Monday, March 18, 2013

The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Read: March 7, 2013

In the next novel from Nancy Bilyeau after her acclaimed debut The Crown, novice Joanna Stafford plunges into an even more dangerous conspiracy as she comes up against some of the most powerful men of her era. In 1538, England is in the midst of bloody power struggles between crown and cross that threaten to tear the country apart. Joanna Stafford has seen what lies inside the king’s torture rooms and risks imprisonment again, when she is caught up in a shadowy international plot targeting the King. As the power plays turn vicious, Joanna understands she may have to assume her role in a prophecy foretold by three different seers, each more omniscient than the last. Joanna realizes the life of Henry VIII as well as the future of Christendom are in her hands—hands that must someday hold the chalice that lays at the center of these deadly prophecies…

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I admit it has been a while since I picked up a Tudor novel. It is such a popular period and there has been such a slew of new titles in the last few years that I suffered a little bit of burn out. This being the case, you can probably understand my initial trepidation at taking on Nancy Bilyeau's The Chalice. 

Having finished the book I look back at laugh at my skepticism. Bilyeau's writing is wonderful not to mention addicting. She strikes the perfect balance between fact and fiction, never over burdening the narrative with dreary monologues or allowing the plot to diverge too far from historic events.

Now as far as protagonists go, you'd be hard pressed to find one comparable to Joanna Stafford. She is intelligent without coming off arrogant and kind without coming off saintly. She is incredibly dynamic, a personality I wanted to read about and at the end of the day a reader can't ask for more than that.   

Unfortunately I can't say how this its piece compared to its predecessor as I've yet to read The Crown, but I will say I appreciated how Bilyeau approached writing a sequel in that she doesn't spend a lot of time rehashing. Written as a standalone, The Chalice can be enjoyed by those with absolutely no knowledge of Bilyeau's work. 

The Chalice is an intriguing suspense made all the more fascinating in its focus on those individuals displaced by Henry's Reformation. Refreshingly different from most Tudor pieces, it is a  compelling page turner that is sure to satisfy. 

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"The reckoning is coming, it is coming," cried John. "Armageddon is at hand. In the end it will devour you all!"
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1 comment:

Mystica said...

Thanks for the review.