May 2, 2013

Book Review: The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau


Joanna Stafford, ex-novice, is attempting to put her life together after her convent at Dartford was dismantled on Henry VIII's orders. (See Bilyeau's previous novel, The Crown, for the full story there.) Convinced Catholicism is the one true faith, Joanna is in despair over the continuing Reformation; on the practical side, raising her young cousin Arthur after his mother was executed at Henry's command, she's trying to get a tapestry business up and running. Then her cousin the Marquis of Exeter, and his wife, Gertrude, offer Joanna and Arthur a place to stay.

Joanna gratefully heads to London, leaving behind two men to whom she is strangely attracted (despite her vow of chastity). In the city, she discovers Gertrude knows the guilty secret Joanna has tried to squelch for a decade. Three separate prophecies suggest Joanna has a vital role to play in the Catholic cause. She resists, but Gertrude presses the point, and Joanna comes to accept that the fate of Henry VIII--perhaps of all England--is in her hands.

The Chalice is an engrossing mix of the complicated politics of the Reformation with the magical elements of the Dominican order, and Joanna--fiery, passionate, determined to honor what she thinks God wants her to do--is a fascinating character. Fans of historical mysteries, Tudor politics and supernatural fiction will all be pleased by the broad scope, quick-moving plot and historical integrity of Bilyeau's second novel.

I really enjoyed it; in spite of jumping straight into book two of a trilogy. I've seen The Crown and The Chalice reviewed on lots of other book blogs, and everyone seemed to agree that both books are good, so you may want to start in order!

Rating: 4 out of 5
Should I recommend this to my grandma? Weeell, my grandma wouldn't approve of the magicky religion (Nostradamus shows up at one point...), but it's grandma-friendly otherwise.

Have you read Nancy Bilyeau?

This review was originally published in Shelf Awareness. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Thanks for supporting Quirky Bookworm!