Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Book Thoughts - The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau

The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau
485 pages
published March 2013

Synopsis from publisher -

In 1538, England’s bloody power struggle between crown and cross threatens to tear the country apart. Novice Joanna Stafford has tasted the wrath of the royal court, discovered what lies within the king’s torture rooms, and escaped death at the hands of those desperate to possess the power of an ancient relic.

Even with all she has experienced, the quiet life is not for Joanna. Despite the possibilities of arrest and imprisonment, she becomes caught up in a shadowy international plot targeting Henry VIII himself. As the power plays turn vicious, Joanna realizes her role is more critical than she’d ever imagined. She must choose between those she loves most and assuming her part in a prophecy foretold by three seers. Repelled by violence, Joanna seizes a future with a man who loves her. But no matter how hard she tries, she cannot escape the spreading darkness of her destiny.

To learn the final, sinister piece of the prophecy, she flees across Europe with a corrupt spy sent by Spain. As she completes the puzzle in the dungeon of a twelfth-century Belgian fortress, 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 lies at the center of these deadly prophecies. . . .

My thoughts -

There were a lot of things I liked about The Chalice. I think Joanna Stafford is an extremely interesting heroine - Bilyeau has created for her an intriguing history and back story, and it is always entertaining to see what she will decide to do next. Bilyeau's pacing and narrative flow are perfect for this type of novel - nearly every chapter ends with me hardly able to wait to turn the pages.

And I LOVE that Bilyeau has found a way to do Tudor England historical fiction without the novel being about THE TUDORS. Because really, haven't we all read about 1,230 novels about Henry and Anne and Elizabeth at this point? By making the Tudor family drama mostly just part of the background, Bilyeau brings something new and fresh to a very heavily laden table. It's been a long time since I've thought about the Reformation from the Catholic perpective, and it's a fascinating and refreshing change.

However, I have to admit I was not as impressed with this novel as I had been with Bilyeau's first. There were just too many times that I felt the action nearing on implausible. Sometimes it seemed as thought Bilyeau was piling on danger after danger, just to figure out a way for Joanna to escape. I was quite intrigued by the broad story arc, but some of the individual scenes just read as too much high coincidence for me.

Since I enjoyed her first so much, however, I will definitely give the next book in the series a try. And, really, there are a LOT more glowing reviews out there that don't agree with me, so if it sounds like an interesting premise, give it a try!

Finished - 4/27/13
Source - review copy from publisher - thank you!
MPAA rating - R for violence and adult situations
My rating - 6/10

No comments: