Review: Chalice, Robin McKinley

So this is my adult fantasy or science fiction book for Jeane‘s DogEar Challenge, and I have managed to finish it before the end of November, which I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do, what with all the applying to grad school I’ve been doing and whatnot.  Chalice!

I have figured out the key to Robin McKinley, and I will tell you what it is.  In each of her books, she has a world that she’s created, and she plops you down right in the middle of the world.  By and large, her books are not enormously long on plot, and this is fine as long as you think her world is interesting, and you continue to think it’s interesting.  Dragonhaven, I did not enjoy.  I have never been a big fan of dragons anyway.  But Sunshine, now – the world of Sunshine was all desserts and shiny sharp edges.  When plot wasn’t happening, I was happy just wandering around in Sunshine’s world.

I do not like honey.  Because it’s sticky, and I am tactile-defensive.  I don’t like sticky things or greasy things – when it comes time to clean a butter dish, I’d just as soon buy a new butter dish.  If there were honey dishes, I’d have the same issue.  I’m shuddering thinking about cleaning a honey dish.  Chalice came out ages ago, and I never read it because I don’t like honey.

Chalice is about a girl called Marisol with bees who makes honey.  Following a cataclysmic event that leaves the current Master of the land and his second-in-command, the Chalice, dead, Marisol is chosen by the earthlines as the new Chalice.  Uncertain of herself, trying to teach herself all the rituals she needs to know as Chalice, she is put further off balance when the new Master is named.  Brother of the old Master, he was sent to the priests of Fire, and after seven years is no longer quite human.

Overall, it was better than Dragonhaven, not quite as good as Deerskin, and not within miles of Beauty or Sunshine.  The world was interesting, with the rituals and the magic, but the characters didn’t have much to do throughout the book, up until the anticlimactic, rather too tidy final conflict scene.  If I had to put my finger on a problem, I’d say it was that Marisol was too isolated for too much of the book.  Not just that she had very few allies, but that she had very few interactions with anyone at all, and that made her difficult to know.

I am very full of food right now.

Here is what other people thought, and if I missed your link tell me! and I will add it:

DogEar Diary
Em’s Bookshelf
Charlotte’s Library
bookshelves of doom
Once Upon a Bookshelf
Andrea’s Book Nook

9 thoughts on “Review: Chalice, Robin McKinley

  1. And for a book where honey was so significant, I felt like it really wasn’t featured enough! My little peeve with McKinley is that her endings always seem to be this mass confusion that neither the heroine nor the reader can make sense of. Sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn’t.

    • I didn’t mind the ending of Sunshine at all – it was confusing and messy, but that was sort of the nature of the confrontation, given that Sunshine was a human and the vampires were vampires. Plus the way it happened seemed to be all of a piece with the other things we’d seen Sunshine do. With Chalice, I didn’t feel like McKinley had given us a good grasp on the rules of magic, so the confrontation scene didn’t work.

  2. You should count yourself lucky that I’m not inviting you to clean my kitchen. Not sticky with honey but very very greasy. yuck…
    I don’t read many books from this genre but it looks like Sunshine is where I might start.

    • Sunshine is wonderful. I’ve been trying to decide for the past few days whether I should reread it right now, or save it for later. I like delaying gratification but I’m afraid I’ll end up not in the mood for it anymore. Looking forward to seeing what you think of it!

  3. You’re applying to grad school too?! OH man, someone to share my stress with ;p have you had to take the GRE? What are you going in for?

    • I took the GRE a while ago actually, so thank goodness, I didn’t have to worry about that. Of course when I took it I didn’t know what I was going to do for grad school and thus didn’t take advantage of any of the free score reports. :\

      I’m going in for creative writing, if anyone will have me – what about you?

    • I mean it was partly that. Partly that, and partly I was so underwhelmed by Dragonhaven, and partly that I started it once and didn’t get on with it. The honey was not the primary issue but it was a good and legitimate excuse.

  4. Pingback: DogEar Reading Challenge « Jenny's Books

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