Title: Chalice

Author: Robin McKinley

Publisher: Ace

Pages: 284

Format Read: Kindle

I don’t think I’ve read a novel centred around bees or a beekeeper before, especially not in the fantasy genre.

Chalice is a beautifully strange fantasy standalone that follows Mirasol, a young woman who finds herself in a position of power quite suddenly. Being the Chalice of a demesne is a new experience for her. All she has ever known upto that point is her lonely little cottage, her magical honeys and mysterious bees. But then she is made the Chalice, a part of the ruling elite of her demesne, and she has responsibilities.

And the demesne she lives in has troubles of all kinds. The Master who oversees them all has died, and his brother has taken his place. But the brother in question is a Priest of Fire, and not quite human. Everybody is wary, or afraid, or suspicious of him and his quiet ways. Except Mirasol.

With the troubles plaguing the demesne and agents of their Overlord threating them, Mirasol relies on her honeys and her bees to guide her.

It is not easy to describe the plot of Chalice but I was engrossed reading this one. Yes, there is more telling and less showing in the narrative, and it works well in Chalice. You’re not really sure where this demesne is, you’re not given a map and the lay of the land isn’t overtly explained. How this demesne called Willowlands is ruled isn’t exactly explained either.

Those worked in favour of the novel, at least for me. It reminded me of an old fairy tale, full of understated magic and a mysterious land that is somehow enigmatic and clear at the same time.

Mirasol is inexperienced as the Chalice, but intelligent, and a bit of a loner, and far less judgemental than some of the others she deals with on a daily basis. Her work as beekeeper is fascinating to read about, and her giant bee friends, overlarge and unpredictable, have a personality of their own.

Chalice isn’t overly dark, or gloomy or grim.

It is, as I said before, a strangely beautiful novel, a type of story I haven’t encountered many times before. That made it unique reading for me, and I’m pretty sure I’ll reread this one soon.

In short? Chalice was lovely.