Great worldbuilding with a slow-paced story
In Chalice, McKinley crafts a world in which the ruling class has a deep connection to the land and keeps the kingdom stable by using that connection to calm the land and encourage it to flourish. Mirasol has been appointed as Chalice, second only to the Master himself, and it is her job to keep the Master’s Circle (his team of advisers), the land, and the people united. However, her Master is different, since he has been chosen only since his brother died, and nobody knows if he is quite human anymore since he has been training as the Priest of Fire. Mirasol has to keep everything together, despite the unique challenges and lack of training she has as Chalice.
This is a slow-moving story that is largely interior; the reader spends a lot of time in Mirasol’s head as she attempts to learn everything she can about being Chalice while also soothing the land within the kingdom. With all the worldbuilding and only 265 pages, there’s a lot of information to cover, and I would have liked to learn more about the world and about the characters, but there simply wasn’t enough page space for McKinley to do that. Because of that, everything is a bit more superficial than I would have liked: characterization, plot, and worldbuilding alike. While the information is enough to understand what’s going on, it’s not quite enough to make everything a satisfying, thrilling read.
I did appreciate all the conflicts that happen between different groups, so that Mirasol really has a large puzzle to fit together. The people are distrustful of the Master, the Overlord wants to put in a lackey as Master so that he has more control of the kingdom, which creates more tension, and then some of the Circle are distrustful of her, a girl with no training and who is second-most in status in the entire kingdom. The intrigue of it all was what got me through the story. That, and Mirasol’s sweet nature and the fun stories of her bees and her making different honeys as different remedies for people.
Overall, it’s a decent fantasy, but it’s not as exciting or interesting as I was hoping it’d be. If you’re looking for something simple that has an interesting world concept, you may enjoy this, but it’s not something I would suggest you go out of your way to read.