Monday, March 11, 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…
For a thick novel of almost 500 pages, I enjoyed this more than most. Usually I groan about the excessive length because there always seem to be things that drag the plot along, but this novel kept my attention for the entire story. I didn't notice any unnecessary details. I found it quite inspiring as well. Even though this is a secular novel, the heroine's love of the scriptures was quite touching. I loved some of the scenes where she used them to bless others, like at an execution of friends. I also adored the love story between her and the former priest. At the same time, it was quite sad.
Her other love interest had many regrets as well. I found his ending to be sad, yet inspiring at the same time, because he found true comfort in the scriptures as translated by Tyndale. There were a lot of characters I enjoyed getting to know, but Geoffrey was one of my favorites because he was such an intense man who was obsessed with the heroine.
The creepy spies really upped the tension because it was hard to tell who could be trusted. The prophecy had enthralling details and a riddle that unfolded slowly, but within the pages of the story. The heroine was a curious, yet strong woman who fought for what she thought was right. At the same time she had doubts and insecurities like the rest of us. The confusion in her heart between several men she cared for made the story more interesting and believable. Life is never clear cut and easy. The author did a great job showing that.
The darker parts of this story were sufficiently eerie without making me grossed out, or worse, freaked out. There were some pretty freaky scenes containing seers and whatnot, but there was a lot of superstition in those days. I've read a ton of books set during this time period and this was better than most when it came to setting and the overall mood and realism of the story. Plus, it wasn't full of over-the-top sexual tension like is often found in historical novels these days. The characters were tempted, yes, but they remained chaste overall, and I found that more realistic given the fact that she was a former novice (nun) and he was a former priest.
Anyway, great read here. Now I'll have to go back and read the first book. This author does first person POV well. The entire story is told through the eyes of Joanna Stafford, who was a perceived threat to the Tudor throne at the time. Overall, a fascinating and well told story.
The Chalice was published by Touchstone and released in March 2013.