Mirasol had been appointed Chalice a few months before the book begins. Becoming the second in command to The Master of a demesne is quite the change from making a living as a beekeeper, and Mirasol (or just “Chalice” as she is known as through the book) has a hard time making this adjustment. The previous Master and Chalice have died unexpectedly and horribly, and the new Master (the old Master’s younger brother) must now return to the demesne from his training to become a priest of Fire in order to take his right place as the head of the demesne. Now both Chalice and the Master have to figure out their roles and manage to keep the land and people happy – but the land does not necessarily respond well to a priest of Fire. And can the people trust a Master who can burn the flesh off a person with a mere touch?
I have a few of McKinley’s books on my TBR list. I think I may remove the rest of them after finishing this one. It’s not that it was a bad book, it just wasn’t what I had been expecting or hoping. In fact, I can’t even rightly say whether I liked it or disliked it. And I had been struggling with that since I first picked up the book. And Yet! Something kept me reading.
I like books that are extremely character centric, and character driven. I like a lot of deep characters, and a lot of character development. The characters in Chalice felt extremely one dimensional to me. Even Mirasol – Chalice – didn’t really have anything there that I could grasp on to; until about 3/4 of the way into the book, that is. She came across as extremely apathetic, even robotic, for the majority of the book.
The secondary characters weren’t around much in the book, but when they did get some screen time, they too felt undeveloped and one dimensional. The only character who stuck out to me was the Grand Seneschal, a surly old man. No one else was given the opportunity to become LIKEABLE, let alone memorable.
Then there was the relationship between Chalice and the Master. The book showed 3 major meetings between the two characters. It was obvious that there was attraction on the part of Chalice towards the Master, but then all of a sudden they’re talking about getting married. It was … so rushed and unexpected; there was no real buildup to that moment. I have a tendency to enjoy the buildup more than the actual resolution, so I felt slightly cheated in that respect.
One of the other large things that made it difficult for me to enjoy this book was actually the way it was written. I found the sentence structure distracting. I didn’t always know what was going on. For example, at times the paragraph was describing what’s going on in a situation when all of a sudden it would be Chalice’s thoughts that I was reading, without any differentiation at all. It was, as I said, distracting. The book is told in third person, yet would suddenly switch to first person. There was no real segue between different things, or no indication that a change of perspective had occurred until part way through. The same thing occurred with events happening in the present and ones happening in the past – there were times when the book would jump from one to the other and it was confusing.
Throughout the day, when I wasn’t reading it, it still stayed in my thoughts. It had sticking power. I was left wondering, pondering, what would happen next. I liked the story itself – it had some positively great moments that showed what great potential the book itself had. It was different enough from everything else, and yet had some similarities to certain books that I love – it reminded me a little bit of Keturah and Lord Death, as well as the Axis Trilogy (in a small part where Chalice is journeying around the demesne binding the land, accompanied by two donkeys).
I’m wondering whether McKinley’s other books would come across this way to me as well, or whether it was just this book. I’m not sure yet whether I’ll be reading those other books by her on my TBR list. Has anyone who has read any of her other books found this sort of thing to be the case for those books as well?