Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Reviews of 'Chalice' and 'House of Many Ways'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Reviews of 'Chalice' and 'House of Many Ways'

Article excerpt

And when darkness had fallen upon the land, the people cried out for a champion to deliver them from their troubles. And she turned out to be ... a beekeeper.

Such is the delicious premise of Newbery Medal winner Robin McKinley's new novel, Chalice.

The people weren't exactly thrilled when their new spiritual leader turned out to be an apiast. And frankly, it wasn't much fun for Mirasol either.

Her small farm was literally overflowing with milk and honey - she couldn't do her other work because she had to milk her goats several times a day - and the results were rather sticky and fragrant.

The only one the people have less faith in than Mirasol is the new Master, who was apprenticed against his will as a priest of Fire and can no longer touch anyone without severely burning them.

A threat to the kingdomThe two replacement leaders find themselves confiding in one another hesitantly, but they may not be able to gain enough trust in themselves before an outsider tries to scoop up their tiny kingdom.

"Chalice" is a contemplative story geared toward readers of high fantasy. (The nature-based magic is rather druidic in origin.)

McKinley writes with complete assurance, and the novel's climax is both compelling and a delightful change from formulaic fantasy. (Readers of "Beauty" also may detect a nod to McKinley's favorite fairy tale.)

McKinley's always had a deft touch with animals - from dogs and hunting cats to dragons. But Mirasol's bees, in all their furry splendor, are a particularly memorable delight.

A magic insect looms large in a new fantasy by another veteran young adult author, but the wasp-like lubbock isn't nearly as much fun. Bookworm Charmain Baker encounters the scary bug-beast while house sitting for her great uncle, the Wizard Norland, in Diana Wynne Jones's House of Many Ways.

Recalcitrant pets and the occasional broken dish are hazards for any house sitter, but it's safe to say no one else has ever encountered the problems faced by Charmain. …

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