What Makes This Book Worth Reading: The Chalice by Robin McKinley

The Chalice is ISBN 9780399246760 (C) 2008.

What makes The Chalice worth reading? One good reason The Chalice is worth reading is because it is by Robin McKinley and everything that I’ve read by Robin McKinley so far has been worth reading. If you haven’t read anything by Robin McKinley yet, this book is a great place to start.

The Chalice is a beautifully written, relatively short (263 pages) fantasy with a main character (Mirasol) who lives out her love for her people and her country. The Chalice is worth reading because Mirasol is a good role model: she is strong, intelligent, caring, and dutiful.

The Chalice tells how Mirasol deals with her new found responsibility to bring peace and harmony back to her land after she is unexpectedly chosen (by the magical land in which she lives) to be the current Chalice.

The position of Chalice is the second highest position in the region (the highest being the feudal male Master) and is always filled by a woman. The woman who is Chalice has a magical relationship to the land and all living creatures in the land. The woman who is Chalice acts to bind the people to the land so they exist in harmony. The woman who is Chalice is a type of Earth Mother.

Mirasol, her people, and her land are facing a crisis due to the untimely death of the previous Master and Chalice. The position of Master is normally hereditary, whereas the position of Chalice is not. The previous Master dies without an heir and the previous Chalice dies without an apprentice. As a result, Mirasol assumes her role without any of the training that an apprentice Chalice normally receives. She begins her service while the region awaits the return of the previous Master’s brother from exile (to a mystical religious order where he became something not quite human) so he can assume the role of Master.

In some ways Robin McKinley’s books remind me of Lois McMaster Bujold’s works. Like Bujold, McKinley is a wonderful story teller whose characters are exceedingly sympathetic and likable. Like Bujold, McKinley has won multiple awards. McKinley has won The Newbery Medal for The Hero and the Crown (a YA novel) and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Sunshine (definitely not a YA novel but very good reading for adults).

The Chalice has a well-deserved 4.5 star average rating at Amazon.

Publishers Weekly said The Chalice is “Perfectly shaped and eloquently told…A lavish and lasting treat.”

School Library Journal said “Readers who long for beautiful phrases and descriptive writing will find themselves drinking in this rich fairy tale as if it were honey trickling down their throats.”

Like many of McKinley’s books, The Chalice is suitable for readers of all ages.

Next in this series I’m going to give credit where credit is due and cover What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton.

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