nonlinear structure of the story contributes to the dreamy feel, though honestly, on this re-read, I’m not sure I appreciated the structure. I think possibly this story would have worked better for me if told straight through, from front to back. On the other hand, if you want to start the story with the scene above, the you have to start in the middle and work your way out.

I like the bees. And the honey. I’m not especially fond of honey in the real world, but I love the honey in this story.

All honey was good for wounds and burns, but there was a lengthy folklore of specific honeys that declared, for example, that oak honey was the most nourishing for invalids and lavender honey was an appropriate gift from a lover to his or her beloved — and the honey from Willowland’s willows was for wisdom and decision-making … it was this honey she put in the Master’s welcome cup.

I like this even though I know perfectly well that oaks are wind pollinated and there’s no such thing as oak honey. Actually, I know this REALLY WELL, since every spring here, the pollen of oaks and hickories fills the air and coats absolutely everything with yellow dust. I don’t even try to keep up with the dusting during oak season (I’m bad enough at keeping up with the dusting at other times of year).

Anyway, CHALICE is a charming story, just right if you’re in the mood for a slow, sweet story, beautifully told but with little action.

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