What do you think?
Rate this book
496 pages, Hardcover
First published March 5, 2013
When “The Chalice” begins, Joanna is in a graveyard, preparing to save the bones of a saint from the clutches of King Henry VIII’s guards. This novel is set in the aftermath of Henry’s divorce, subsequent marriages to Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour, and his separation from the Catholic Church and the establishment of the Church of England. Henry is on a quest to remove all traces of Catholicism from England, including dissolving priories and monasteries all over the country, and forcing churches to turn over all relics and paint over murals and artwork depicting the saints. Having pledged herself as a novice in the Dominican order, but never actually making the vows to become a nun, Sister Joanna resolves to live by the rules and morals of her order, even though it has been dissolved. She joins together with a group of sisters from her priory, and a brother who had joined their community shortly before its dissolution, and tries to live her life in peace according to her beliefs.
This is Joanna Stafford, though, and anyone who has read “The Crown” knows that trouble tends to come to her, even if she tries her best to avoid it. This time, her troubles arise from a series of prophecies, known only to a select group of people that indicate that Joanna can be the only one to stop Henry VIII’s reign of terror and restore peace and Catholicism to England. Joanna tries her best to avoid both the people that are familiar with the prophecy and the implications of it, but eventually she can no longer avoid her fate. Calling upon all of her strength and faith, Joanna embarks on a journey across many lands, putting herself directly in harm’s way, until she decides to fulfill the prophecy on her own terms.
I enjoyed this book, actually more than “The Crown”, both because of the pacing and the eventual outcome. Joanna Stafford is a realistic heroine, with flaws and doubts just like any normal person, but her unshakeable faith makes her a very strong character. Her group of friends, including Brother Edmund, Sister Winnifred, Geoffrey Scovill, and Arthur, her ward, are well rounded and interesting, and contribute much, both to the story and to the reader’s understanding of Joanna. I call this series “Tudor-adjacent”, because while the reader spends some time with King Henry VII, his wives, children, and courtiers, the main characters circle around the periphery of his world. They are important enough that Joanna being near the King, or associating with his court, is not outside of the realm of possibility, but this is not simply another novel about Henry VIII. All in all, a great read, particularly for fans of the Tudor era and historical fiction in general.